Choosing the right software for your company is not always an easy decision. In fact, it can be quite stressful, especially when you are aware of the detrimental effects of choosing the wrong software. The software selection process can be complex, and business leaders may have questions, such as, “What are the phases of the software selection process?” and, “Is each stage really necessary or can I skip a few?” Each phase of the process is important and should be completed with accuracy to ensure a good outcome.
1. Identify the Problem
Too often, organizations make the mistake of rushing through a software selection process without really focusing on the purpose of each phase. The first phase is one of the most important and sets the tone for the rest of the process. It’s usually obvious when an organization needs new software, but it’s important to determine what constitutes the ‘best’ software for your unique business situation. To figure this out, business leaders need to think about the challenges the organization faces and which software could provide value. Without this information, the rest of the software selection process will be unfocused.
2. Perform a Requirements Analysis
Once you have identified the problem that you are trying to solve, you will need to determine relevant functionality. What business processes are impacted by the identified problem? This information can be determined by undergoing a requirements analysis. Developing high-level use cases based on your business processes can also be helpful. A requirements analysis focuses on three main requirements: functional, non-functional, and organizational. Going through the requirements analysis process will result in a requirements document that you can reference in the future.
3. Research the Market for Vendors
The next phase in the software selection involves actually starting the search for new software. Those involved in the process will need to research the marketplace to locate potential software vendors that might fit the bill. When searching the market, it’s key to look for vendors that offer software that has the ability to solve your company’s identified problems. In some cases, this may require a solution that is customized to your unique needs. Start with a large list of vendors and gradually narrow down your list until you find one that checks most of the boxes on your requirements list.
4. Request Information from Vendors
Once you have narrowed down your list to just a few candidates who you believe can deliver optimal software, you will want to send out a request for information (RFI). An RFI will provide your company with detailed information about the vendor and the software that they offer. You may find that some vendors simply do not reply to your request. In this case, it’s easy to disqualify those vendors. Once you have received information from the vendors on your list, gather your team to review this information and narrow down your list even more to just a select few choices.
5. Submit a Request for Proposal
A request for information is just the first step of a three-step process. After narrowing down your vendor choices, you will then want to submit a request for proposal (RFP). While an RFI provides companies with basic information about a software vendor, an RFP provides a more detailed breakdown of a vendor’s software. Once you get to this phase in the process, you should have just three vendors left on your list. This phase allows those performing the selection to ask more detailed questions about expectations from the software and why you should choose that particular vendor.
6. Invite Vendors for a Demo
After receiving sufficient information about the final software vendors on your list, you will want to invite these candidates for a demo. This can help you determine if the vendor is able to deliver what your company needs. A demo not only provides more details about the software, but can also help the selection team determine the quality of the software and implementation. To streamline the process and help ensure a satisfactory outcome, take the time to develop a demo format and script for your vendors to follow. It’s also helpful to create a scoring sheet to use during review of the demos.
7. Choose to Build or Buy a Solution
The final step in the software selection process is crucial to the final outcome of the process. You will need to choose whether you want to buy a software solution from a vendor or build a solution in-house. While this step may seem counterproductive, you may find that the solutions offered by your vendors are not going to meet your needs. If you do choose to buy software, you will need to negotiate a contract with the vendor.
Get Help with Software Selection
Need assistance with the software selection process? Speak with an experienced IT strategy consultant at Hartman Executive Advisors for more information about how to select the right software for your business and how to implement it properly to allow for full adoption by the organization.