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Investing in the right software can have a dramatic impact on your business objectives and growth. Choosing the wrong software and vendor/partner can have just as strong a negative impact. Yet many business software implementations fail, and most failures could have been prevented with a comprehensive software evaluation process. Your company’s software evaluation practice should include meeting with the vendor and asking these all-important questions:
Software built for your industry and its roles, processes, and methodologies are designed to support the way you do business, assuming that you are implementing best practices and industry standards. For companies just getting started, or looking to streamline efficiency and maximize profitability, implementing an enterprise resource management solution and its component software modules helps to ensure that best practices are intrinsic to your operations.
Often, software is designed with input from industry experts but isn’t supported by a vendor that is invested in the industry. As a result, the software quickly loses its relevance to current standards and best practices. The vendor you choose is at least as important as the software, so make sure that they are actively involved in industry associations, organizations, and communities. Make sure they have subject matter experts speaking at tradeshows and exhibiting. They should be conducting their own regular industry research and sharing their findings with you, not only as proof that the software is up to date, but also to provide the vendor value you deserve.
Product evaluations and meetings should address very specific concerns, so don’t be afraid to dig in. Prepare a list of operating protocols and scenarios that you would like to understand how the software handles. Involve the heavy users for those scenarios and make sure that your software will optimize process efficiency, or at least not add unnecessary work and complexity.
One of the reasons cloud-based software is such a significant improvement over on-premise software is that the cloud-based infrastructure enables vendors to invest in security infrastructure and a team that can be offered to customers with economies of scale. In other words, your software provides security that’s comparable to an IT team for a larger organization. Your customers rely on your choice of platforms and the security that underlies them in order to protect their data.
Asking “What is the process” suggests to a vendor that does not have a process in place that this is a requirement for business. That said, you would prefer to deal with a vendor with a proven track record of being able to replace or move around project managers that are not a good fit with clients.
Think about the key performance metrics (KPIs) that your organization expects to positively impact with a business software purchase. Use these KPIs to define the expected return on investment and share your ROI goals with the vendors you’re considering. What you should hear in return are real-world examples, expressed in the metrics you use, supporting how the software achieves the results you seek. The project ROI will also be a critical internal selling point to company owners, stakeholders, and even end-users. Demonstrable proof that KPIs should be improved by a software investment will help set benchmarks that can measure the health of an implementation project down the road.
The importance of references is not just to confirm the software's features and benefits, but something much more important. The vendor should be able to supply you with references you can call or even meet face-to-face that can attest to several points. This should include the software’s functionality and the vendor's ability to do what they committed to doing in the sales process. Is the vendor a real partner, or an organization more interested in future customers than current customers? References would know, and you should seek at least three.
Are there concerns that these questions don’t address in your software evaluation process? Are there questions you would recommend adding to this list? We’d love to hear your best ideas in our community on LinkedIn!
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