Last week in Part 2 - Building a List of Potential Solution's and Evaluating of our 3-part series we discussed how to narrow down the list of potential solutions. We left off at the final demonstrations, which are going to be one of the main drivers in making your final selection decision.
Prior to the on-site demonstration you will want to prepare your team for what to expect. Part of that preparation will be preparing score sheets for each section of the presentation.
You will want to work with your selection consultant on the specifics of this score sheet because it should be tailored to your business’s unique needs. However, it should include both tangible and “soft” questions and should utilize a ranking or scoring system like 1-5 or “good”, “bad”, “moderate” etc. The tangible questions will be related to specific processes and how the person scoring the demo feels the software will help them with their processes. The soft questions should relate more to how they feel about the software, such as “I like how the interface looks”.
It’s very important that you take some time before the demonstration to make certain that everyone understands the score sheet. You also want to communicate the importance of taking the selection process seriously. You will want to explain this choice will impact their day to day lives and you want them to be invested in the process.
Now that all the prep work has been done, it’s time for the fun part, Demo Day!!
I’ve personally spent a number of years on all sides of the software selection process. I’ve been the person running the process and advising on the process, the person in the room evaluating the software, the person from the vendor trying to sell the software, the person implementing the software after someone else has sold it, and the person in the room demonstrating the software. The reason that I bring that up is that it’s VERY important to keep in mind that everyone in that room has some sort of agenda.
Your agenda is to help your business run better, more efficiently, and ultimately make more money. Some of your team may be looking for the same, while others may be hoping that everything just stays the same. The software vendors agenda is that they ultimately want to help you in the process of making your business better, but they are also trying to sell you their solution and sway you away from the competition.
All of this is OK, it’s human nature, but it’s important to be cognitive of everyone’s agenda as you are evaluating the potential solutions.
In this series we won’t go into grave detail about what to be on the lookout for during the demonstration. At this point you want to be on the lookout that the solution looks easy and intuitive and checks off all those use cases that you sent to the vendor.
Based on my experience the main things to look for during the demonstration are listed below:
Is the presenter showing all the things that you requested be shown or are they going off on tangents that don’t matter to your business?
Are they using the sample data that you sent them or are they using dummy data?
Do the processes in the software look easy to use and easy to follow? You’re watching someone that should be adept at the software, so if things look cumbersome with them using it, imagine someone who’s never used it before learning it.
Once the demonstration is over you will want to decide if any follow ups are needed. You will want to make sure the vendor follows up on any gaps that may have been identified during the ad-hoc demo.
The next step is to compile the scores from everyone and make a final decision!
There may be a clear-cut winner from the demonstrations, but often 2 solutions score very close to one another and both are be viable solutions. It’s at this stage that you want to start splitting hairs. There isn’t a “wrong” decision at this point, but you want to make sure that you make the best decision for you, your team, and your business.
There are two specific areas that should become the focus of your decision now.
Implementation – Often people assume that the people that sold and demonstrated the software are also the same people that will help with the implementation of the software. 75-80% of the time this is NOT the case. Once you purchase the software things will get turned over to a consulting team that will assist with the implementation. It’s important that during this last stage of the selection process you meet with the people that will be doing the implementation. You will want to understand what their implementation methodology looks like. They will ultimately be responsible for getting you going on your new solution. It’s very important at this stage not to make any assumptions and set clear, written expectation on both sides. And when you are struggling to make a choice, getting a feel for your rapport with the vendors consultants is very important.
Price – At this stage there shouldn’t be any surprises when it comes to pricing. A vendor shouldn’t have made it this far if the software and implementation consulting budget didn’t align with your budget. However, in competitive situations and sometimes at specific times during the year, software providers are prepared to get competitive with pricing. I’m a huge proponent of NOT buying something just because it’s cheap. I believe that you usually get what you pay for, but I’m also a fan of getting something that I know I want for cheaper than I expected.
Selecting software is not a decision you should ever make on price alone. If all the other areas you are comparing between are equal then price can serve as a tie breaker.
After meeting with the vendors implementation team and carefully reviewing your initial requirements and vendor score card you should have a strong feeling of which solution is a better fit for your business.
After you’ve made your final decision, it’s time to get to the fun part and start the implementation process!
Keep in mind that this selection process can and should be tailored and scaled to larger or smaller projects. Even if you are looking for a solution to fill a niche need in your business you should still formalize the process. It may not be as in depth or as long of a process, but will still set you up for success.
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