For any business today, selecting the right software to meet business needs and address gaps can be a stressful process. While the right solution can improve efficiency and enable better work, the wrong one can be a costly mistake.
So how do successful businesses approach software selection when adding to their tech stack?
They use sound methodology, working through a step-by-step process with intention and a focus on meeting strategic business goals. Here’s the ten-step process we’ve used to conduct successful software selections for countless clients:
1. Identify the Problem
Seeing software as a silver bullet solution for every problem, many businesses add new software to their tech stack without properly evaluating it or considering its impact. To properly determine if new software is necessary, it’s important to start by clearly identifying the problem and its effects on the organization.
At this stage, a gap or needs analysis enables us to better understand how to bridge the gap between actual and desired performance. In conducting this analysis, it’s important to consider whether there is a gap in technology or process.
2. Determine Whether a New System is Needed & Identify the Type of System
When a gap analysis reveals that a software solution is necessary, the next question to ask is if an existing system can bridge the gap or if a new one would be better suited to address the business need. If a new one is needed, it’s important to determine the type of system: CRM, ERP, HCM, or other.
3. Define the Requirements for a New System
Next, we define the requirements for the new system, referring to step one to ensure alignment with the needs and gaps we identified. Here, we find it helpful to focus on workflows rather than features. In other words, how would we like this system change to fit into the existing workflow?
4. Identify Potential Vendors and Solutions
With a firm understanding of requirements and desired workflow, it’s time to search for potential solutions. Leveraging tools like Olive and Gartner Magic Quadrant, we can automate the process of identifying potential vendors and solutions that meet the needs we identified in step 3.
5. Evaluate Potential Solutions Against Requirements
With a list of potential vendors and solutions in hand, we take the time to carefully evaluate each one. Our goal here is to use an iterative process to narrow the list.
It’s important to note that, at this stage, we also take the time to evaluate whether an off-the-shelf solution will meet the requirements we’ve defined, or if it’s in our best interest to identify vendors who are able to customize a solution.
6. Short-List Solutions or Vendors
Once the list has been narrowed to a handful of solutions and vendors, it’s time to really dig into what the software and vendor can provide. At this point in the process, we submit requests for information (RFIs) and eventually requests for proposals (RFPs). These steps allow us to thoroughly evaluate potential solutions and vendors, focusing on eliminating those that can’t provide a solution that meets the requirements defined in step 3.
7. Get Demos of Short-Listed Solutions
By this point, we aim to have a list of two or three potential solutions or vendors. To help us get closer to deciding on a solution, we schedule demos with shortlisted vendors. This not only gives us an opportunity to see the proposed solution in action, but it also allows us to get a feel for the vendor, helping us to determine if they’ll make a strong partner through implementation and beyond.
8. Conduct Vendor Reference Check
Choosing the right partner is essential in every aspect of life, and software selection is no exception. That’s why we thoroughly check potential vendor’s references, getting a feel for what we can expect from working with them over the long term. Vendors who have great relationships with their clients should be able to offer references.
9. Negotiate Service Requirements and Pricing
Once we’ve decided on a solution or vendor, or perhaps two potential solutions or vendors, it’s time to negotiate service requirements and pricing. During this phase, our focus in on ensuring that everyone is on the same page and that expectations are clearly outlined and understood. Setting the tone for the working relationship, it’s important that both parties feel heard and achieve alignment during this phase.
10. Select the Right Software Solution
Once we’ve negotiated the right requirements and pricing, we finalize our vendor selection. Now, comes the fun part: implementation.
With decades of collective experience in software selection and implementation, our team at SolvedAF has learned that, to get the best results, it’s best to move through this process slowly and with intention. It’s also important to dedicate the right resources to the process.
About the Author
Ashiq Ahamed is the Founder & Managing Partner of SolvedAF Consulting Inc., a boutique consulting firm providing IT consulting, growth advisory, and digital transformation services. As a strategic, delivery-focused leader, he works with organizations to change their thinking when it comes to technology, implementing solutions that achieve organizational efficiencies and improve the end user experience.
Known for his ability to see the big picture, Ashiq draws on his expertise to help organizations align their technology with their business goals. Ashiq was recently recognized as an Emerging Leader by The Peak.
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