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Kit: How to choose the right software for your business

Jason Fazackerley explains some of the key elements to consider when selecting a new piece of software for your business

Many people selecting a new piece of business software have been involved in software projects before. They remember the dreamy vision painted by the software seller, they had expectations that the solution would fix all their problems and the implementation process would run smoothly.

The reality was often quite different. In surveys, around 75% of software implementations either failed to deliver the agreed objectives, drastically exceeded the budget or were delivered long past the intended go-live date.

So how do we ensure that your new software solution is in the 25% of successful implementations?

The main reason for an unsuccessful project is a poor understanding of the gap between your business requirements and the functionality and features provided by the new solution.

Many of the companies that fall into the 75% of failures did so by running a software beauty parade. They had a procession of software vendors with timed slots to demonstrate their products, and they bought the one they perceived to be the prettiest.

Checklist:

  • Understand and document your requirements and business objectives
  • Ask suppliers to document how their solution meets the requirements
  • Provide detailed real business scenarios for the demonstrations
  • Understand the impact of the supplier withdrawing services, and have contingencies
  • Be clear about responsibilities in the delivery; who is doing what?

The proven way to maximise your chances of selecting the right solution should involve a structured process of shortlisting suppliers. This can be done easily with a concise questionnaire – a request for information - covering high-level functionality; the supplier’s experience in your market; and some due diligence on the supplier, such as size, resource skills, and financial stability.

By creating a shortlist from this information, you can focus more time on fewer potential suppliers. Remember, we are not looking for a series of one-night stands, but a meaningful relationship.

Make sure you have an agreed scope for the project and then really get into the specifics of the requirements.

Ideally you would document each step of every process in your business, but a complete requirements list should be a minimum. Certainly on larger, more complex projects this is a serious undertaking and one where external support may pay off in the end.

Each potential supplier should document how their product will meet every requirement identified, clearly stating if it is met out of the box, perhaps with some modifications or with an acceptable work-around.

Finally, a set of properly documented business scenarios should be used to validate each supplier’s claims through detailed workshops, which may run across a number of days.

On average, companies run their core business software for seven to 10 years before changing. Due diligence on the provider, and an understanding of the risk and impact of them pulling out of your market, or even going out of business, should be serious concerns when you are looking at that length of relationship.

You have to manage risk, but don’t let that stop you delivering your vision.

Jason Fazackerley is a Solution & Industry Specialist at Prodware, a business software provider to the waste management and recycling industry.

www.prodware.co.uk/waste-management-and-recycling

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