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Have it Your Way: Tips for Software Selection Success


Selecting the Right SoftwareI am sometimes guilty of overthinking things.  Being a Software-type, I am over-analytical in just about everything I do.  I weigh options, I seek advice, and usually I make my decision (after a while).  Whenever i see people looking to invest in software, I see a similar situation.  Now, being careful and analytical is very important, especially in a major investment like software, but more often than not, there are a few elements that get in the way of a good software selection process.  I thought I would throw out a few easy things to remember when entering into the software selection process.  This is a simplified list, but it does give a certain perspective to the whole endeavor.

1. Do the Research:  When you begin the selection process, you should do your homework.  Identify the top vendors in the market, identify the different technologies within the different vendors and understand the typical components/modules.   By identifying and understanding the market, you can speak to the vendors with more authority and expertise.

2. Don't "Over think" the RFP:  The key to a successful Request for Proposal (RFP) is not in creating a copious feature list; it is focusing on solving a business need.  The purpose of an RFP is differentiating one vendor from the next.  Overly generic features that focus on functions often provide detail on products, but little visibility into how the product solves a business need.  Center your RFPs on the key business needs, and let the vendor explain how they can solve this need through their product.

3. Keep your "shortlist" Short:  Often, many companies will move forward in the selection process with more than three or four vendors, which can push the selection timeline out too far.  Limit your shortlist to three or four, and have a selection team evaluate and conduct research.  Case studies, research analysts and peers can provide valuable information in this selection.  Also, consider the vendor's corporate fit to your business - a good relationship with a vendor can go a long way.

4. Control the Evaluation Process:  As the vendor selection process continues, make sure that your company is driving the evaluation.  Vendors tend to show features and tools that may not be related to your business, simply because they are "flashy" and "sizzle".  Keep the process focused on your specific needs.  Furthermore, be aware of any last minute deals by vendors who fear they may lose the business.  Do not sacrifice functionality for price - you may lose in the long run.

5.  Do Not Let Politics Get in the Way:  There is a great deal of subjectivity that can arise when reviewing applicable vendors.  Whether it is a personality conflict, a prior experience or internal politics, it is important to keep your vendor rankings objective, so that any outside animosity does not distract from the software's capabilities. 

Ultimately, your organization is the one who will live with the decision you make.  So it's important to carefully weigh your options, keep in control of the process, and put the vendor in the spotlight - not the other way around.  Maybe I'll take my own advice and stop over-analyzing all my decsions...or will I?  Yeah...maybe I will...nah - i better do a SWOT analysis to figure this one out...

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thanks for the great tips. we are currently in process to upgrade our servicing software. can you point us in a direction of finding a list of vendors that can help serve our need? 
Irakli Iosebashvili 
Royal Loan Co.  
Posted @ Wednesday, September 01, 2010 12:38 AM by irakli
I'm about halfway down this road at my company, and the most important lesson I learned was this: have all your processes defined, documented and up-to-date from the first day of discussions with any Enterprise software vendor. 
Enterprise software can only enable processes; to expect enterprise software to provide or control poorly adopted processes is to exponentially increase risk and workload by simultaneously introducing the tool, AND the method. 
A good vendor can go over your processes with you, and suggest how their technology can enhance productivity. The vendor may even be able to provide suggestions for process improvements that can be enhanced by the software based on their experience with similar clients.  
If your processes are not well-documented however, you will make your vendor very wealthy - due to time spent fixing, testing and fixing process implementations over and over again. Your project will go over-budget, suffer scope-creep and the inevitable cuts.
Posted @ Friday, September 03, 2010 10:42 AM by Alex
That's a great point, Alex. One of the most critical things we've learned over the years is that without having the requirements set in stone up front, no software will be able to be truly successful on the first shot. When we go into a new implementation, we spend about a week with the customer ensuring that their processes are well defined, and that we know all the stakeholders involved. It is then important that all stakeholders sign off on the requirements prior to even starting implementation. That is so that someone can't come in and start adding features to be implemented, thus creeping in on that scope.  
I am going to post another blog later this month specifically on the pitfalls of project management in implementing software, which will go in depth on what you mentioned here. Thanks!
Posted @ Friday, September 03, 2010 10:57 AM by Tim Lozier
This is a great article regarding software selection process. A lot of companies as well as individuals will surely find these insights helpful. Thanks for sharing.
Posted @ Monday, September 30, 2013 1:20 AM by Zora Ferrel
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