.... Innovative IT Consulting helps small and mid-size companies use technology to facilitate growth and increase profitability. We are specialists in the Process Industries.
October, 2006

In the September Issue of Innovative Thinking, we gave you 7 simple steps to getting more value from your ERP system. In this issue, we begin a new 2-part series on software selection - In's and Out's (this issue) and Do's and Dont's (next issue). Software selection continues to be a critical issue for growing enterprises.

Don't miss our What's new section. Our blog participation is GROWING! Have fun with this month's WORD SCRAMBLE feature, and hear Paul Sita speak on software selection with Jennifer Shaheen, The Technology Therapist on her internet radio show on www.630wpro.com.

The In's and Out's of Software Selection. (Part 1 of a 2 part series) By John Pellegrino, Principal, Innovative IT Consulting, LLC. John can be reached at 631-549-1685 or jpellegrino@innovativeitc.com.

It's a process, not a task! Whether you are selecting a new software application for your entire company’s operations (ERP) or for one specific department within your organization there is a process you must go through to ensure you make the best choice. Although you will scale the steps within the process based on the size of your company, the number of departments or people that will be affected with a new application, the complexities of your business processes, and other factors, there is one constant. The steps within the process are the same.

Why do this as a process?
Throughout all of the steps there are common themes and significant benefits for members of your organization. These include:

  • Receive an education on how things run within your company, what parts of a business function are important, how functions from one department “connect” to functions in other departments, and what are the best practices within your industry.
  • Learn skills in teamwork, issue resolution, brainstorming, etc. that can be transferred to other projects.
  • Gain buy-in for accepting a new software application from members of the organization at all levels.
  • Save time by understanding that not all members of the organization need to be involved with all steps in the process.
    1. Step 1 – Mobilize a Team. Bring together the necessary people to make sure that all business units, divisions, or departments are represented. The team members should be relatively high up in the management tree, as there will be decisions made that affect budgets and personnel. I have seen teams of 2 or 3 for smaller organizations and up to 7 or 8 for larger organizations (anything larger will make it hard to get the tasks done). The team should meet regularly to review progress, discuss findings and next steps, assign tasks, provide direction, and make decisions.
    2. Step 2 – Gather Requirements There are many ways to accomplish this, but the best way is to talk to the people that are involved with the day-to-day business functions. (You should have prepared lists of questions to make sure you don’t miss important business issues). These could be the mid-level managers of departments and/or the people actually doing the functions. Organize the requirements into what is “need to have” and what is “nice to have”. Create a list of things you will want to have ready when you first implement the new software and those items that can wait until after you “go live”. Most importantly focus on requirements that are unique to your industry or to your organization.
    3. Step 3 – Research and Compile a “Long” List. Review industry magazines, search the Internet, talk to others in your industry, and solicit the services of a software search utility. These are all ways to help you identify candidates for your selection based on the requirements gathered in step 2. All requirements should be taken into consideration including the ones you designated as those that will be implemented after “go live”. Compile a list of viable solutions; no more than 4 or 5 for smaller organizations and no more than 9 or 10 for larger organizations.
    4. Step 4 – Question Vendors to Get to a “Short” List. Contact the vendors on your long list and ask them more specific questions about their products, their presence in your industry, their areas of expertise, the technology the product uses, general pricing, etc. Use this information to pare the list to a short one; no more than 2 or 3 for a smaller organization and no more than 4 or 5 for larger organizations.
    5. Step 5 – Conduct Scripted Demos. This is a key step in the process and not doing it is one of the major pitfalls of the selection process. Make sure the vendors on your short list know what the key requirements are for you and make sure they address them in their demo. The demo can be done in a couple of hours over the web for smaller applications or could be all day meetings for enterprise-wide (ERP), more complex applications. In either case you want to make sure you get the information needed to compare solutions.
    6. Step 6 – Select a Leading Candidate Discuss the information gathered to date, and if needed clarify any of it. Create some form of scorecard to rate the vendors, their solutions, the impact of the technology on your organization and other non-tangible factors such as the culture fit between the vendor and your company. You do not have to make the decision the first time you discuss all of this, but don’t paralyze yourselves with over-analysis. Select a leading candidate and inform all the participants that this vendor and their solution will be validated before you proceed, but it is theirs to lose.
    7. Step 7 – Validate the Number 1 Vendor. Probe into the number 1 vendor a little deeper by receiving a more in-depth demo if necessary, obtaining and calling or visiting references, discussing their approach to implementation, and/or speaking to other members of their organization. These include their support staff’s management, their technical staff’s management, the project manager that will be working on your implementation, and, in some cases, the higher levels of management within their company.
    8. Step 8 – Negotiate, Plan, and Sign on the Dotted Line. Once validated it is time to negotiate the purchase of the software licenses and implementation services, plan the implementation of the software, and sign on the dotted line. Then you need to get ready for the detailed work to start.

    One Final Thought.

    There are times when the results of a step might require you to loop back through the process. For example, if the validation of the number 1 vendor reveals some things that you are not comfortable with then you should loop back to the select step and choose a new leading candidate and validate that selection.

    Next month we continue with part 2, The Do's and Dont's of Software Selection.

    Tip of the Month

    Do you have a project leader or a project manager?
    By Paul Sita, Ph.D, Principal, Innovative IT Consulting, LLC. Paul can be reached at 631-549-1685 or psita@innovativeitc.com.

    Many people use the terms project leader and project manager interchangeably. They’re clearly related. But the roles are very different.

    A project leader is a champion, someone who leads the organization and the project team toward a successful conclusion. An effective project leader leads, communicates, organizes, mobilizes and motivates the team and the organization.

    • A project manager organizes and tracks resources, budgets, timelines. All important things mind you, but not a substitute for an effective project leader.
    • While in smaller organizations, one person may function in both roles, the project leader is the critical role to fill.
    • It is easier to supplement a great project leader with administrative support to help manage things. It is harder to take a good project manager and make them a leader.

    Don’t confuse the two! Get a leader in front of your projects and watch your projects take off!

    What's new?. Blog update.

    More and more of you are reading our blogs (see links below) Don't be shy about commenting and adding your opinions. If you have ideas for topics, or suggestions, just comment and/or send us an email. Don't forget to sign up and get updates delivered right to your in box.

    Innovative ERP Strategies (www.innovativeitc.typepad.com) and The Adonix X3 Community

    Paul Sita will be interviewed by Jennifer Shaheen, The Technology Therapist.
    on her radio show on 630WPRO on the topic of "5 Dangerous Mistakes of Software Selection".
    Check Jennifer's web site for scheduling information. Jennifer and her team do a fabulous job with using desktop tools to increase your productivity.

    Word Scramble time.
    “Confirming the claims and capabilities of a proposed software solutions.” (1 word)
    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ D A I N V L T I O A
    Answer to last month's word scramble.

    “The universe of business partners interacting with your enterprise." (SUPPLY CHAIN)

    A Look Ahead To Next Month

    In November, we'll be continuing with our 2 part series on software selection.

    We want your feedback. Contact us

    Innovative IT Consulting, LLC
    (631) 549-1685