hether you need a commercially packaged warehouse management system, a point of sale system, an inventory control system, or a direct-to-customer order management system, selecting the right system is a major undertaking.
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When it comes to any kind of new product or service, you want to make sure it works for you and your customers. Not just for today but in five years and beyond. That’s why a business needs to pay attention to the long-term benefits of the product or service.
In order to make an accurate assessment of your needs for a new system, we recommend following a four-step selection plan.
The first step is organizing the project.
Step two is defining your business needs.
Step three is gaining a complete understanding of the vendor’s system and capabilities.
Step four is examining the expected ROI of the system.
Selecting the right system for your business means thinking long and hard about what you want from the system. This starts with defining what you actually need and then considering the best way to achieve it. After this, make sure you consider all of your options carefully.
Organize the project internally
The first step in the selection process is to organize your project team and assign responsibility for project tasks. In some cases, a project team leader will lead the team and manage the project from start to finish. In other cases, the project leader will initially manage the project and then turn it over to a project manager to carry out the remaining tasks.
Before you even begin the selection process, you need to be organized; otherwise, you risk making poor choices and wasting time and resources.
For example, you need to ensure that your project team can meet the task deadlines and goals. Make sure you reserve enough time and budget to complete the project on time.
Lastly, you need to determine how the project team will work together. Will each team member work on a specific task independently? Will you appoint a project manager to oversee the project?
Make sure everyone on your team is dedicated to the project, understands his or her role, and has all the tools, resources, and skills needed to do the job. Can this project be done at all?
A project has a much better chance of succeeding when there is a clear vision and strong support to get it done. Therefore, your goal at this point is to gain executive sponsorship and support for the project.
Identify your requirements
Your second step is to define your specific requirements for a new system. In this step, you must determine what information the system will be expected to track. Also, you must identify which process-oriented requirements you have for the system. For example, you might be interested in automating the receiving function within your warehouse, which will require the system to have receiving-related capabilities.
You need to thoroughly think out your requirements, and decide what information you need to track.
If you have a detailed, 2-3 page requirements document, then you should be ready to move ahead with the next step. However, if you have a relatively high-level list of desired features, then it will be necessary to do some investigation and feasibility testing. Often, you may discover that you don’t need a complete, brand-new system.
Your next step is to develop a clear understanding of your company’s goals, processes, and procedures. The very first step is to organize a team of key managers, who have input into the selection of the right system. Without the involvement of key managers, the process can be very difficult. The second step is to define what the system must do and your specific business needs.
Choosing the right system is a major undertaking
It has significant ramifications for how you serve your customers, the productivity of your personnel, and the management information it can provide to help you grow your business. With the right information, you’ll be able to better address the needs of your customers, your employees, and your customers.
Evaluate your vendors
In your RFP, make sure you include all the information about what is included in your package. Don’t just let a vendor come back and say it was omitted. Make sure you get all of the specifics, such as price, guarantees, training, and modifications before and after the software has been installed. Also, include all other package systems that have been successfully integrated with your system and file conversion and support.
Don’t forget to ask about the vendor’s current customers. Who are they? Are they happy? How long have they been customers? Don’t forget to evaluate if the Vendor has a testing lab and if you can use it to test your system.
Evaluate your vendor’s Workflow and learn their terminology
Find out how their system will integrate into your current flow of work. Will you have to modify specific workflows? Will your personnel need to be trained to use their system?
Make sure you evaluate all of your vendors on the same criteria. Don’t allow your favorite vendor to get a higher evaluation simply because they are your favorite. You might not want to necessarily eliminate a vendor because they don’t have all the answers. You might want to consider taking on board the things they are missing and evaluate them with the rest of the vendors on their strengths.
Provide feedback. The end user’s needs are more important than any vendor can provide.
This step involves comparing vendor products and determining which one best suits your needs. While each of them will have some pros and cons, you’ll need to decide which one offers you the greatest advantages. Once you’ve chosen, make sure to script out the demos so that you can test drive the different features, and make sure that they fit your workflow.
Many companies don’t give demos enough time. In fact, most people don’t realize that they can get as much out of a demo as they should. This is because most people don’t have a solid demo plan.
