Selecting the right software for your business can be one of the most important decisions you make over the next several years. Regardless of the size of your business, you need the appropriate software tools to run your sales and operations in the most effective fashion. A well thought-out plan will focus your software decisions and help you make choices that will serve you well into the future.
The Seven Key Phases
1. Plan/Budget Software Needs
The initial step in the software selection process is to recognize the need and begin your internal planning and budgeting. You need to identify key stakeholders, project team members, and functional subject matter experts.
Collecting solid feedback throughout your organization will get buy-in for the potential project, and you can put together a high-level budget and timelines.
2. Analyze Software Requirements
Any practical software selection project must start with analyzing and organizing an essential requirements document.
Make sure it is focused on your strategic requirements (key differentiating criteria) so that you can concentrate on your most important requirements and quickly yet thoroughly evaluate vendors.
Most software tools are already built with excellent functionality for use out-of-the-box. Avoid customization wherever possible. Only customize something that gives you a strategic advantage in your market.
3. Research Software Vendors
Determine the scope of your targeted comparison with the help of a Requirements Documentation and Selection Criteria.
Many organizations will start with 5-6 potential vendors and compare each against their requirements to get to their “short list.”
This adds time and complexity to the selection process, so consider a more selective target of 2-3 vendors. This makes it easier to funnel down to who you want to demo their software.
4. Identify Implementation Partner
Your organization may need a qualified implementation partner to support requirements gathering and vendor research/demos. This partner provides a non-biased view of the implementation challenges and can speed the process to successful completion.
5. Conduct Software Demos
Once you’ve completed your vendor research and compared the selection criteria, decide who you want to invite in for onsite demos.
Develop a structured Demo Script to compare vendors on a common footing. See how they meet your key requirements and compare them equally.
Involve all of your key stakeholders in demos and make sure you address all of the functional concerns to get buy-in from everyone.
6. Make Informed Software Decisions
Armed with a strong understanding of your unique business requirements, decide on the best fit for your organization.
Consider vendor support, ROI, potential savings opportunities, best practices, scalability/growth, pricing, and risk. Conduct due diligence and confirm your final decision.
Talk with references and make sure you are getting a consistent view of their experiences – it speaks volumes about what you can expect.
7. Negotiate a Good Software Contract
This time in the project is when you have the most leverage. Make sure you consider license costs, one-time implementation fees, ongoing support costs, and so on. Most software contracts are written by the software vendor. Ensure you negotiate the contract to protect your interests and save you money.
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