Having worked with hundreds of software implementation and integration projects over the years, we have an appreciation for what the client places value on during the software evaluation process. It generally comes down to three major pain points:
- Does the user interface look nice and appear easy to use?
- Can they see themselves using it every day?
- What are the costs in time and resources to implement it?
Depending on the client, they may place different levels of importance on each of these pain points, however, most of the time the discussions we have prior to a final selection revolve around these points. Frankly, we’ve found that often, even during reference calls and visits, the prospective buyer is most concerned about the cost and implementation time with far less focus on the software itself.
Thinking Long-Term in Software Evaluation
What we try to get clients to think about is, will this application serve not only the needs you have today, but the needs that you’ll possibly have 5, 10, 15 years down the road. It’s a difficult question to answer, because you don’t know what those needs will be and often it’s out of your hands with external factors like pandemics, supply chain issues, customer requirements and employee retention.
Software evaluation processes are not a bad experience, in fact, it’s an effective process to engage with a firm that specializes in software evaluations. With so many differing software options to choose from, most companies do not have team members with enough breadth of experience to opine on them. You can only learn so much by going through demos and reading white papers.
Evaluating the First Big Enterprise System
If your company is venturing into its first big enterprise system, you are likely in for the biggest surprise of all. Solutions come with so many misconceptions about what they will do, much of it is sales and marketing driven, that clients often get the illusion that this piece of software is going to revolutionize the entire organization.
To some extent, it might do just that, depending on where your company is in its technological maturation.
When companies coming from manual processes and Excel spreadsheets investigate their first ERP, they’re like a kid in a candy store. Their eyes are wide and they’re taking in all the wonderful things that this software is going to do for them. We see buyer euphoria – they get trapped by the impressive demonstrations and positive answers to their questions.
We’ve found that a common result is some level of buyer’s remorse setting in about halfway through the software implementation, generally due to poor expectation-setting up front.
I don’t want to paint a picture of doom and gloom here, because much of what you see is wonderful and is going to improve your business. We think about the software evaluation process our clients go through as a business transformation process.
We think about the software evaluation process our clients go through as a business transformation process.
It's Business Transformation Not IT
We work hard to educate first or even second time buyers about how software evaluation processes should work.
Regardless of how much you’re investing, a new software solution is a business transformation project, it’s not merely an IT project. At the end of the day, most if not all your employees will have some interaction with this system or the output from it and their daily activities will be impacted. It really doesn’t matter if you’re looking at ERP or another point solution like MES or WMS. You should make sure you have a proper team assembled with varying operational perspectives throughout your evaluation project.
The Fuuz® Platform Evaluation Process
We understand that different personas bring different levels of understanding both from a technical perspective and a business perspective. For every one of our installations, we compile a team that’s comprised of both technical and business domain experts, working together. Your evaluation should be no different.
Here are our suggestions to nail down the evaluation process.
Be Totally Transparent
We work hard to ensure that the team is transparent during the evaluation process as we work with your consultants and the software vendors. You will get much more value from the process when all the team members transparently present the real requirements, timeline, and budgets.
Remember: Costs Aren't Everything
Some clients think of this evaluation cycle as a procurement process, holding things tight to the vest, to drive to some eventual negotiation. That’s not a good way to evaluate software. Purchasing software is nothing like purchasing anything else. You are never comparing apples to apples, it’s nothing like buying a car and negotiating among different dealerships. You must really focus on decoupling the costs from the process – not to say that costs aren’t important, but you can only afford what you can afford.
We caution that the lowest cost option will never result in you “getting more for your money.”
Devote the Time
Spend the time on your evaluation process. So often, clients want to rush because they think they already know what they need, and they have enough experience to just pick one and move on. That’s rarely the case. Because technology changes at such a rapid pace, even if you went through a similar process within the last couple of years, everything has changed.
Talk to the Experts
Unless your day job is following technology and software for a living, you probably don’t have the knowledge to navigate the evaluation process on your own. What you can learn or teach yourself from Google University is superficial at most. It’s what the marketing folks want you to know and none of the things you really should be focusing on. Which really brings us to the most important point of this article.
Software Evaluation is the Runway to a Very Long Flight
The initial evaluation is a short runway to what should be a very long flight. You may spend months evaluating software before deciding to purchase and implement it and decades using it. The emphasis should not be on the runway, but rather the flight. The important thing is, once you’re in the air, do you have enough instruments and controls to enable you to quickly change direction at a moment’s notice? You may be flying fine for years until an obstacle appears in your way. Will this software enable you to change directions without having to go back to a partner or vendor to modify it? Or worse, will you end up adding more bolt-ons?
Too Many Bolt-Ons and Point Solutions
In our experience, 80% or more of enterprise software installations end up with customizations and a very expensive homegrown solution or bolt-on point solutions to solve very specific problems. In general, we have found that many clients do not know which questions to ask when their solutions fail to solve every problem. They remain focused on the challenges they face today and the price they are willing to pay right now.
We’ve all seen the stories about ERP implementations gone wrong, with lawsuits and worse, companies out of business. These failures are results of not embracing reality or setting proper expectations prior to take off.
Many companies come to us after they’ve realized the error of their ways. It’s never too late to correct the course and get things back on track. We’ve done it many times, with hundreds of organizations over the years.
It’s Never Too Late
As a technology leader, we’re fortunate to have the Fuuz platform, which can be a savior for companies that find themselves struggling. The Fuuz platform connects, transforms, and extends – it’s the ultimate upgrade for whichever system you have.
Fuuz is all about the instruments and controls that enable any organization to grow with it, not outgrow it. It’s the only platform of its kind that extends the abilities of your existing software solutions, so you can keep flying no matter where the journey takes you.