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Cutting Through The Jargon

Significantly upgrading existing software, or selecting new software, can be a time consuming and expensive process.

The most common problem I find is a gap in perception between what the purchasing organisation believes it has bought and what the delivering organisation actually supplies.

The best way of avoiding this is to have a software supplier process which is fair, transparent and rigourous.   The best way of achieving this is to approach the exercise as a project in it its own right.  It is not feasible for most SME’s to conduct a public competitive tender process.  It it more realistic for them to aim for best practice when selecting new suppliers, the key features of which in my view are:

  • Requirements Analysis
  • Software and Supplier selection criteria defined
  • Supplier Market  Research
  • Creation of potential supplier ‘long list’
  • ITT’s issued to potential suppliers
  • Selection of supplier interviews and demonstrations following ITT replies
  • Objective assessment of software features, support and infrastructure requirements (using scorecards)
  • Overall commercial assessment of options, including total cost and whether the supplier is a good fit for the purchasing organisation.

This is easier said than done as often the most important thing is being able to ask potential suppliers the right questions and being able to fully understand and interpret the answers.

Law firm, medium sized

A law firm with approximately 80 staff approached me originally to discuss resource planning, which I was happy to do.  It soon became clear that their existing practice management software was a significant barrier in their way towards improving resource planning and, indeed, improving client service.

I was retained to organise and manage the new software supplier project because senior management could not afford to spend too much time away from business as usual activities and, they explained to me, they felt they did not have the knowledge and expertise to assess the market and cut through potential supplier sales jargon.

Supplier selection can be an intensive process - so prepare well for meetings and demonstrations.

Following the selection process outlined above, I did much of the leg work concerning market research and 1:1 informal discussions with potential suppliers.  I explained the rationale behind the supplier shortlist to my client and suppliers on the list were invited to tender for the work. Formal interviews and product demonstrations with purchaser staff were arranged, and I helped articulate purchaser needs and assess supplier responses.

Once a preferred supplier had been selected I was also asked to help with contract negotiations, acting as an independent go-between between the purchaser and supplier.

The supplier selected has turned out to be a very good fit, providing a cost effective solution based on tried and trusted technology.

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