In Parts 1-3, we discussed some of the similarities between shopping for software and grocery shopping, and how to plan your menu (system modules) and prepare the ingredients list (requirements) and procedures (business process scenarios) in your recipe.
Now you’re ready to go shopping, but where should you shop?
The first step is to research the software market and identify vendors that have the required software modules. Next, review the knock-out requirements with candidate vendors and determine those that have a good fit, and those that cannot meet the critical needs. This will get you to a short list of pre-screened candidate software vendors.
The detailed requirements and business scenarios are often packaged into a Request for Proposal (RFP) document provided to the short list of pre-screened vendors. Vendors respond to the detailed requirements using a defined set of answers, and respond to the business process scenarios in a narrative describing how their solution addresses the desired business processes. Questions regarding the vendor’s experience and qualifications, implementation and support methodologies, and costs are also included in the RFP.
Vendor responses to detailed requirements are scored quantitatively; narrative responses are often assessed qualitatively but quantitative scores may be assigned if desired. After the RFP responses are evaluated, selected vendors are invited to demonstrate their systems. Here it is important to avoid what I refer to as a “show up and throw-up” demo in which vendors show you the sizzle (what they want you to see) but not the steak (what you need to see). This is accomplished by preparing a detailed demonstration script based on the business scenarios and highlighting the key requirements behind the scenario, and providing the script to the vendors in advance of the demo. Good vendors will put their words into action, follow the script and demonstrate how their solution meets your needs.
In some cases, I have found that the formal RFP process may be streamlined or eliminated, and a small group of pre-screened vendors directly invited to conduct scripted demonstrations. In this fast track approach, the script includes the business scenarios and requirements.
Demonstrations should include as many users as possible, and participants should complete a scorecard to document their perceptions.
© Charles J. Riess 2017