ARE DECISION-MAKING FUNDAMENTALS BYPASSED IN SOFTWARE INVESTMENTS?
By Keith German
CEOs and their leadership teams make tough, important decisions every day. Many of these decisions come after extensive consideration, often requiring the application of skilled planning efforts. Why are so many companies and non-profits straining valuable resources in the software purchase process? Surprisingly, many executives acknowledge significant software investments have been made that ultimately resulted in disappointment, lost productivity, and, in worse cases, lost capital due to a re-purchase.
Steps for Resource Stewardship
Mistakes like this are preventable. Remembering the basics while applying some advanced skills to software purchasing allows a business or a board to be a good S-T-E-W-A-R-D of people, time, and capital resources.
Strategy – Write a purpose statement. Ask questions such as, “Why is this needed? Why hasn’t this been fixed before now? What is the end objective? Do we need external help?”
Execution – Gather a broad internal “system requirements” list. This step demands the greatest effort and skill. Do not be impatient, take the necessary time. Once the list is established, even if in rough draft, begin to categorize each item such as: technical, functional (if an accounting system this may be general ledger, accounts payable, etc.), and platform (on-premise, SAAS, web-based). Give every element a priority rating. At this stage add the list of end-users, those who will actually be using the software.
Wait – Waiting is an effective principle because it allows for objectivity to develop and forces the project team to step back and look at the strategy again.
Audience – Perform some preliminary research. Talk with a diverse audience outside the company or board in the same, as well as different industries, to learn what they use, how they feel about it, and what they learned going through the software buying process.
Resources – Determine key contributors who will work with vendors during the evaluation and selection process. Be sure to select a broad but controlled team that includes the end users.
Document – Document, document, and document some more. This is a critical step throughout the vendor evaluation process to stay on track and in control. Without it, the risk of being “sold” will come into play. Nobody likes that feeling.
Written Plan: Pre-Vendor Strategy
Many of these steps are fundamental, yet only about ten percent of software buyers have a written plan and even fewer have detailed system requirements from which to work. Rarely does anyone invest without a plan, make a business acquisition or a facility expansion without extensive research. A good steward of resources commits neither the company nor non-profit board to invest critical revenue or donor dollars in a business software system without first having a plan.
Leader, Take Charge
Leaders are committed to operational and financial stewardship. However, it is possible leadership teams are bypassing fundamental decision-making steps by involving software vendors far too early in the process. Putting software vendors into the process too soon potentially allows them too much control. Take charge in leading the way towards a new model for buyers and sellers to conduct business. Start with the basics in decision-making, seek wise counsel, and plan for success.
Keith German is Chief Navigator and Founder of Solution Explorers, an Austin based consulting company that facilitates the business of buying software. email@example.com, (512) 410-6133. www.solutionexplorers.com
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