How To Shortlist Software Vendors?

Software selection requires a well defined process and disciplined approach.

Previously, I have shared following topics with you.

The next step in the software selection process is organising Product Demos. Based on RFI/RFP, Software Vendor demonstrates how their software meets your business needs.

In this post, I am sharing with you a simple scorecard that will assist you in the demos evaluation process. You can assign weights to each criteria based on its importance and score each criteria to calculate weighted score.

For example:

Software selection

Following is the list of criteria that must be considered for the evaluation:

Capability: Prior to product demos, do your homework! Prepare list of business capabilities. Prepare hierarchical structure of level -1, 2 and 3 capabilities. Well before the demo, send capabilities list that you want Vendor to demonstrate.

During Demo, evaluate how well the software meets your business capability ‘out of the box’ (with no or minor customisations).

Note these capabilities are not business processes.

Compare definitions: Software generally use different terminology to represent work order, Case, Job, Sales Orders, projects etc.

Identify these definitions upfront; determine business rules (for example, resource time can be logged against work order/job only etc.).

Evaluate how closely software is designed to your operating model?

Infrastructure requirements: Identify software infrastructure requirements (including any other Third party software included in the sales process)

  • Hosting options (Cloud, inhouse/onsite hosting) and various options that comes with hosting
  • For on-premises installation,   identify minimum Servers/Client requirements for CPUs, RAM, Storage disks etc.
  • Supported databases (Microsoft SQL, IBM DB2 etc.)
  • Supported Application Server Operating systems (Microsoft server, Linux, Unix etc.)
  • Supported Development platform (Microsoft, Open source etc.)
  • Supported Application Clients – Identify which clients are supported (Thin client, Rich/Thick/Fat client, Smart client). Identify pros and cons of supported clients. Verify business special requirements like working offline, in that case software must support Smart clients, as an example.

Integration: Analyse Application architecture and evaluate integration tools available to integrate with other existing applications or third party software.

For example, identify plug-ins, interfaces, APIs to integrate software with existing applications in your organisation.

Reports: Evaluate, if existing reports available in the software meets your business needs.

Determine, what tools are available for developing reports?

What sort of skill set is required for reports development?

Stationary/ Output forms: Determine what tools are available to develop Stationary/Output forms like SSRS, Crystal reports etc?

Do you have in-house capabilities to develop reports in these tools?

Maintenance and Support: Evaluate support options carefully:

  • Support cost
  • Out of business hours support
  • Escalation process
  • SLAs
  • Support for interstate, international sites (if applicable)
  • Support for non-English speaking countries etc.
  • Compare software maintenance cost

Training: Identify software training tools available to train the Project team for UAT (User Acceptance Training) and End-Users for rolling out the software.

Identify online community support in case if you want to post question or two.

Check there is useful information available online in FAQs, videos, webinars etc.

Cost of ownership: Software vendors have different procurement models (Concurrent user/Named user, Monthly subscription/One-time cost + Annual maintenance etc.)

Compare Total Cost of Ownership for each software your are evaluating.

Popularity: Determine the wider acceptance and popularity of the software. Determine if you can hire/outsource technical work easily in market, if required.

NOTE: If the software is not widely used, then you will be solely relying on vendor to provide resources for consulting and technical development work.

Software upgrades: Check software updates process. Note that if software upgrade are automatically managed by vendor then it not additional cost to you. However, if it is manual process then it means additional work effort and cost for technical upgrade and testing.

Each model has its pros and cons. Identify which model suits your business and various options available for the upgrade.

Software Customisation: There may be need to customise software to fit your business needs. Make extra effort to understand software flexibility to customise solution based on your needs.

Understand at which level customisation can be made:

For example, at:

  • User interface level (front screens, layout and fields logic)
  • Business logic level (implement business rules, workflows, BPMs etc)
  • Database level (add new fields, change properties of existing fields)
  • Source code level etc.

