Put the Business Needs at the Center of the Software Selection Process
You’ve spent months evaluating vendors, only to get to implementation and something goes south. Users don’t adopt it, the vendors have over-promised and under-delivered, or a crucial stakeholder was missed during the software selection process.
You’re not alone! At Olive, we constantly hear the same story about the painful software selection process. Many CIOs and consultants tell us that they all follow the same rigid and dated waterfall process; going to the big analyst sites, picking the top few solutions, then shoe-horning the one that seems to be the best fit. Our approach to the software selection process software is; lead with the business needs first.
The Traditional Waterfall Software Selection Process
Gone are the days when you had to have systems built for specific problems. Now, there is an off-the-shelf enterprise software solution for almost every business process, automating and innovating standard work practices. With so many on the market, finding the right solution for your unique business needs can be like finding a needle in a haystack. Because of this, the nightmare process of buying business software is often avoided, shortened, or key steps skipped over. The reason for the process is to ensure you make the right choice. This traditional waterfall process of determining needs, and comparing them to solution options is difficult , but skipping over this due diligence and going straight to the solutions, never ends well.
We’ve outlined our recommended process below to help you find your best-match solution.
Olive’s Software Selection Process
1. Discovery – Determine a business case for the solution required
A business case ensures your company realizes measurable business benefits from the solution required. In other words, it ensures the project achieves your overarching business goals, not just the needs of certain departments, IT, Finance etc. Ensure key leaders are aligned on the business case for the new software. Describe the business challenge and assess the potential benefits the solution investment will bring to validate your need for it. Often, there are other options that could solve your problem, such as upgrading the current software or improving business processes. While a business case can validate your reasoning for a new solution it may also reveal a better course of action.
2. Requirements Gathering – Understand the needs of the business
Understanding your business needs is a crucial step in the process of buying software. Ensure that the identification of these needs is ideally a collaborative process between critical decision-makers.
- What are your business goals for the next year?
- What areas of the business are growing, and what areas are shrinking?
- How could the right solution benefit our company?
- Do we have the right budget for our needs?
- What does success mean to our business?
Answering these questions will help you determine your business needs. Ensure all stakeholders think critically about these needs. You may find during this step that a larger budget is needed. Taking the time to clearly define your business needs at this juncture will help you make a case for that. Traditionally this work is done in spreadsheets and by hosting multiple meetings. However, business needs often change over time, and even throughout the evaluation. The traditional method of ‘a moment in time RFP’ is outdated. You need to be able to pivot to your business needs, to allow for flexibility over time. Olive’s agile platform allows just that.
2. Collaborate to define and rank your requirements list for the software
When you and your team are clear and aligned on what your business needs are, the next step is to rank and define your must-have requirements list, the non-negotiables that the software solution must have, including but not limited to;
- Functional requirements
- Integrations with current enterprise software infrastructure
When you have defined your must-haves, you can then take a look at your nice-to-have requirements. This may include;
- User Experience
- White labeling and branding
- Mobile platform
This should be a collaborative effort amongst the team. When you begin the process, make the list as long as possible, and then rank and define the list according to needs. This ranked list will act as your guide when you begin researching options and demoing products.
When ranking this list, it’s important to consider;
- What can we afford?
- What sort of accessibility do you need the solution to have?
- Does the vendor provide an implementation plan and support?
- What are the shortcomings of the current solution?
- What technical features do we need the solution to have?
- What workflows must the new software incorporate?
- What problems should the new solution solve?
3. Determine the ROI on the right solution
Determine the ROI on the right solution by looking at the software price vs. software value. There may be many cost savings down the line if you are successful in finding the best software for your business needs. This value is often overlooked. Think about the return on investment that the right solution would provide to the whole company. Often, a solution that is cheaper in the short term, ends up being way more costly in the long term. Sometimes a more costly solution is needed for true innovation.
4. Compare vendors to the requirements
This stage of the process should be to list as many vendors as possible within your bandwidth that meet the general requirements of what you are looking for—research online for solutions in the space.
Reviews can be helpful in looking at the product from a user’s perspective. You can glean some great insights from online reviews such as what their customer support looks like or any unexpected outcomes from previous projects. Remember that on most software review websites like Capterra or g2 crowd, vendors pay to play in this space, so reviews may be biased. Another thing to consider is that these solutions may be the right choice for one industry but are not matched to your unique business needs.
5. Shortlist best-fit solution vendors
Now that you have your ranked requirements list, have outlined cost considerations, and researched as many vendors as you logistically can in the space – you can get to a short-list of best-fit vendors or products that will work for you using your specific business needs as the filter.
How to get to a shortlist, fast;
- Eliminate products that are over budget
- Eliminate products that don’t meet the top-ranked requirements on your list
- Look at the remaining vendors and rank them in terms of how they meet the needs determined by your requirements list
When you have a shortlist of 3-5 vendors who meet requirements, it’s best practice to conduct demonstrations of the potential solutions. Visit each vendor’s website to schedule yourself for a demo. This will give you a good idea of the company’s customer support. Take your time in conducting the demo, and ensure other stakeholders are demoing the product at the same time. Consider surveying users to get their feedback.
During the demo, keep an open mind to new ideas provided by vendors, but remember to “lead with your business needs.” Do not allow vendors to take you down a road that is more aligned with their offering than your needs. Demoing products is considered the most important step of the software selection process, so to avoid going off track, prepare for these demos to maximize your learnings.
7. Select the right software vendor
Based on the product demos, you will likely have a favorite. Remove bias from the decision-making process by comparing them once more to the ranked list of requirements. Do your due diligence in ensuring that you are choosing a solution based on your business’ needs and goals, without bias, with plenty of input from various stakeholders.
Put your business needs at the center of the software buying process.
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The financial, operational, regulatory, and psychological effects of COVID-19 will linger past the social distancing and isolation phases, changing the customer experience forever across various industries. The pandemic has forced many technically laggard sectors to adopt new technology and reinvest capital into digital infrastructure. Innovation can’t stop in the face of temporary adversity.
Use Olive to Run Your Software Selection Process in 66% less time
Sometimes, you just don’t have the internal ability, funds, or time to manage the evaluation process. That’s where investing in some help can pay off in the long run. Olive ensures that your unique business needs drive the technology purchase decisions for your company, setting you up for ROI and long term success.
Olive takes the best process for buying business software and makes it easy for you to collaborate with your stakeholders to identify and rank your requirements. With Olive, you can anonymously look at all the solutions available in the space, within the context of how these solutions meet your evolving business needs.
Olive takes this long list of vendors and boils it down to a shortlist that is assured to meet your needs. Searching for reviews on Capterra or G2Crowd can deliver biased and irrelevant results. Olive does not charge vendors, and we keep your identity from the vendors until you decide to bring them to demo, so you can be confident that there is no bias on the shortlist.
With Olive, you can check out various project requirements ahead of time in our rich requirements libraries, easily gather stakeholder feedback through surveys and easily filter out vendors based on your requirements. Eliminate vendors who don’t meet your needs, and ensure the proposed solution is perfectly matched. Learn more about how Olive works.