Don’t engage with software vendors too early in the process!
Software suppliers are naturally biased about their solution. Understand your business requirement first and then consult with a software supplier. It is possible that by engaging with suppliers too early will mislead you because suppliers will in most cases focus only on the strengths of their solution. And this may not even be relevant to your business requirements. Be cautious to complete online forms requesting more information or a demo. This might end in a call or visit from a salesperson.
Your selected solution must support your overall business strategy
IT is one of the critical pillars supporting any business’ strategy, especially in this century. I am of the opinion that your IT strategy can contribute up to a ⅓ (33.33%) of the execution of your strategy by giving your people the tools (technology) to perform your relevant business processes. When you are selecting new business software solutions you need to ensure that you do this with your overall business strategy in mind.
When selecting business software solutions such as an ERP or a CRM, you have to think long term. Most software solutions will grow with your business due to significant investments by the relevant software development companies. The well-established software companies enable you to upgrade your solution on a regular basis to the latest, more improved versions of the solution (as long as you pay your annual maintenance fees, of course) which increases the lifespan of the solution and also increases the return on your investment (ROI).
My view is that you have to take a 10 to 20-year view on IT and you have to ensure that the solution you select support this view. The disruption and impact of changing major business solutions such as ERP and CRM are too big to repeat every 5 years. You MUST think long term!
Benefits of preparing a Request for Proposal
As previously mentioned, the first step in selecting a new business software solution is to determine your business requirements before you engage with any software vendors. Developing a proper Request for Proposal (RFP) is normally a very good way of defining your business requirements. The collaborative nature of this process assists in identifying the true business requirements but also assists with the categorization of said requirements between critical, key for business and nice-to-have. The RFP process offers an excellent opportunity to involve people from different areas in the business who initiates your Change Management process and facilitates buy-in on various levels in the business. This must be a collaborative effort to ensure everyone is on the same page.
A proper RFP also makes the task of evaluating software suppliers easier as it forces them to respond to specific requirements and allows you to compare apples with apples.
Start Change Management early
Identify the people in your business with a low propensity to Change; people who do not experience change positively. People who struggle with change will keep resisting and in many cases cause the project to fail. It is said that 75% of IT implementation projects fail because of this very reason.
So how do we deal with these anti-change people? It is not always easy, but it is doable. Help them believe in the benefits that the change will bring. In many cases, the answer lies in involving them from the start. People generally support something they help create and the ‘creation’ gives a sense of self- worth and meaning. It is critical to translate the coming change into benefits which are relevant to them on a day-to-day basis, and that it’s not only the strategic benefits for the business or the benefits for management. It needs to be very specific to their world as they know it.
Consider also identifying people in your business with a High Propensity to Change and position them as change agents in your business. During the past decade that I have been involved with these types of projects, I have experienced that peer to peer change management is often more successful than any other form of change management. It must be done properly, of course.