Data Migration: During implementation, you may need to extract existing data from various different systems. Clean the data and migrate it to new system. In order to accomplish this, identify:

  • Various Data migration tools how to use them?
  • Standard Data migration approach and assistance options available from vendor
  • Your role and responsibility for data migration

Vendor experience: It is very important for obvious reasons. Identify your vertical (Retail, Manufacturing, Professional services etc.) and identify vendor strengths in your vertical.

Vendor strengths will be demonstrated by:

  • Proposing clear project approach and implementation plan during sales process
  • Offering best practice solutions Vs Custom solutions
  • Offering regulatory, reporting and other mandatory  requirements for your industry

Third party software – Pricing, procurement and support: Identify, if vendor is selling third party software in the package to cover specialised functionality like OCR, BI and Reporting etc.

Identify:

  • Pricing and procurement options of  third party software
  • Identify who will be responsible for support for third party software
  • Identify cost of integration and any ongoing cost for maintenance and support

Some software Vendors offers plugins to Third party software; others offer market place to buy third-party software in PaaS model.

Identify these models clearly and options available to you.

Hosting options and requirements: Identify if the software support is cloud/On-premise hosting.

There are many hosting options and sub-options. Determine your requirements for hosting and evaluate if the software fits your criteria?

Consider overheads of maintenance, disaster recovery, back-ups etc.

Auditing requirements: Identify your auditing requirements. Who did what and when in the system?

Many software supports audit logs. Once they are enabled, system logs records on ‘who did what and when’. System Admin, can view the records later, as requested/required.

Check if this feature is required by your business and evaluate audit capability of the software.

Scalability: It is very important! If your business is making investment in software with long-term view and has plans to grow business, it is important to understand if software is scalable to support planned growth.

Following items should be considered:

  • Multilingual support
  • Multinational presence for implementation and support
  • Max. number of users software can support
  • Max. number of transactional data system can handle without impacting response time
  • Business strategy – Acquisitions, mergers, disinvestment  –  Evaluate how system can scale with future business plans

Mobility support: Identify your mobility requirements:

  • Need of using handhelds for shipping/receiving/stock etc.
  • Notifications on mobile devices
  • Access specialised information (stats/graphs) via mobile devices
  • Special requirements to support existing mobile apps
  • Special requirements to develop new apps and integrate to the centralised software (ERP)

Based on your Mobility requirements evaluate:

  • Hardware/software support for mobile devices
  • Vendors supported, cost and maintenance options
  • Integration capabilities with mobile apps etc.

Interface and Usability: Evaluate general design and layout of the system:

  • Navigation
  • Features to save favourites
  • Features to use shortcuts/hotkeys
  • Saving personalisation etc.

Security: Evaluate security features for securing:

  • Server security to prevent hacking
  • Restrict data/programs/features for certain users

Multilingual: If you have present/future requirements for multilingual software and support, make sure right questions are asked for good evaluation.

Web2.0  rich features: Business needs good collaboration platform where users can search, process, subscribe and comment on information at their figure tips.

Undertake good evaluation, if this is important for your business as well!

XaaS: ‘X as a service’ model is very popular. It may be Service, Platform, Infrastructure or some things else.

Understand offerings on ‘as a service’ model. Evaluate short, medium and long-term cost to the business.

System help: Evaluate various help features in the software:

  • F1 help – Basic system help containing information on screen and fields
  • Videos
  • Documentation
  • FAQs
  • Blogs
  • Online community forums

Vendor portfolio: Identify parent company of the software. Find out facts about their financial stability, interstate/international presence etc.

Identify their investment in technology/ R&D. Check how frequently new releases are available. It shows vendor’s commitment to its product and possibly better product for future.

What is the Software Vendor’s (Supplier) Business case?: It is important to understand vendor’s strategic reasons to sell you software.

It is important to know:

If it is just another deal for the supplier?

Or,

Strategically selling to enter another market

Is the deal focused  to sell you software, consulting services, cross-sell another software/service or something else

If you have clarity about Supplier’s Business Case, you can negotiate and have better relationship with the Vendor.

Consultants experience: Request Consultant profiles that vendor is planning to put on your project. Evaluate and rate Consultant’s experience in your industry.

Tailor the above list to suit your needs.

Good luck!

 

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