It will require vendors to provide demos that match the functions that you want to see rather than the functions that the vendor wants to show you. In the demo-based selling model, the demo usually shows what you want, not what the vendor wants.
Checking references and visiting the sites
Vendor references are the people who have used the product before. But, you need to go a little further and find out what other people are saying about them. Do they have a history of being reliable? If not, why should you use them?
It is important that you gather as much information as you can about the vendor. You want to come up with a list of questions to ask the reference customers in order to gather the best possible insight into their business. Try to get an idea of the technical expertise of your vendor before you do business with them.
This scripting is intended to make sure that you have asked the same questions of each reference check and can make comparisons between them. While it is important that the reference checks are done right the first time, a better approach is to have them done frequently so that you can more easily compare what’s coming into your site with what’s being published by others.
When making these user site visits, make these trips without the vendor present. This allows the users to be as open and frank about the system as possible. You also want to understand the problems you are facing and work to solve them. The vendor is not going to help with these issues if he is only there for the sales pitch.
When selecting a system, you should evaluate the vendor’s ability to provide updates for its software, the frequency of those updates, and their effect on the performance of the system. The goal is to get the most out of your new investment by ensuring that you and your business will be able to stay competitive in a changing market.
The support process at a software company can be somewhat different than you might expect. First, there is a whole team that is focused on the support of the system. That means a team that includes not just one person, but a lot of people to help with any issues or questions that may come up. The team also needs to include other key employees that are able to offer insights about the product or the support process in general. If your company provides a large number of products and is a large company then it’s likely that this team will be very busy!
The age of the system is one of the most important things to consider when making a purchase. As a general rule, the older the system is, the more likely it is that there will be many upgrades available for the price you pay. However, there are some exceptions. The older the system is, the more likely it is that it has been modified extensively in the past. How much effort will it take to make the changes you need?
As the contract is signed, determine if these changes in advance will make it harder for you to grow your business. For example, is it going to be character-based or Windows-based? This can be especially important if you’re using a system that isn’t yet very stable or flexible.
Vendor support will be an important aspect of testing your system when implementing any new changes. While it might seem like an easy idea to run tests on your own systems, there’s no real substitute for having a third party check out your system to ensure it’s ready for use.
The last step in any product lifecycle is reviewing your vendor’s approach to training and file conversion. What files will they convert? Who will they convert them for? And how will they do so?
Wouldn’t it be great to know before investing in a business system that it would increase sales, save you time, or some other aspect of your organization? To do that, though, you need to measure the return on investment.
It’s important to be sure you’re basing your ROI on real results instead of canned data. The idea is to show vendors how well their investments are paying off in terms of higher revenues and greater profits, so they can sell more products and services.
This equation is often used to calculate the total return of an investment. It’s a simple calculation that involves taking the amount of money put into your business and dividing it by the total amount of money that you spend. The remainder is your profit. To determine if your return on investment (ROI) is high enough, compare it to the average profit in your industry. If the result is more than five times the average profit, your ROI is considered excellent.
The four-step selection process should be able to help you in making a decision. Asking yourself questions and going through the steps of this process will help you narrow down your options.
Be careful with the vendor you choose. While vendors have different levels of support and service, they’re not all created equal. Don’t take a shortcut; instead, make sure to check out the different products’ features and capabilities to see what works best for you. If you do choose to use a vendor, be sure to contact them during and after the initial installation process to ensure everything is working as expected.
Final Thoughts on What Are the Steps in the System Selection Process?
It’s important to understand the benefits of your new system and determine if it’s worth the investment, also knowing all the steps in system selection. If you’re unsure about the return on your investment, talk to your vendor and ask them to show you their past clients and how they used their products. If you’re considering a new system, take the time to learn about it before making a purchase.
After reading this article, you should be able to make a better-informed decision about the product you choose.
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Meet Maurice, a staff editor at Bigger Investing. He’s an accomplished entrepreneur who owns multiple successful websites and a thriving merch shop. When he’s not busy with work, Maurice indulges in his passion for kayaking, climbing, and his family. As a savvy investor, Maurice loves putting his money to work and seeking out new opportunities. With his expertise and passion for finance, he’s dedicated to helping readers achieve their financial goals through Bigger Investing.