Is it really almost Thanksgiving? It seems as though it was just a few months ago we were contemplating Parker Avery’s mid-year predictions for retail, and now here we are just about full swing into Holiday 2015. Every year – perhaps motivated by our usual end-of-the-year time crunch to get way more accomplished than we should reasonably expect – I aim to have most of my holiday shopping done before the sweet potatoes are peeled and the Thanksgiving turkey goes in the oven.
I’m often able to achieve this objective, but it unquestionably takes a tremendous amount of planning and preparation, understanding what I need to buy, organizing my priorities and of course budgeting. Planning this year’s shopping is even more of a challenge now that my son “knows” about Santa Claus, because he’s now got his eye out for packages arriving from Amazon and mysteriously unopened shopping bags hidden throughout the house.
In its simplicity, this same approach (with the exclusion of gift-snooping-son circumvention) is how any software selection should be handled. A recently published Parker Avery Point of View titled, “Software Selection: Creating a Strategic Approach,” authored by Amanda Astrologo, outlines key elements that are necessary for a successful software selection project.
• Planning involves forming the best team of decision-makers upfront. Whether the initiative involves a large or small solution, this team needs to include both business and IT people who clearly understand the project and priorities and who are committed to its success. It’s also a good idea to have an outside consultant involved in the process to help manage the project, provide objectivity and a different perspective, as well as keep things on track.
• Preparation encompasses many parties involved in the initiative. It includes preparing the project team when it comes to expectations of their time, their expertise and overall opinion, how the selection process will be managed, and laying the foundation for decision-making. Preparation also includes fully preparing the vendors for the solution demonstrations and subsequent follow-ups. It is very painful – and a huge waste of many peoples’ time – to sit through a lengthy software demonstration when the vendor team is not prepared.
• Understanding Requirements and clearly documenting these for the selection is absolutely critical so all stakeholders are on the same page with what the system absolutely must do. Requirements for software selection are often documented on a tool as simple as a spreadsheet, and this is actually preferred, as most people are very familiar with the tool and it can be easily communicated and manipulated. Requirements need to be prioritized and have a certain level of detail, but should also have some flexibility to accommodate industry-leading practices, which are often built into software packages. (For more on requirements, we invite you to read another Parker Avery Point of View, “Writing Business Requirements.”)
• Sticking to the facts goes right along with understanding the requirements, but comes into play further along in the selection process. During my holiday shopping, I always refer back to my paper list (yes, despite everything omnichannel, mobile apps, iPhones, etc. I actually like using something this basic). This list gets pretty ratty towards the end of my holiday shopping adventure, but it keeps me on track and focused on what is critical for my shopping success – as well as keeping my budget and sanity in tact. Sticking to the documented requirements helps avoid getting blinded by “something shiny,” whether it be an existing relationship with a software vendor or some fancy functionality that’s not on the requirements list. Here again is where including an outsider to help manage the process and to keep the selection team focused on the common end goal comes into play.
This is easy, right?
Actually, it should be. As long as you have a solid plan and the right resources, know what the solution must do (and keep referring back to this), as well as fully prepare everyone involved, your selection will most assuredly go much smoother than if you don’t follow these basic tenets. Moreover, you’ll be in a great position to select the best solution for your needs. Best of luck with your own holiday shopping (and solution selection).