Today, businesses and organizations of all sizes and industries use software tools to help manage their sales and day-to-day operations. From tracking customers to supply chain operations, these tools are an integral part of helping companies run efficiently to grow and scale in volume and profit.
That’s why the potential financial and operational consequences of a poor or rushed decision on software can be monumental. A contract with a software vendor is no small investment, requiring significant up-front and maintenance costs over its lifetime. To make sure you select the right software, take a hard look at your operational requirements and projected growth to find the best match for your needs, rather than simply choosing the vendor that appears to offer the most attractive features or the lowest price.
There are steps you can take to assess your needs, evaluate software, vet potential vendors, and manage implementation to help ease common pain points and eliminate unnecessary costs. This software assessment process should take a detailed look at the following areas to find the right match for your organization.
Determine Business Needs
Before selecting or even interviewing a software vendor, consider how your organization is currently operating and determine what sets it apart in the marketplace. Look at systems for customer relationship management, accounting, and forecasting.
This process can help a company determine:
- Its unique requirements
- What it hopes to accomplish today with its new business process management tool
- How to accommodate and aid growth down the road
Gathering accurate, thorough requirements will also help organizations resist flashy features that won’t support the organization’s needs.
Vendor Selection Process
The sheer volume of available vendors can be overwhelming, particularly when so many offer similar types of software packages. It’s critical to vet each vendor and software offering to ensure your organization receives the best option available for your needs. While it may be tempting, this shouldn’t be a rushed exercise.
Before interviewing vendors, develop a request for proposal (RFP) that outlines rules and requirements. Vendors will use this RFP to show how well they can deliver on the criteria you set. Those responses can be used to create a short list of vendors.
Next, you’ll need to see demonstrations of software applications from your short list. To encourage an accurate preview as opposed to a marketing push, provide a script to each vendor that prompts a detailed response on how it and its software can perform to suit your needs and environment. The script should include your organization’s current operations and future growth as well as usage scenarios.
With those demonstrations completed, the organization and its consulting team should give each vendor a score to determine a final selection. In addition to what’s shown in the RFP and demonstration, businesses should also weigh these criteria:
- How long the vendor has been in business
- Whether the vendor is growing or downsizing
- If it has support staff that can properly assist after implementation
Negotiate the Vendor Contract
Like any business agreement, organizations should be fully aware of the contract’s terms and conditions with a new vendor as well as any obligations for terminating a contract with a previous vendor. Other items to understand and carefully negotiate:
- Who will own the data contained in the system
- Whether payment will be given upon delivery of services or for time spent
The implementation process can begin once a software vendor is selected and contract terms are negotiated. There’s a lot of coordination at this level; some companies opt to work with an implementation partner that can coordinate between the technical and business sides. This might include:
- Ensuring all necessary features in the software work together in a manner that’s seamless and easily integrated into day-to-day operations
- Running implementation test cases to determine whether further configuration is warranted to suit your needs
Beyond implementation, perform evaluations of the software at regular intervals to check if systems are properly supporting business operations. This includes running through an organization’s business cycle to highlight reconfiguration needs. Additionally, at least once a year—if not more frequently—the software package will require operating system upgrades. When these upgrades occur, rerun the test cases from the initial implementation stage to determine if the software upgrades are working or if adjustments are needed.
We're Here to Help
Selecting a software application for your organization can be a large undertaking with financial and organizational ramifications if it isn’t the right fit. You can ease many common pain points by preparing in advance for a software assessment. If you’d like to learn more about the process and eventual implementation, contact your Moss Adams professional.