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Last updated: Jul 18, 2018
Last updated: Jul 18, 2018
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A Buyer's Guide to Business Software SolutionsHow to Evaluate and Buy Business Software
If you’re somehow puzzled if this article is only for a specific size of business, no, it’s not. This is for you SMEs, MNEs and start-ups software buyers. Also, we’re not talking about a specific software solution here. Whether the software solution that you’re planning to buy is for Accounting, Business Intelligence, ERP, CRM, Help Desk, Maintenance Management or other types of application, one thing is for sure; with the help of this article, you will be able to know the right process in evaluating and buying a business software solution.
We’ve been into the software business for years and we’re seeing a lot of nitty-gritty things that often bring confusions and hesitations to many companies looking for better software solutions. Some companies can’t afford to let go their legacy systems while a few is encountering technological snags once the new system is in place. While this is the underlying truth behind software acquisition and implementation, what’s exciting about buying a business software solution is that there is a clear and obvious proof that thousands of companies and corporations today are happy with the benefits this technology is bringing into their respective businesses. There is a significant increase in their revenue and the growth is on-going. And it’s easy to say; many from the Fortune 500 companies are making a lot of money because of their smartly-acquired business software.
So, let’s get straight to the point. What should you do in order to acquire that business software that could make your organization achieve its goals? The answer to this is pretty straightforward: evaluate and buy that right business software. Yes, that’s what you need to do and here’s the best manual from ITQlick.com that could certainly help you in doing that strategically.
Consider the Needs of Your Organization
Let’s assume that at this point, the entire management team agreed that you are ready to invest on a certain software application. The budget has been compromised and the key persons who will be involved in the acquisition process were already identified. Therefore, it’s time to approach things the project management way.
Define the Project
Every business software solution is categorized base on application type, features, deployment model, market size and pricing model. Remember that our objective here is to evaluate and buy a business software product that will fit into the size and present needs of your business. So what the project management team should try to deal with first is to define the real requirements of your business exactly base on the categories set by the software industry. Moreover, by doing this activity, you are already narrowing down your search for the right solution. Now, consider bringing this list of FAQs to the project management and aim to come up with clear-cut answers.
- What type of software is needed? Is it Integrated-Suite, Best-of-Breed or Industry-Specific? Ask your CEO’s main agenda and find the perfect match from these available options.
- What are the core and secondary features? Are you looking for basic, advanced or hi-end features? List down the specific features per category and allow the department managers and supervisors to give their insights on this list.
- How are you going to deploy the system? Would it be on-premise, cloud-based, hosted, or mobile-based? Weigh these options with the help of your CIO.
- Are you going for Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3 vendors? Their offered solutions are base on the size of their target market - SMEs, MNEs or start-ups. Seek your CFO’s advice as it is important to match your financial capacity against the cost of the solution that the providers have for you.
- Are you willing to pay for the perpetuity software license or a subscription-based solution is way better? How many users are there and what would be their roles in using the system? Solicit feedbacks from future end users for they know better what challenges and risks might possibly come along their way when they’re using the system.
Finalize the BOM or List of Requirements
After providing definite answers on the above questions, we can say that the project has already been defined. Your procurement team is now ready to do their role in the acquisition process of this solution. However, in order for them to execute their job properly, they must have the complete list of requirements - features, specifications, hardware, and the software product. In other words, the Bill-of-Materials (BOM) that is final, complete and well-prepared must be handed over to the procurement director. Needless to say, it is very important that everybody is following the company purchasing and procurement protocols at all times.
Request for Proposal (RFP)
The RFP process will bring everything into formality. Since you’re more likely in a line of business that doesn’t regularly buy software products, it is of critical importance that your RFP is well-structured before you send it to your prospect solution providers.
Draft the RFP
An RFP that contains all the relevant information as discussed during the project management meetings will enable the providers to return back to you their proposal that is complete and substantial. Therefore, your RFP should basically contain the following:
- Company Name
- Mission and Goals
- Purpose of the RFP (or the need for software solution)
- Organizational Structure
- Current Situation (IT infrastructure, system currently in-use, system issues and desired solutions, etc.)
