Focus on Important Business Issues During Software Acquisition Process

This is the first article in the series that discusses the role management plays in the software acquisition process for all business critical software solutions in an organisation. We will discuss the importance of the management buy-in for new, proposed solutions, and highlight the ramifications for the organisation when software purchased does not receive the needed management support.

Introduction

An organisation that embarks on a software acquisition process to address a critical business issue must complete a needs analysis that culminates in the successful purchase and implementation of the selected solution. By doing so, the organisation may gain a greater competitive advantage; a strategic goal may be reached, or it may enable the organisation to benefit from an opportunity that presents itself in the market.

Initiate Software Acquisition Process

Analysing the business requirements is a fundamental step to eventually solving the business perceived needs. A thorough investigation must take place that identifies the scope of the business problem. The users of the current solution should be included in the initial software acquisition investigation. By doing so, you will promote acceptance and buy-in for the proposed solution from the primary user group.

When making a software purchase proposal to management, it is wise to remember that they will not authorise a software upgrade simply because a new version has been released by the vendor. Your proposal must prove that the new software version addresses existing problems, reduces processing time, increases productivity and saves the organisation money.

Before taking a recommendation to management, always ask yourself, “How will the business benefit by purchasing the proposed solution?” Benefits may include a strategic business advantage that results in greater market penetration, or it may reduce overhead costs by simplifying business processes. Hopefully, it will do both.

If your proposal does not have a benefit for the organisation, then it is time to go back to the drawing board, because, in the current state, it is not ready for a management review yet. It is important that the business proposal put before management explains the advantages to the organisation that such a purchase will have.

Select a Solutions Partner

Choosing the correct solutions partner to guide you through the selection and software acquisition process is important. Management must feel comfortable doing business with him, trust his expertise and recommendations. The organisation and the selected partner must both be focused on the business relationship so that a win-win situation is possible. Open communication with the solutions partner is necessary to ensure that the solution that fits the organisations business model is adopted.

Loyalty between the business and the solution partner is essential; there must be a mutual understanding that the organisation and the solutions partner are looking out for each other’s best interests.

Collaboratively find the best solution

Working with the selected solutions partner to source software simplifies the task for the organisation. Trust the selected solution partners’ expertise and broader knowledge of the products available in the market and let him introduce possible products to the organisation during the software acquisition process. Be prepared to modify the solution specifications as previously unknown product features are identified. It is imperative that management is consulted when a change to the specification is considered because the proposed change may increase the total cost of the solution. Always factor in the expense of the product installation and user training before presenting the pricing to management.

A word of warning. Never sacrifice professional user training as a means to stay within the budget. It has been proven that a lack of training often results in resistance to switching to the new product by the technical team and the users. Always remember to look after the users, and they will take care of your customers.

Implement and Train Staff

It is a known fact that companies spend a sizable portion of their annual IT budget on software acquisition. Unfortunately, there is often insufficient funding available for in-depth technical and user training. When budgetary planning misfires on such a grand scale, both the technical support team, as well as the end users, find it tough to master the intricacies of the new software solution. The result is that the expected return on investment takes longer to realise, if at all. User morale will be adversely affected, and reluctance to migrate to the new solution will be higher than anticipated.

This results in a situation arising where management runs the risk of the purchase becoming a white elephant at worst, or fighting an uphill battle with the users to ensure that the solution is utilised as intended. All these problems can be avoided if sufficient budget is put aside at the outset of the project for training purposes.

Collaborate With Solution Vendor after Implementation

On completion of the installation and successful training of the users, it is important that the project management team meet with the power users and technicians, to discuss user acceptance and identify problem areas of the solution. A document listing business critical modifications and any proposed additions must be draughted for management. Issues that need to be considered include, but are not limited to the following;

  • A list of business processes to be modified enabling the organisation to take full advantage of the additional functionality offered by the new solution.
  • Reporting or the lack of it is always an issue. Document all reports that need to be created or modified that are not part of the standard reports available in the new solution.
  • Does the new solution provide additional features that were not included in the scope of the project that will further improve productivity and save money for the organisation?
  • Are there any outstanding issues that need to be addressed by the solutions provider?

It is now the task of management to plan and budget for any future projects required to implement the recommendations made in the proposal document. Lastly, but not least, the project team and all members concerned in the implementation must be congratulated on a job well done.

Conclusion

This article is the first of the series of articles discussing the role management and the users play during the acquisition process of a new software solution. The importance of management buy-in and user acceptance is of vital significance for the project to be classified a success. It is a known fact that companies spend a sizable portion of their annual IT budget on software acquisitions.
Therefore, using a preferred solutions partner who understands the business needs and financial constraints of the organisation, is better positioned to recommend a solution that is the best fit from an economic as well as a business requirement perspective.

The articles that follow will provide more detail about the individual components discussed. Please share this article with your network, and follow us on Twitter @OnsoftSA to be notified about the next article in the series.

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