Enterprise IT departments have some tough choices to make when it comes to selecting new software for their organization. There is a wide range of software packages that you can choose from in practically every functional area of your business. However, selecting appropriate enterprise software to meet your business needs can be a challenging task.
Many executives responsible for making such a purchase decision usually follow a standard yet fallible process. They go to big analyst websites, pick a few enterprise solutions, read the reviews, and then pick one that appears to be a good fit for the company. If it works, then well and good.
If, however, the new software isn’t a good fit, then the enterprise is left footing the bill for expensive software, and the decision maker ends up copping the blame. In such a scenario, following a software evaluation “process” is a “must-have for smart purchase decisions.
Challenges in purchasing important software packages
Enterprise software can be thought to be an organization’s backbone. Buying important software packages involves detailed analysis by the decision maker. Keep in mind that the structure of each business is different, and it is not a wise idea to go blindly with a software package used by a competitor or a software package that the decision-maker may have used in a previous organization. Let’s briefly look at some challenges to be aware of when it comes to purchasing important software packages for an enterprise:
a) Assessment of the current IT infrastructure
Many decision-makers may rush into purchasing a new software package without assessing whether the software will integrate well with the business’s current IT infrastructure. The first step should be to assess whether the new software package will fit well with the existing IT infrastructure or whether changes need to be made to ensure compatibility and seamless operation of the new software.
b) Assessment of vendor capabilities
In the end of the day, all software vendors will want to sell you their software and may highlight software features and benefits that may appear to be perfect for your needs. However, before making the purchase decision, it is critical for you to ensure that the vendor you intend to partner with has a proper post-purchase support structure. Due diligence of providers on all aspects, especially after-sales support, is vital when purchasing a new software.
c) Assessment of data migration issues
Just buying new software is not enough – you need to map and migrate your enterprise’s data seamlessly from the old software package to the new one. Not taking into account potential data migration issues that may arise is asking for trouble down the line. Preparing a data migration plan with key stakeholders and doing a dry-run with some existing data during the demo stage is a vital part of the purchasing process that some decision makers overlook and regret down the line.
Software evaluation is a “must-have” prior to purchasing
The first step in the purchase of any new enterprise software package should definitely be to do your research on the internet. Create a shortlist of promising software packages based on user reviews. However, don’t make a purchase decision based only on reviews. You must go through a formalized software evaluation process with the help of a test team, existing data, and a detailed testing process. Hence, software evaluation is not a “good-to-have” process, it is a “must-have” before purchasing.
Some parameters to base your evaluation of new software include:
a) Compatibility with existing software tools
Purchasing software that works with your business’s IT infrastructure should be a no-brainer. However, decision-makers may slip up if they don’t possess enough technical savvy or come from a non-IT background. It is essential to assess how compatible the new software will be with your company’s existing software tools. Another thing to keep in mind is the importance of evaluating the new software’s integration capabilities.
b) Customization and adaptation requirements
Most out-of-the-box software packages such as ERPs, CRMs, HR software, accounting software, and other enterprise software offer some amount of customizability. But, before making a purchasing decision, you must assess whether your internal team will have sufficient flexibility to customize the software to meet your company’s specific requirements.
c) Vendor support post-implementation
Any new software package will have a learning curve you must be aware of before purchasing any new software. In this scenario, you must assess the kind of support that the vendor will provide after you go live with the new software.
Comparing software evaluations
An essential component of the software package evaluation process is software comparison. It can be thought of as a tool to compare the evaluations of software packages to help you decide which software to purchase for your organization. You should prepare a proper comparison plan as that will allow you to:
– Carry out a like-for-like comparison of the various software packages that you’re evaluating
– Carry out benchmarking of specific features of the software packages you’re evaluating
– Understand the initial and recurring costs of the different software packages
– Reach an informed decision about which software package to purchase
An essential part of the comparison process is comparison testing, where you aim to assess the different strengths or weaknesses of one software package against another. The comparison testing stage gives you critical information that you can use to assess a software package’s advantages and disadvantages vis-a-vis other similar software packages.
The benefits of software evaluation and comparison
Software evaluation and comparison offer substantial benefits to enterprises considering the purchase of a new software package. Some of these are:
a) Being able to take both a subjective and objective view of which particular software to purchase.
b) Obtain solid quantitative data on various aspects of different software packages that will help decision-makers reach a data-driven decision on which software package to go for ultimately.
c) Get access to detailed information about software packages such as security measures, the support structure vendors provide, and so on. With the help of this information, decision-makers will be able to reach an appropriate decision that will benefit the organization in the long term.
Example of a typical use-case
To illustrate why software evaluation is a “must-have” for smart purchase decisions, let’s look at a typical use-case scenario:
In a hypothetical scenario, your enterprise could be looking at buying a new ERP system that may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. It will be a bad idea to make your purchase decision based on external reviews only. In such a scenario, it makes good sense to run an evaluation process that compares different software packages.
Form a team of internal experts led by a qualified, experienced person with sufficient domain knowledge. Prepare test plans in conjunction with the team leader, taking outside consultants’ assistance if necessary.
Put the different software packages you’re evaluating through their paces to ensure that the testing team gets as much data as possible to analyze strengths and weaknesses.
The final stage of the software evaluation process is for decision-makers to reach a final decision balancing the various aspects of purchasing the software. Some elements that you should look into are:
- Ability to meet the needs of the organization
- Availability of technical support during the testing and deployment stage.
- Training and documentation that will be available to your users after you’ve purchased the software
Purchasing a new software package can be challenging unless you follow a proper evaluation and comparison process. Remember that any software purchasing decision will involve a lot of time, effort, and energy. But, you will eventually reach a stage where you can identify the best software package for your company’s unique needs.
If you are making a major software purchase decision, then it’s important to rely on an honest third-party evaluation based on the right combination of user evaluation, testing and professional analysis. Now is a good time to contact TopSoft and find out how we can help you make the right choice.