Most businesses have some industry-specific software, such as accounting or medical or construction tools. These are commonly referred to as “Line of Business” (LOB) applications, and if you have ever gone through the process to change this software, you know it’s a significant undertaking. This decision should be considered in light of lasting 10+ years, so it requires careful planning. Here are some tips on how to make the evaluation process less daunting and more of a collaborative experience.
Create a Team
It may be helpful to have people from various departments or teams in your office to help define a “wish list.” Start by thinking, if money was not an object, what would we want this software to do? For example, you might get a tech savvy employee who better appreciates mobile access or advanced features. An accounting person would likely see a financial perspective, while a management team member would look for reporting and analytics. The marketing team member would have another viewpoint. Various people in your company will use the software, so it would be helpful to know what capabilities might make their jobs easier, save time, avoid duplication of data entry, etc.
Determine Business Requirements
If you start with the business requirements, you’ll get a clear sense on the potential value of a given product. What do you need or want from this software? That is, if your needs are basic or if all the vendors can meet your requirements, then price will be the determining factor. If one vendor has some special capability that others do not, then you’ll consider the price delta in terms of the value these capabilities provide.
Beyond the industry-specific things your team will put together, here are some good general things to consider:
Ease of Use: Is it intuitive and simple to use?
Completeness of Software: Are all modules included for your needs or do you need multiple tools?
Cloud vs. In-house Solution: Cloud solutions are often attractive, but might have feature limitations or other issues.
Integration: Is there easy integration with files, Outlook, phone system, or other tools?
Access: Who needs access – all employees, departments, clients? What would you like them to be able to do and/or view? Is there security built-in to protect data?
Price: There are many pricing options available today, and each industry software model is unique. Be careful to understand what’s included in the base price, and that which would require add-on fees.
Transition: How simple will it be to migrate old records to the new system? How long will it take to get your team trained and comfortable with using the new software? What kind of support, knowledge base, videos, and training is available for you and your team?
Find a Community to Gather More Information
Chances are you are not alone in your industry or your search for new LOB software. Introduce yourself to other organizations in your space, either individually or peer communities that are there for this exact reason – to share and collaborate. Getting a full 360-degree perspective on what others are using and why can be helpful in limiting all of the available solutions down to 2-3 viable options.
Schedule Demos with Top Vendors
Your committee should sit in on demos of your top 2-3 options. If you have time, it would be beneficial to have prepared some questions, such as the ones above. If you don’t have time, your IT service provider should know your infrastructure well enough to serve as experts on your infrastructure.
Timeline & Decision Matrix
Each business has a unique calendar, and the timing needed to plan, evaluate and deploy a new LOB application will need to be considered. In most cases, LOB tools are sufficiently unique such that you’ll need to prioritize those requirements most important to your company. It’s rare that any one solution is ideal, and it’s vital that you are aware of the relative costs and benefits of each choice. Once you’ve decided, make sure your team is aware of the plan, communication is clear and expectations are realistic.
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