So, your current business management software solution is not meeting the organization’s demands and you have just been volunteered to find its replacement. This situation is always stressful because it requires obtaining information on technology and functionality you may not be familiar with.
First of all, do not panic. Take this challenge as an opportunity to shine. The secret to your success will depend in your approach and the design of a winning strategy. There are three key areas you need to address when seeking out a new business management solution; they include identifying your internal requirements, the solution and the consultant.
Having a solid roadmap and strategy is the key to successfully finding the solution that is right for you. After implementing hundreds of solutions over the last 15 years, we offer the following recommendations that will deliver you and your organization a win. These recommendations are not all-inclusive, but following them will greatly improve your chances of successfully deploying the right solution and delivering value to your organization.
There are a number of areas to focus on before you even think of a solution. You first need to obtain an understanding of your organization and its business strategies. How is the organization structured? Take the time to talk to everyone from the front desk to the warehouse personnel. Identifying and documenting your operational requirements and transaction flows is the first step in compiling the “game plan”.
Lets be realistic, no single application will provide you with a 100% solution out of the box. Therefore, your requirements should include the “must haves”, the “nice to have” and a “wish list”. Having a well documented needs analysis or list of requirements that is internally prepared will greatly improve your chances for success. The more information you can provide a potential consultant, the better position he/she is in to propose the right solution.
One of our recommendations in this area is that you start backwards. What reports will you need? These include financial statements, management reports, sales analysis reports, invoices, etc. Having a thorough understanding of how the information needs to flow and how it will be used by the various departments in your organization is critical. This will provide you insight on how your chart of accounts need to be designed or if product line comparisons are required. The investment of time in this area will yield a quicker return on investment and save you and the organization valuable time at month end.
Once you have identified and finalized your requirements should you should now start your search for a solution. A common mistake in this area is holding on to what is familiar and losing objectivity when analyzing the other solutions. One of the areas easily overlooked is the system you are currently trying to replace. Take the time to document those functions that you are satisfied with and start to identify areas of weaknesses that need to be addressed.
The fact that you worked with a software solution in your previous job that seemed to work well will not guarantee success in your current position. Factors that may impact your decision is the type of industry, the level of sophistication required, the volume of transactions, the number of users, how fast is the company growing and future requirements. On the other hand, the fact that you may have worked with a solution you were not satisfied with may have nothing to do with the solution. It may be a result of poor training, unrealistic budgets, employee turnover, bad consultants, etc.
With respect to finding the right vendor, there are a number of key factors to analyze. They include the financial stability of the publisher. How long have they been in business? How many installations and users do they have? How often do they upgrade their products? Do they sell direct or through a reseller channel? If they sell direct, how does support and training work? Do they have local representation? If they use a reseller channel, how many resellers do they have? Request that they recommend a local business partner to contact. Is there a third-party community of development partners that provide innovative products that work with your proposed solutions?
We often get asked what the difference between our solution and our competitor’s product is. The truth is, especially as it relates to financial software, the big secret is (drum roll please):
THEY ALL WORK!
They must all adhere to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). The functionality in the operations modules (inventory, order entry, purchase order) and the other end-to-end solutions such as CRM, Warehouse Management and Human Resources will typically determine which one is the best fit.
Difference makers also include software architecture, security, scalability, hardware requirements. This is why it is so important to include different key personnel in the decision-making process. A CFO’s focus on a solution will generally revolve around compliance and price. They are more interested in security and strong audit trails. The IT Manager is clearly focused on the technology, which may not be aligned with a company’s business strategies. Having various people involved in your organization will also help you in championing the solution to the other employees. Please keep in mind that change is painful and you will encounter resistance every step of the way, it is human nature. We don’t like changes, especially the ones that will impact our daily work and how we do things.
At the risk of sounding self-serving, we think this is one of the most important factors that will determine your ultimate success or failure. We have been asked on numerous occasions to replace a good software solution. Even when we advice them to seek out a new consultant that handles that product line, the pain associated with that solution is so great, that they rather start over and purchase a new solution.
So, what are some of the obvious things to look for? We think it starts from the moment you contact them. Were they informative? Were they professional and pleasant? How responsive were they? How did their web page look? How long have they been in business? Can they provide references in your industry? During the initial office visit, were they genuinely interested in your problems? Did they arrive on time? If delayed, did they call to inform you? Did they listen or did they do all the talking? Was the focus on you or on them? Were they focused on your needs or on their solution? Are they easy to talk with? Do you think they are easy to work with? Do they communicate clearly? Are they easy to understand?
The best presenters are not always the best implementers. The fact that a business partner claims to sell more than his peers only makes them a better sales person.
Ask for a list of the team members that will be assigned to your engagement. With respect to ongoing support, what do they offer? Ask to contact client references and their vendor. Do they have an established implementation methodology with goals and milestones? Do they have project management tools? Can they support your account remotely? What are their billing rates and how do they compare with their peers?
As you can see, there are many factors that determine the success of your new solution. The lowest price is not always the best solution, but neither is the most expensive one. The more you understand what your organization’s needs are and the more internal resources you are willing to invest, the better the chances for success.
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