Software Vendor Selection – Part 1 of 3
At Searchlight we believe in helping business run even better, by leveraging technology to drive business improvement.
Now whilst it is true that changing the technology rarely delivers improvements by itself (you also need to address People, Process, and Information dimensions), starting with good technology – the right software solution for your business – can be a powerful enabler for positive change.
In this blog we will look at what you need to consider when selecting a software solution, in three parts:
In Part 1 – Establish the Business Case; we discuss how you establish a solid business case for your project – what sort of technology solution will enable your business to perform better and deliver tangible benefits.
In Part 2 – Selecting the Right Solution; we will look at how you find the right solution, how to consider the network of people who will deliver and support that solution, and then how to best to set about the formal selection process.
In Part 3 – Establishing the Partnership; we will discuss the selection process itself, agreeing the deal, and how you transition from procurement into a successful partnership for delivery.
Part 1 – Establishing the Business Case
1.1 Understanding Capability Gaps:
It may sound obvious, but the starting point for any business change initiative should be to fix a known problem, not to do a technology programme for technology’s sake, or upgrade just to have the latest shiny thing. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
A review of your operational capabilities can identify where the biggest and most impactful problems lie. What is stopping you from being excellent in any given area of your business? When you know where the problems are, you can match potential solutions to address these.
Typically, this is part of the business planning process – aligned to your 1-, 3- or 5-year plans and your overall business goals. What are your business objectives, what capabilities are needed to achieve the objectives, and how can technology initiatives best help you to achieve these?
The primary drivers can also be the introduction of new products or services. Is your business evolving in a way where existing established processes can be adapted? Or is a step change needed, requiring fresh thinking, starting from a clean slate?
1.2 What sort of technology solution do you need?
When you have established where technology can help improve or introduce a new business capability, and the scope of what you want to achieve, you next need to establish what sort of technology to use.
Can your existing platforms be modified or extended, leveraging your current assets (people, knowledge, and software)? Sweating your current assets is a low-risk approach and many application suites are modular – meaning you can extend the capability easily. This can also be very cost effective – a chance to renegotiate end user license agreements and retire unused elements of your existing estate.
Does your business case depend on you having a unique capability – and hence unique technology solution? If so, you may need to have in-house development capability or find a developer who can build (and maintain) a bespoke solution for you.
Unless you are in the business of writing and maintaining modern secure software products, then someone out there has already solved most of the problems and built an application or a platform that can be configured to meet your needs – the challenge now is to select the right one.
Are you aiming for a Tier 1 vendor with big software suites (e.g., SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Salesforce) that can be adapted to many industries with a global footprint? Or are you seeking a more niche solution within your industry vertical and geographic locale?
Deciding this will be your entry point to starting vendor selection and will allow you to produce a clear specification for vendors to respond to.
1.3 Confirming the Business Case Benefits
When you know what problem, you are trying to solve, and what sort of technology solution you are going to apply, you have the building blocks for a transformative change. Well applied technology is a powerful enabler for digital transformation, and you should be able to draw a benefits map – with clear lines linking your technology solution, to a business change initiative, leading to a measurable benefit, which is aligned to an overarching business objective or goal.
Benefits realisation is a whole topic but suffice to say benefits do not just happen – they need to be defined, managed, owned, and measured. If a benefit cannot be measured, does it really exist? How would you know?
Of course, some technology platforms are a gift which can keep on giving. If it is expandable and flexible, a well-chosen solution can evolve to meet future initiatives and provide opportunities to deliver value in ways you have not yet foreseen. This is a good reason to opt for a Buy rather than a Build strategy when it comes to software applications – you have the potential to benefit from the future ‘evergreen’ combined intellectual efforts of an entire industry.
Having established a solid business case, and defined your technology approach, how do you go about finding the right vendor?
Contact us today to learn more about how Searchlight Consulting can help with your software vendor selection.
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