- Major Objectives of the Software Purchase
- Solution Functionality
- System Specifications
- Vendor Company Information
- Price Model, Service Plans, Package Options
Send the RFP
Well-structured RFP will bring a lot of advantages especially when the proposals from various providers are received and then subjected for review and analysis. Send your RFP to at least three to five providers (or prospects which you have already shortlisted during the project definition phase). Depending on the complexity of the solution, most vendors will send their proposal in a matter of time, which could be around 4 to 6 weeks for Integrated-Suite solution.
Why still send RFP?
Is there really a need for RFP if your preferred solution (like cloud-based) and the service plans or packages are already displayed on the vendor’s website? Well, yes, you still need to undergo the RFP process. For most sales people, they certainly know that those figures appearing in the vendor’s website are usually the “list price” and not the “actual price”. More importantly, the vendor’s proposal (response to RFP) will serve as your main basis for the negotiation. Therefore, sending an RFP is a strict requirement.
Follow up questions relevant to RFP
More often than not, questions and concerns will be raised by the vendors to whom you send the RFP. You have to entertain them with utmost professionalism. Solution providers who are seeking further clarifications relevant to the RFP are consisting of professional software experts who wants to help your organization as much as they can. Entertain them but at the same time, always be cautious when providing additional information which you know is confidential or proprietary.
Evaluate the Proposals
Always refer to your finalized BOM when tabulating the contents of each proposal. Part of this process is to check the features that are available from this certain vendor and to cross out those that are not. While using spreadsheet aids the tabulation process, laying down the document proposals on the table and allowing your project management team to review them one by one should always be conducted. Evaluating the proposals in full force can help strengthen your decision-making process. Have another round of brain-storming session and come with the name of your preferred solution provider.
When selecting the final vendor, always promote the best interest of your organization. Consider answering these questions with full sincerity.
- Which vendor can provide the long-term benefits to your organization?
- Which vendor can provide the best and honest service from acquisition to full implementation?
- Which vendor is willing to devote most of its time in better serving its client?
Contact this solution provider and in your own strategic approach, try to get the answers to those three important questions above. In most cases, vendor who really wants to prove its craft will offer product demos on a higher level. Others will even invite you to check their already deployed and working systems. Feel free to connect with this type of vendor. Conduct simulation and testing, be it a cloud-based or on-premise solution. Examine all aspects and angles especially those that your project management team want to really know in-depth. For as long as it could help you arrive at a better decision, consider doing all the options available – for the interest of the organization.
Enter the Negotiation Process
Most solutions providers can be flexible in terms of pricing. Although the final say is oftentimes on the mouth of the sales person from the vendor’s side, a good negotiation process can always deliver a win-win situation to both parties involve. While negotiation sometimes cannot be settled in one sitting session, always be honest with your intentions whenever negotiating with your provider. If it’s about your budget, justify it with clarity. If it’s about their service plans, tell them what’s lacking or missing on their solution. At the end of the day, the most important event that should happen is that both of you are shaking hands because of a well done negotiation process.
Seal the Contract
So what are you going to do on a contract that involves a significant amount of investment? There are three project management approaches for this.
- Pass the ball to you legal team. They know what to do and more or less they will tell you if there is something wrong with the contract. Give them enough time to review before they affix their signature and then finally seal the contract.
- Hire a consultant base on the technical aspect that you want to clarify in the contract. If it’s the Scope of Work (SOW), a software implementation expert is the right person. If it is related to complex legal terms and conditions, a lawyer can help. If it has something to do with money, invite an accountant to conduct a thorough review and computation if necessary.
- Always consider consulting your project management team. Remember that the CIO, CFO and CEO are all team members. They will be the signatories and they know what’s best for the interest of the company when signing a contract agreement.
From evaluation to buying stage, it is important that the project manager must take full responsibility of monitoring all the works identified and distributed among team members. This is why delegating the right project manager is also an important consideration when buying a business software solution. And again, ITQlick.com wants to emphasize that whatever the size of your company is, using the project management approach will always lead you into a better outcome – that is getting what you paid for the right business software solution.
ITQlick chart - 2018 best Professional Services Automation Software
Finding the right business software for your business
Proper business software selections are the precursor to successful deployment and business growth. Finding the right solutions doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to take days or weeks of your time.
After researching over 2,000 systems, we can identify the best solution for companies of all shapes and sizes. ITQlick.com is 100% free for software buyers.
