Enterprise software is expensive, and you either have to pay a substantial amount over a few years or pay a substantial amount in upfront cost. Having the right solution for your business needs is crucial, and in this article, we’ll go over how you can choose good enterprise software solutions.
#1 Broaden the Pool You Choose Enterprise Solutions From
When it comes to software selection, the goal in the early stages should be to keep your search as broad as possible, so as not to limit your company’s options. It’s best to start with a clear idea of your business needs, this includes the needs of all your business departments, not just one. Most types of enterprise software involve and are used by people in different parts of an organization, sometimes even outside of it (think of contractors/suppliers accessing a supply chain management system, for example).
Instead of approaching only one or two software vendors in the early stages of your search for a new software product, you should start by thinking about the type of software solution your organization needs. For example, do you need recruiting software or would a comprehensive human capital management (HCM) system be a better fit?
Sometimes a large number of choices can be overwhelming. While it’s true that having more options can cause some confusion, it also means that, given a proper evaluation of your needs, your company will be far more likely to select a solution that works well for all involved. Don’t worry: as soon as you start gathering detailed information about what various departments really need, acceptable parameters, and budget limitations, the choice will immediately narrow down. This is why it doesn’t make sense to narrow down your search before the process has even started.
#2 Learn How to Contextualize Software Recommendations
Sadly, many project managers don’t know how to contextualize software recommendations. A common scenario you see over and over again is CEOs making 10K decisions based on a single recommendation by an individual. Even if the individual completely made the recommendation with no ulterior motives, there’s still a lot that can go wrong. Here are some warning signs to keep in mind when weighing in recommendations:
- Recommendations from a specific software vendor: It is highly unlikely that they will recommend someone else’s product and they will obviously claim that their solution is “perfect” for your business needs. This is not necessarily even due to a lack of overall honesty on his part. He probably knows his product inside out and has spent countless hours refining it: he doesn’t see how other teams work on their products, and this perspective will influence his recommendation. Not only that, but software vendors you work with will often recommend agencies and vendors that they have a deal with, as people in the industry have connections with each other. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it should give you pause.
- Recommendations from colleagues, friends, and connections working in your industry: ask yourself if their company is exactly the same as yours, not just in industry and size: do they have the same challenges, the same competitors, and the same type of employees? The more similarities there are, the more logical it is to consider that person’s suggestion in your ultimate decision, but don’t limit yourself to that one choice. Remember that there are likely to be significant differences between their company and yours. You must choose enterprise solutions for your organization based on its unique needs.
- Recommendations from sources that were written 2, 3, or 4+ years ago: enterprise software is developing rapidly. Yesterday’s perfect solution may already have several valid competitors, and one of those competing systems may be a better fit for your business or may offer what you need for a lower price. Keeping up with the latest developments in enterprise software is not a bad idea, but there’s an opportunity cost associated with that as well. Regardless of your course of action, remember the nature of enterprise software solutions, and make a mental note of the age of the resources you’re reading.
In summary, recommendations can be important, but they are often based on more emotional and circumstantial factors. Software selection decisions should be based on facts, not on emotional considerations or tradition. This section isn’t meant to tell you that you should completely forgo asking for and reading recommendations, it just helps you contextualize it.
#3 Think Carefully About How You Design the Selection Process
A proper software selection process begins with a thorough assessment of your company’s needs. It is important that you designate a person or a team to oversee the entire process from start to finish. The assessment should include the needs of all stakeholders, not just middle management or specific core employees.
When you select someone to oversee the process, it is important to select a ‘jack of all trades’ of sorts that has a good breadth of knowledge of how every department in your business works. Furthermore, the person should also have good communication and interpersonal skills to make sure he can accurately assess the needs of staff members he talks and communicates with. If you don’t have anyone like that in mind, you might find product engineering services useful.
Beware of the “expert” who is very knowledgeable in his or her field but may not be aware of the needs and concerns of your company’s staff/users/managers. This person may be very good at identifying specific requirements from the area he knows about, but he’s likely to be inadequate in giving you a holistic picture.