Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Michael Shearer, director of marketing operations at SelectHub.
The software market is awash with vendors and platforms for every business function you can think of. And there are thousands of people and businesses looking for the right feature/function fit. In fact, more than 300,000 organizations in the U.S. are in the market for various types of small business and enterprise software.
As these researchers and decision-makers start to evaluate their options, they’re bombarded with blog articles, review sites and reports on what the best solutions are. The information they’re reading is often sliced and diced to fit the agenda of the publisher. It’s just a big sea of subjective analysis or software advice — analysis or advice being mere synonyms for opinions. And opinions are like...we all know the saying by now.
Sure, software selection advice can be helpful, but the risk of getting irrelevant or wrong advice is high. With software acquisition being a much larger expense to organizations today, they simply cannot risk selecting the wrong software.
What can really help is a prescriptive template to go with that advice providing an outline of what business challenges the software you are researching solves, output into a list of requirements that are then matched against your specific business needs.
You also need to be able to customize this template — this isn’t a static analyst report that says “ABC feature” will solve “XYZ problem.” Rather, you need to be able to take this template, add your own requirements and prioritize everything based on your specific business needs. Moreover, all stakeholders, whether they be from finance, legal, HR, sales, marketing or otherwise, need to be able to pitch in, adding and prioritizing their own requirements.
Once the requirements gathering and prioritization has been completed, you should be able to easily short-list the relevant vendors who may meet some or all of these requirements. Ad-hoc selection advice, buyer guides and analyst reports may be relevant reference points at this stage.
Moving toward the final vendor from the short-list in a conclusive manner often requires doing an RFI or RFP where each vendor gets to confirm whether they truly meet each of those requirements and, equally importantly, whether those requirements are met out-of-the-box or via product customization that comes at additional cost.
Doing anything less than the process outlined above is usually akin to throwing darts in the dark — the chances of selecting the right software for your business are slim.
As you start or continue your research for enterprise software, be it a CRM, ERP, BI platform or something else, ask yourself, do you really need more than just rudimentary software advice? Or do you actually need to utilize a tangible selection and comparison model involving requirements templates, vendor short-listing and RFI/RFP processes to make the right decision?