Best-fit enterprise software really does improve the bottom line. Credit:Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo via CIO.com.
Over the last few months, articles in this column have focused on detailed aspects of evaluating and selecting enterprise software. This article draws many of those ideas together in a high-level overview of the software evaluation and selection process and includes links to the more detailed articles.
The primary goal of an evaluation and selection project is to identify the software that best meets the needs of the organization. By definition, this has the greatest ROI. Also, the evaluation should provide the information necessary to drive down risks in the software implementation phase of the project.
The opportunity for new enterprise software doesn’t happen too often, and yet it presents a real chance for an organization to make significant improvements. With so much at stake, how do you find the cloud or off-the-shelf software most closely aligned with your particular needs? This article answers that question.
Before a software selection project even starts, the first task is to estimate the ROI of the software purchase. When there are multiple projects and limited resources (sound familiar?), projects with the greatest ROI can be tackled first to deliver maximum benefit to the organization. If the ROI is not estimated, there is the danger that “hot” projects of marginal value can be started. These are the first to be cut when times get difficult, wasting all the effort put into them up to that point.
Also, you need the right tools for the job. Specifically, you need a system to manage requirements, and then evaluate potential products against those requirements. Spreadsheets just do not scale up to the task of enterprise software evaluations.
Phase 1: Requirements profile
Just as a building needs a good foundation to last, a successful software selection needs a thorough requirements analysis. Developing requirements that adequately capture organizational needs is critical to identifying best-fit software and maximizing ROI.
Start by meeting stakeholders, process owners, and other relevant employees to gather known requirements and any software products they want to be considered. While you can’t expect too much because most people are only aware of their pain points, these initial meetings build rapport, user buy-in and let the organization know that the project has started.
Next, search for other software that may potentially solve the problem. Although you can end up with an extensive list, those products with a poor fit are quickly eliminated later on in the process. Capturing all potentially suitable software also prevents somebody from playing politics and stalling the project by asking “Did you consider…?” because you did include that product.
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