Factors to Consider When Buying Business Software
By L. Nolan Breazeale
Financial and business practices have benefited greatly from the computer. Speed, accuracy, and reliability are no longer the key goals of computerization. Refined management of resources and information, "end to end" associability, and ease of customization are the new goals of software solutions.
Technology for technology’s sake is out. Businesses are done playing with computers and are now demanding solutions and results. The business software engine is more than just a spoke in the wheel of business. Technology and necessity have taken what was considered the mundane aspects of business, and placed them as an integral part of sales, service, manufacturing, and distribution.
Because business information systems have proliferated throughout today's modern businesses to cover nearly every function, businesses are now more than ever susceptible to poorly planned and ill-advised software selection and implementation. Because the new breed of business information systems not only manage basic functions such as accounting and inventory but also include Customer Relationship Management, supply chain management, service scheduling and billing, contract management, manufacturing and e-business requirements with sophisticated, user friendly customization tools, it is important that due diligence be spent prior to making a decision.
Each year, America's companies spend millions of dollars improving the infrastructure of their businesses. Unfortunately, many of these companies have found themselves at the end of a one-way street after choosing the wrong software or software provider. Here are 8 Key Factors to consider before moving forward with a new software implementation.
- Is the software publisher going to continue to be a viable player in the industry?
Many software providers are spending millions chasing technology trends while ignoring solid business issues and performance. Does the solution that you are considering have limitations regarding key business activities?Additionally, larger solution companies are rapidly acquiring smaller software solution companies and their new plans do not always have your best interests in mind.
- Does the software have special hardware or operating system requirements?
Is the software solution adaptable? Most business software is designed for a specific operating system, specific database, or even a specific hardware platform. No one knows what will be the operating platform of choice 2, 5, or 10 years from now. Who thought that Linux would be a threat to Windows NT/2000 in the business server operating system market 5 years ago? Your software should be flexible in regards to operating systems, underlying databases, and hardware platforms.
- Does the solution have the ability to scale to fit the growing needs of your business?
Many businesses wait too long before looking for a technology solution to meet their needs. Is your existing solution holding your business back? Will the software function tomorrow if your operation increases by a factor of 5? Your software should be able to expand to handle your growth and integrate new technologies as they emerge.
- Does the software rely on third party add-on applications to meet all your objectives?
Does the solution allow for customization without modifying the source code? Your software should have built-in customization tools and be fully integrated – built from the ground up to work together. Source code modifications and gaps between systems that do not integrate can cost you in lost productivity.
- What is the core expertise of the vendor?
Will the vendor be able to support the product independent from the software publisher? Is the vendor primarily a software and expertise provider, or does the vendor sell software as an afterthought to hardware? Focused solution providers will generally provide a much higher level of expertise.
- Does the software vendor have a client focus or a software focus?
Many software resellers are interested in selling software and hardware. It is important to find a software provider that will look at the needs of your business today and in the future and recommend solutions that meet your specific needs. Your vendor should focus on specific solutions to your problems, not bells and whistles or technology trends.
- Does the software vendor have real business knowledge?
Most software providers have come from technology fields - their primary interests and experience being the implementation of new technologies. It is important to find a software vendor who has real business knowledge - knowledge about what happens after the implementation and how to customize the implementation to changing business conditions.
- Does the software vendor have a technology bias?
Many software providers have experience in just a few technologies - possibly only delivering Microsoft/Windows solutions. What if that is not the best solution for your business?
These are a few of the key factors to consider when investigating new software solutions. Ultimately, you are responsible for your businesses success and the success or failure of any new software solutions you initiate. Make sure that you do not ignore these key issues with the wrong type of software vendor.
By L. Nolan Breazeale