I would like to share some relatively simple but important rules on how to start looking for New Cloud or Application Software in the New Year:
Set Clear Goals for the Project – What is your company trying to accomplish with this change (it’s normally a massive project and investment for the company)? In other words, how are we going to measure our results to know this project is successful? Is it company cost savings, productivity gains, client and customers support or decision making dashboards that make data readily available for management and leadership teams? Whatever the justification, make sure goals are clearly documented and defined including criteria for success.
Do you have internal Agreement on Top Reasons for Changing & the Leadership Commitment to the Changes? You must be on the same page and have executive and leadership support and sponsorship for the changes to make the project a success.
Newer business software has a lot of Bells & Whistles. Are your demos zeroing in on the Bells & Whistles the vendors want to show you or the key necessary functions (reasons for your direction for new investment in application software)? Is someone in charge of sorting out the “gotta haves” from the “nice to haves” based on business impact?
Financial Strength of the Top Software Companies for Your Vertical – Develop a short list of vendors to investigate. Start with the years in business, their technology and enhancements development roadmap, vertical client references for your vertical industry and number of clients and end users supported. In other words, how many companies (like yours) are part of their install base? The more clients and end users the software company is supporting, the more they’ll be able to fund positive changes (new functions) that EVERYONE can benefit from. Do your research. Is this software company financially strong to fund future changes and support your company for the next 10 years? Or, is it just bumping along (living off maintenance fees for their installation base of clients)?
Technology Foundation – What is the key technology used to support and develop this application software investment? Is the operating system software cloud based or current? What database is being used? Do they have an on premise server solution or a software as a service (cloud) based deployment model? Software companies must have a solid and mainstream technology roadmap and foundation to support changes over time (clients today and in the future). If they don’t have a technology plan, then it’s a crap shoot on how long they’ll be able to support your company investment or evolution of technology over time. If you don’t know what is considered mainstream (supportable) technology, ask for advice on this one.
Is your project budget defined? Does it include initial and ongoing costs (including software maintenance)? Implementation costs (including business disruption) are normally understated by vendors (add a contingency uplift of at least 25-30%).
Find internal people that will lead the charge for change with this project. You know who the influencers are. Get their “buy in”. Have them lead the charge. Key areas of the business need to be represented. IT support staff is only one piece of this leadership pie.
Define Rules for the Project. How much? Timeline. Hours per week committed to the changes. Are we going to change our workflow if necessary? Are modifications allowed (can they even be made – is source code available)? How does an individual (or group) communicate and flags project issues? Guidelines or rules for the project need to be clearly communicated up front.
Make sure you talk with client references. Client references should be businesses in a similar business vertical industry with a similar business size and key functionality requirements. You can save a lot of time by talking to business owners or leaders from businesses that have already implemented the software.
I hope that you’ve picked up some valuable tips taken from years of consulting experience. i3’s successfully navigated and supported clients who’ve managed the changes of key application software changes for over 24 years.