I often speak with owners, managers and staff at organizations struggling with growth or a changing business model who sense “things are out of control” and believes there “must be a better way” to manage their business. Many reach out to technology as a corrective path to this “better way”. With so many different technology solutions on the market, each offering a countless number of unique attributes, sorting through them and selecting the right solution for your organization can be an extremely time-consuming and even mind-numbing task. I’ve often seen this process become unfocused, frustrating your attempts to improve things. I have boiled a technology selection process to five focused steps.
- Define your critical product requirements
- Develop a focused-list of solutions
- Analyze software and partner strengths and weaknesses
- Determine which solution is best for you
- Contract Negotiations
Here are a few thoughts on how to stay laser focused on the selection and these steps-
Focus on the Critical Functionality
It’s easy to get caught up in the “wish list” features of a product. In fact, looking at the bells and whistles of a technology plays right into the hands of some vendors, who have the latest “bleeding edge” glitz but lack some of your core requirements. Initially focus on the vital functionality requirements and processes that the vendor’s system must absolutely be able to handle. Once a comprehensive list of these scenarios has been developed, utilize them to keep your organization on track and focused during the selection process and as an evaluation tool for comparison.
Checking References (A twist)
Simply asking for references from the vendor and checking to make sure the references are satisfied is not doing enough. Ask the reference if they know another of the vendor’s clients (one degree of separation) and then talk to that client. This will give you a clearer picture of the software and partner and how they are with “average” clients.
“Paralysis by Over-Analysis”
Selecting an ERP Solution is one of the most critical decisions a business can make. However, overanalyzing and over thinking will cause your information to become outdated and the selection process to lose momentum and even possibly come to a screeching halt. Have a timeline and stick to it.
Putting Together an Effective Evaluation Team
An ERP Selection project is not an IT decision; it is a business decision. Too often, I see this task relegated to IT, and as a result, the technology selected is architecturally sound but lacking a few critical business components. All parts of the business must be represented. Additionally, a team manager should be chosen who understands or interacts with various parts of the business and has the authority to enforce timelines.
Prior to beginning the negotiation process, your organization has to outline the desired goals of the negotiation. An important goal, often overlooked in order to squeeze every last penny out of the supplier, is to transition in your minds your chosen vendor into a partner. This is counterintuitive to hard core negotiations, but you want your new partner to be long term strategic asset to your company and this is time to develop that relationship. Think of negotiation process as “opening the door” to a long term relationship.
Selecting business software is one of the most critical and expensive decisions your organization will have to make. You will face many challenges, and it will take a lot of hard work and commitment to make the right selection. So whether you are in the very early initial stages of gathering information, are working with a few vendors, or at the very end of the selection process and are negotiating with the vendor, (now partner) hopefully the tips delivered above will help you side-step the potential business software selection distractions.
STEVE HAMMETT | Senior Sales Executive
Steve graduated from University of Maryland, Baltimore, with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.), in Economics and a few years later, a Master of Science (M.S.), in Information Technology. He has helped organizations for over fifteen years to solve business problems using technology. He is well informed with all Microsoft Business Solutions and is a Solutions Certified Sales Representative. For fun he looks to the outdoors, whether water, where he is a sailor (Coast Guard certified in Costal Piloting and Navigation), a PADI certified scuba diver, and a certified Red Cross Water Safety Instructor, or land, where he is a skier, hiker and mountain biker.