How to do software selection
Software selection is about making the right choices for your company’s infrastructure.
We can talk about choosing a whole package of software that is needed for your team or picking just a single application software that would streamline your team’s workflow.
But you will eventually find out that there are a lot of options available and each of them comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.
When you are constrained by a budget and there is work to be done, you can’t really afford to waste any of these resources.
So software selection can turn out to be pretty important.
Deciding on the best software for your company is a long process and it has to be done with the best intentions in mind.
Even when you’re shopping for something, let’s say a new laptop, you are researching some options, you are looking into specific features, you are checking out the design and so on.
Software selection follows the same pattern, but it involves higher stakes.
We’re talking about your company after all.
The software has to be suitable to every of your company’s needs. It also has to be relatively easy to learn to work with, so that your team won’t be wasting a lot of time in managing it.
The software also has to deliver optimal performance and great results.
And the most important thing by far?
We say it’s the price.
You have to afford it and you also have to check in to see if the expenses of a monthly payment aren’t too much for your company’s budget.
It does seem complicated.
That’s why the software selection process comes in very handy: you and your team will make these choices so much easier because you follow a plan that goes according to your budget and time.
If you follow this process, you will have bought the suitable software package for your company by the time you’re reaching the last phase.
Yes, this is how you do software selection: in phases.
So let’s delve into the software selection process.
How to do software selection - a phase by phase guide
Before heading into the software selection process, it is very important to know that you must not skip through the phases.
Each phase is essential to the process.
There are 7 phases of software selection and they follow a waterfall system, meaning that you have to complete each phase before heading to the next one.
Phase #1 - Identifying and defining the main problems
Most companies don’t know where to begin when seeking new software so they jump straight ahead into researching the market (we’ll get there), but the truth is that you have to pay attention to your company.
When you have to look for new software, it’s clear that something doesn’t work with the current one.
Maybe it’s not optimal enough, maybe it’s too expensive for what it’s providing, maybe certain features are not updated or are getting hard to work with.
Or maybe your employers are struggling to get work done with an outdated software that is lagging or has an unpleasant design.
Even bad support can be reason enough to make the shift.
So make sure you define what’s the problem with your current software, and settle on the criteria most important for your business.
If you choose to skip this initial phase, the rest of the process will be a waste of time and money because you don’t have a goal in mind.
Phase #2 - Planning and performing a requirements analysis (or determining relevant functionality)
You’ve identified and defined the various issues that you want to address and resolve with the acquisition of new software.
But now you have to see how these issues affect your company. More specifically, your business processes.
You need to determine relevant functionality.
Of course, developing high level use cases based on the business processes is also helpful later in the process.
You can achieve them if you undergo a requirements analysis. A requirements analysis focuses on three main elements:
- Functional requirements
- Non-functional requirements
- Organizational requirements
Each requirement is important.
The functional requirements tell you what the system does to help solve the organizational problem. These are specific functions and they are defined in specific words. They help you verify the functionality of the software.
In other words, functional requirements describe the intended behavior of a functionality in a product or service.
The non-functional requirements tell you how the system performs its functions. These have a broader meaning than the functional requirements and are defined with certain attributes onto the behavior of the system. They help you verify the performance of the software.
A good example here is saying that a certain software works only through cloud based service.
The organizational requirements tell you where and when the system performs its functions, but can include the other definitions as well.
These requirements represent the criteria, restrictions, or boundaries that the functional and non-functional requirements must fit within.
A good example here is saying that a certain software may be implemented by a certain date.
After completing this phase, you should be able to write down a requirements document that you will reference in the future phases.
Phase #3 - Researching the market for potential software vendors
Now that you have the requirements document, it’s time to research the market for potential software vendors.
Since this phase will require some extensive research, try to look for vendors that offer the best software according to the requirements document.
You have to take into consideration that the vendor list may be a bit longer than expected, because you are scouting all the available options.
Your document should help you narrow down the list to the options that are checking most of your requirements.
Phase #4 - Identifying software vendors and planning for RFI (request for information)
When you have the software vendors list ready, you should plan for and send RFIs (request for information) to the potential vendors on this list.
The RFI (request for information) is useful because it contains information about the vendors and the software that they offer. This information will further narrow down the list of vendors, until you get to those that are most suitable for your requirements.
Phase #5 - Submit RFPs (request for proposal) - should preferably have 3 options here
After narrowing down your list of potential vendors, the next step is to submit some RFPs (request for proposal) to those vendors that are on the final list.
A RFP is a detailed breakdown of a vendor’s software. From maintenance to cost and detailed functionality, this kind of request will answer any question that you have about the software.
You don’t want to send just two RFPs - there is no room for comparison. But you don’t want to have more than three or four vendors, because then it’s easy to waste time deciding which is the best software for your company.
Go with three or four options. It’s enough to make an informed choice.
Phase #6 - Request demos from the vendors
You have four final potential vendors on your list. They all replied to your RFPs, they all seem suitable for your company.
What to do next?
Invite them over for a demo session. Or just request a demo from each vendor and try them all out.
You will need to look into specific functionalities for each demo, so you will have to develop a demo format and a demo script that will help you and your team ease the process of reviewing the other demos.
We recommended to develop high level use cases based on the business processes defined back in Phase #2. Now it’s the time to try these demos according to the use cases.
Take each demo in an orderly manner and for a limited time - let’s say one week - this should give you an idea about the functionalities.
After each review is completed, compare notes with your team and decide on which solution is the most suitable for your company.
Phase #7 - Choosing between buying software or building software
Even if you have tested all the demos, you still need to consider building an in-house solution, at least.
Most companies nowadays don’t even consider this phase and it’s easy to see why: after all, you spent all these weeks looking into potential vendors and testing out demos. That’s wasted time and energy.
Sometimes, you may find that all these solutions offered by vendors are not meeting your standards, so you have to consider building one from the ground up. If that’s the case make sure you give us a call - we’d be happy to chat and see what your needs for growth are.
However, if you choose to buy, you need to negotiate a contract. You will need to check in with every vendor on that final list and see their approach and their willingness to negotiate or not.
Consult with your partners and your team, hear their opinions and listen to what they have to say.
Then consult your budget and choose the sum you are willing to pay for a solution.
Finally, check in with every vendor and initiate a negotiation, then sign a contract with the one that meets your needs the best.
The road to a suitable software selection
Depending on your team and your focus, a software selection process shouldn’t last more than 3 or 4 months. Each phase should take 1 or 2 weeks to complete, excluding the ones that require you to wait for replies from the vendors - those could take up to 3 weeks.
But when you’re thinking about going through a software selection process, it’s very important to get some professional advice.
Maybe you don’t have a clear direction and maybe your team is not specialized in handling these kinds of processes.
That’s why the experts on software selection processes will help you.
And this is where we come in.
We offer these services to any company who’s about to change their software and don’t know where to begin.
Of course, this is not mandatory, but keep in mind that the experts are always the difference between success and failure when it comes to software selection.
And you don’t really have a lot of time and resources to waste, right?
So before even considering initiating a software selection process, contact some experts and let them guide you, because the road to a suitable software selection is paved with a lot of challenges.