Outlined below are a series of steps you should consider during your software search/replacement. These steps do not have to be followed perfectly for a successful search, however, setting out and sticking to timelines, like those outlined below, are very important for success. Having a plan in place as part of your software search will help ensure you spend the time properly evaluating vendors in order to make the right decision.
Set aside the time required to make an important decision like software replacement. There is a reason you started looking for new software and so it important to dedicate the time and resources to the project in order to make a timely decision. Establish a timeline to accomplish tasks in manageable stages. This will be an on-going task throughout the entire software search in order to make sure the project stays on track.
Before you start speaking with potential software vendors, it is best to perform an analysis on existing business processes. Determine what works well with your current software and where gaps exist in functionality. Establish outline of functionality requirements from a business process perspective (not software function) and determine the required software tier/segment. This process usually takes place over the course of a month.
Research Software Vendors
Search industry and software sites to find appropriate software vendors. Talk with friendly competitors to better understand what systems they have in place. Avoid the use of consultants that are pricey and often biased and then select an appropriate number of software vendors to evaluate - typically 6 or more is too many. Allocating a week to this process should be sufficient in order to determine which vendors to evaluate.
Contact and Engage with Software Vendors
Most software vendors will expect time from you to discuss business processes and requirements. It is important that at this stage you spend the time discussing requirements, processing and the improvements you hope to see from a new solution. Demos should not be expected or offered at this stage – vendors would not know your business well enough to perform a demo catered to you. It is important to not spread out this process over too long of a time period - you want to focus on the project at hand and keep engaged with vendors so as to not get off track. Typically this stage takes place over the course of a couple of weeks.
Short List Vendors
After preliminary discussions with vendors, demos should be performed. Shortlist vendors based on what can be shown, not on what is promised and narrow down the list of vendors to a maximum of 3. Trying to watch too many demos can leave to information overload and delay the project. This process will take a couple of weeks.
Compare vendor demos and discussions with business requirements. Consider “soft” criteria such as comfort level with vendor, honesty, personalization etc. This step should be completed 2-3 months before desired implementation date at a minimum in order to ensure you get the implementation date you prefer. Selecting a vendor should be done over the course of a week.
Pull the Trigger
Once a vendor has been chosen as the winner, immediately begin the implementation process to avoid delays. Anxiety at this stage is common but largely misplaced – a vendor that has been selected with due diligence is the right choice.
If you want more detailed information on the software buying process, download our free Software Buying Guide.