Please choose the door through which your next software vendor will take you. Image: Doors of Dublin, by Tim Sackton, edited to fit 569 X 368px, CC license.
Selecting a software vendor is difficult at best in the 21st century; here are some must-have criteria, in addition to, but perhaps more important than, cost and time:
Does it solve my problem? Does the software company’s system solve your business problem? Does its existing functionality match the business requirements you drafted?
Does it pay back? Do the financial benefits from the solution pay back the total cost of implementing it in three years or less?
Do I understand all of the solution’s costs? Have you accounted for initial license, recurring support fees, custom development costs for changes you want to make to the software, hardware costs, upgrades to your network bandwidth or operating systems on your current servers or PCs, the cost of the next version upgrade, the cost of consultants, of hiring backup staff for project team members, and travel?
Is the solution in line with my strategy? Does the system match your criteria for what types of information solutions you will invest in, now and in the near future?
Do I understand all of my alternatives, besides this particular vendor? Have you done your homework regarding software options available? Have you constructed an evaluation matrix and compared all the alternatives to one another?
Does my team have the time and skills to implement this solution? Can you secure near full-time people to manage this project? Is the system easy to learn? Is it intuitive? Has your team evaluated it and are they comfortable they can master it?
Do my users have the aptitude to learn it and become proficient? Can you envision your end users quickly learning to use all aspects of the software? Are there enough users who could become proficient enough to serve as key users and help other users with training and troubleshooting?
Does my team fully understand how this solution will integrate with the company’s other systems? Has the vendor demonstrated to your satisfaction the ease with which the system will integrate with your other systems? Are other enterprises already running the software with systems like yours? Try to get at least a conference call with those references to gauge the level of integration complexity.
How risky is this particular software alternative compared to others? Can the software be phased in without interrupting the business? If the solution fails or the team encounters startup problems, how easy will it be to keep mission-critical activities running?
Vendor reputation. How many enterprises are using the vendor’s software, and for how long? Get references and check them.
Can I find programming help in the open market? If you need customizations, can you readily find people to do the work? Or are you locked in to using the vendor to make all your changes?
All of this is of course after you have submitted and reviewed detailed RFPs from the most appropriate vendors. You can build a grid or a table, with vendors/solutions across the top and your most important criteria down the left hand side, and weight the relative importance of each. The result is an overall score that points you to a solution that best fits your needs.