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How Not to Select a New Software System

A tongue-in-cheek look - with serious points to make

I’ll have what they’re having ...

You know of another organisation down the road, or in the same industry as yours and they’re implementing software X. So, you decide to choose the same. It’s a quick way to make a decision. But is it the right one for your organisation? How do you know your business requirements are the same as theirs? How do you know the software will do what you need it to do? In reality, you need to determine your requirements and evaluate whether the software will meet these before you make a decision.


Champagne tastes on a beer income ...

Well not quite beer income – but rather, limited money (or budget available) to spend on the new system. If you have a low budget, you have to tailor your requirements accordingly. There is no point in looking at the most expensive software and then trying to convince yourself (and others) that this is really what you need. You need to be realistic.


Boldly going where no one has gone before ...

The trail blazer – going for the newly developed, beta software, which is supposed to have the critical functionality you need. Exciting – yes. Possibly OK if your organisation has large IT resources and ‘deep pockets’. But most organisations aren’t in this situation, particularly today. There is nothing wrong with taking beta software – as long as you treat it as such. If there is critical functionality which you must have, you would be better off selecting the latest software that has been used and proven by others to deliver what you need.


Choosing software without involving users ...

You’re not sure whether your clerical staff or other cost centre managers would have any useful input or indeed even understand what’s required of your new system. So, you consider ignoring them in the system specification and selection process. But then, how will you know you have got all the system requirements? How will you get the users to buy into the new system? And how would you like to have a new system thrust on you, with no say or involvement and then be expected to use it on a daily basis? Don’t cut corners. Include all key users when specifying requirements and selecting the new system.


Unquestioning belief in the vendor’s software ...

Belief that a new range of software released by your existing vendor will more than meet your requirements is just that – a belief! Without checking, how will you know this? Have you reviewed the software? Or checked it against your requirements? Do not assume anything – check everything out.


Dismiss back-office systems as non-critical ...

And on such a basis, then allocate insufficient budget and resources to selecting and replacing them. Some back-office systems are much more critical than others. For example: get payroll wrong and you’ll soon find out how critical it is to the rest of the staff! You won’t need auditors to tell you what’s wrong – every member of staff will do it for them! Similarly for Accounts Receivable / Invoicing – where it is critical to get invoices out and cash back into the business. Any system (whether back or front office) which is absolutely vital to an organisation, should be treated as such when being replaced.


The hyper-speed selection ...

The ultra fast selection with all tasks completed and a decision made within a few weeks. Such unrealistic time scales are likely to lead to rushing tasks, omissions and potential errors. These will take a lot more effort to sort out, if it is possible to do so, or even if picked up in time. And getting the selection wrong will have major knock-on implications for the rest of the project. So, if necessary, take a little longer, pay attention to detail and get it right first time.


The really slow selection ...

Work expands to fill the time available. With too much time available, there is a risk of unnecessary tasks being carried out, losing direction and motivation within the project team. Strike a balance – not too slow, not too fast to achieve a quality selection process.


Winging it ...

Choosing a new system without documented requirements. Instead, just a few thoughts as to what the replacement system should do. The idea being that you’ll know the right system when you see it. But without identifying and documenting new system requirements – how do you know what you want? And that you’ve covered all your needs? How will you know you’ve found the right system? Don’t miss out specifying your systems requirements – they are fundamental to selecting new systems.

 

Click here for Axia’s system specification tools.

 

For more system selection information visit: Selection steps / Stakeholder analysis form / Stakeholder management tips / Sample project plan / RACI Matrix / Project initiation checklist / Critical success factors / Software selection time saving tips / Project issue log / Requirements gathering techniques / Reasons to write a good requirements specification / System design review / Simple risk assessment form / Risk assessment worksheet / Software prototyping / Project reporting form / Project Status Report Template / Software selection warning signs

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