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25 MUST Ask Questions Before Buying Professional Services Automation Software
The prime purpose behind investing in the software solution is to boost efficiency and growth. Ask the software vendor (Financial Force) how their business app would improve efficiency of your enterprise.
FinancialForce PSA has tremendous exposure to different companies. They offer the same type of software to different industries, so they are better aware of who is doing what with their technological product. This also helps them understand and foresee whatâ€™s really working. Allow them to share their observations so that you get an ideas about their experience, expertise, and intelligence. This will also be an opportunity to identify the service providers who come up with the most insightful suggestions.
Perhaps your business is growing, will expand in the future and your Professional Services Automation requirements with it. So you would be interested to know if FinancialForce PSA is scalable and can grow with you. Itâ€™s no use investing in a solution that can be scaled.
Each business has different needs. Yours is no different. When it comes to selecting a software solution, you are looking for a tool that can be easily customized and configured to cater to your specific business needs. So you want to understand if FinancialForce PSA you want to buy is easy to customize.
Such a community forum is the best way to engage users. Getting access to FinancialForce PSA forums can help new or proposed users connect with product experts through peer-to-peer discussions.
FinancialForce PSA should answer how their business software will improve your bottom line and ROI.Most service providers make tall claims, so you want to make sure you get your hands on the best solution.
Before choosing a business app, you want to understand that the implementation would be smooth. So you should be interested to find out about the person responsible for handling the implementation process. Do not hesitate to ask FinancialForce PSA about their qualifications.
A good software vendor should be able to show you a positive track record with their implementation strategy.Try to find out if FinancialForce PSA method is structured. Your purpose should be to look for one that is structured and flexible to adapt to unexpected situations.
The software vendor should give you a structured data conversion methodology that will enable smooth migration of your information to the new system.
A growing business is always in need for expansion and integration with thrid-party apps is a part of the growth model. When it comes to choosing software, make sure the business app provides an application programming interface for easy integration.
Ask the software product vendor if the tool will allow you to export data to an external file or import data from external sources.
Ask the software vendor (Financial Force) if the software package includes consulting hours. Do not hesitate to ask if there are any hidden charges involved.
You do not want to be caught unawares when a software vendor sends a technician to resolve an issue that may crop up due to varied reasons. You want to make sure the charges are reasonable. Better still, you should be aware of what needs to be paid to the technician sent by the vendor to fix a problem.
You do not want to fall in love with the front end unless you are 100% sure that the software is compatible with your existing system. Ask the software vendor is you need any specific hardware to install the software. Will the business application run on your existing workstations. How much space will the software take on the disk drive? Is there a need for RAM upgrade to successfully run the software for optimum performance?
You should enquire about the cost of having more than one terminal in your store. While some software vendors charge on the basis of the number of store locations, others charge per terminal.
When you are looking for a software solution, make sure you know if the vendor charges any fee to get you started. You should also be interested to know if there are any software maintenance charges for you to pay.
Your business is accountable to customers, regulators, employees, and partners. So you should look for one software vendor who has adopted a comprehensive, technically sound security and compliance program. Does the vendor map your needs for security controls?
Data loss can prove extremely risky for any business. So you should always ask the vendor about their backup policy. How often is data backed up and what is the cost for the same?
What is the software vendor's policy on disaster recovery? Are any charges involved for disaster recovery support if a catastrophic hardware failure affects your system?
How easy is the software to work on? Is it user friendly for your end users? Does it involve any complexities that are difficult to understand for the team? Even a feature-rich solution is of no use if end users find it difficult to use.
Financial Force should clearly mention whether the solution is complex or simple to use. If it is not an easy-to-use software solution, then do they provide training? What is the level of training your team requires to make the most of the solution?
You will be interested to know about the software updates. When is it updated? Does the service provider notify customers when the upgrades are scheduled? Does the software work when the upgrades are under way? How long does the process take?
You should be interested to enquire about how an issue is handled at the side of the software vendor. Do not hesitate to question about who will respond to your emergency calls. What is their experience in software industry?
If the software vendor is widely popular, chances are that they have a good product. So always check their client base to measure their product's competence in the market.
Testing is crucial to ensuring that the software runs as promised. So you should try to find out if the vendor offers any free trial runs or try before you buy the product. By testing the concept first, it gets easier to understand the software product's functionality and allay fears before signing a contract.