Buying Software: the 10 Steps to Success

Buying a business critical Enterprise Software is an undertaking notorious for its pitfalls. Even IT departments of Fortune 100 companies get it wrong! As an Executive in a small to medium sized non-software business, you are not alone if you feel under-equipped to bring this critical process to a successful conclusion. What can you do? Well, with some common sense actions, you can reduce your risk and increase your chances of success significantly.

Here are Fraysen Systems’ 10 Steps to Success!

  1. State the business problem the system is to solve. This will be one of four things:
    • Reduce cost by…
    • Increase sales by…
    • Open new market by…
    • Eliminate business continuity risk by…
  2. Document the context for the new system:
    • What business processes and staff are affected
    • What other information systems will it interact with / replace
  3. Document specifically and in detail how the business will operate differently after the new system is installed.
  4. Document the expected Return on Investment including:
    • Costs that will be eliminated and how
    • Revenue that will be gained and how
    • New costs, both initial and ongoing, external and internal
  5. Specify everything you expect the system to enable your staff to do. This is the Functional Specification and should be presented in an organized, numbered check-list, because this is exactly what it is: a check list. If a vendor’s solution doesn’t check these boxes, they are not in the race!
  6. Specify your Non-functional requirements. Think:
    • How fast — screen response time, report generation time, transaction completion time?
    • On what scale and over what geographic range (office, factory, nation; 10, 100, 1000 simultaneous users)?
    • How adaptable does it need to be, and to what anticipated business changes?
    • To what other systems does it need to interface, and how?
    • How can you get all your data out of the system, should you choose to replace it?
  7. When interviewing vendors, ask for evidence that their system meets your requirements. Ask what additional costs are involved, if any, to fully satisfy your functional and non-functional requirements, and include these responses in your final contract documentation.
  8. Ensure the license agreement gives you the right and the ability to fully use your data which is stored in the system and to interface it with the other information systems you need to now or in the future.
  9. Ensure the support or maintenance agreement contains a clear commitment of how the vendor will respond to your issues: typically called a Service Level Agreement.
  10. Insist on project management best practice during installation and validation:
    • A clear plan;
    • Regular status reports and meetings tied to the plan
    • Involvement of a senior project owner from your organization in monitoring progress to plan

By taking these 10 simple steps, you can dramatically increase the success of your enterprise software acquisition projects, measured by cost, timescale and return on investment!

Good Luck!