The software selection process is one of the first steps that can make or break your digital transformation. Thorough software evaluations across a shortlist of options are imperative, and it’s important to understand the overarching capabilities and functionalities of each software before you marry your operations to one system. Being thoughtful during each step of the selection process can make or break your transformation as a whole, with each step relying on the steps both previous and following. To lay it out in simpler terms, we’ve outlined five primary tasks to complete when going through the software selection process.
5 Tasks for Software Selection
1. Become Crystal Clear on your Objectives
Become super clear on the ‘why’ behind your transformation. Essentially, determining your purpose for the digital transformation will lay the groundwork for how to proceed. What operations and processes need TLC? Who will be working on the project? Who will sponsor the project? Where will you turn to ask clarifying questions on how to optimize the specifics of a process?
Define your project team, everyone from your executive sponsors to your SMEs, or subject matter experts. There will be a lot of tough decisions to make during this process, and your SMEs will help guide you, and in turn you can delegate work to them. Oftentimes your project leaders don’t necessarily know what’s going on inside the business from a detailed process perspective, and your SMEs can help communicate the process to your leaders.
From there, take your definition a bit further. Outlining your timeline and goals, aligning those goals with your overarching mission of the organization. Review and discuss the ‘why’ behind digital transformation, and how it ties in with the growth and needs of the business. In summary, how is this new technology going to support the future state of your business?
2. Collaborate with all stakeholders to outline your needs
Document your needs and requirements based on the purpose you defined. Discuss with and interview not just your SMEs, but also employees and experts from all different departments and sides of the business that would touch the processes being altered. This cross-functional input is imperative for covering all bases. You must understand the upstream and downstream effects of your organizational change. They’re all interconnected and affect each other one way or another.
From your basic needs, consider your competitive landscape and ask yourselves what will make your business more competitive. Turn up the heat, add some pressure, and stress-test your business before you get ahead of yourself. These documented considerations will be your outline for software selection.
3. Prioritize the functionalities that would fill the needs vs. wants
Use your outline to create a sort of blueprint for the hypothetical implementation of your software, and apply the hypothetical across divisional operations to get an overarching idea of what implementation will look like. This way, you can both zoom in and zoom out to see the most minute details and the bigger picture.
There will be areas of focus depending on your type of organization, and it’s alright to not hit each nail right on the head. Categorize and prioritize when considering a software — what must go, what could go, and what should stay. Of course, this doesn’t have to be a firm and set-in-stone architecture for your transformation but is a more malleable framework to guide the entire process. This is the starting point of beginning your selection process and is what initially defines implementation.
4. Dial in on your shortlist
Once you have that framework in place, you’ll have a laundry list of software to evaluate. The goal here is to narrow down this long list to a shortlist of about 6-10 software options. The things that need to be evaluated begin at the surface level, such as logos, marketing, market reviews, the substance behind the messaging, etc. Take user feedback with a grain of salt, of course, but this feedback will also give an idea of what kind of companies are using what software and will help you get a better understanding of which ones would be applicable to your organization. Keep this step surface level. If you go as far as to reach out to each and every company on your long list, you’ll be inundated and overwhelmed with marketing.
With 6-10 names on your narrowed-down list, now it’s the time to dive deeper. Seriously investigate — how is the customer experience and how do they handle your needs? When these companies route your calls, do they both answer and have a general understanding of your questions? Ask for scripted demonstrations to make sure your requirements can be met with their software. From there, consider each integration system paired with your organization. Familiarize yourself with which exact team members you’ll be working with, and ensure they have the background and capabilities to help you through the transformation.
5. Consider your ROI
The final task to complete before selecting a software is to weigh the cost of implementation, and of model and system procurement. When thinking about implementation, consider the hardware/infrastructure impact, both technologically and fiscally. Some other concerns over cost maybe your timeline, data migration, data security, or the unavoidable fact that the bigger the transformation, the higher the overall risk. There is often a ‘high risk, high reward’ scenario with digital transformation. You don’t want to cut corners, so pay for what you need, and only what you need, by considering both long-term and short-term implications and prioritizing what’s important.
While working through these five tasks, remember these last and final tips for evaluating and selecting the best software for your business and its organizational needs:
- Define your digital strategy.
- Match your software to critical requirements and key differentiations.
- Don’t waste time on non-essential requirements.
- Price cannot be the only determining factor and is rarely the most important one.
- Define and validate a business case.
- Look for the best fit for software, not the perfect fit.
- Don’t get caught up in “best practices.”
- Don’t overlook a software’s cultural fit within your organization
- Prioritize organizational change management to make sure your team adopts the new software and new processes with ease.
If you have any further questions on how to select the best technologies for your organization, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly. I am always happy to be an informal sounding board as you dial in on your software selection.