Whether you’re a professional or “accidental” Project Manager, the burden of evaluating software solutions will likely fall on your shoulders at some point in your career. I say burden and not responsibility because the pressure to deliver is real, visibility among executive stakeholders high and change management a tricky process to navigate.
So how do you successfully embark on a process to evaluate, select and implement a chosen piece of software?
Evaluation: 60%-70% Failure with a Bottoms Up Approach
Traditionally, folks in your position have followed a bottoms up process – engaging in high level market research, asking vendors for demos, interviewing potential end users, and developing exhaustive requirements matrices all before sitting down with your executive sponsor to understand support for the initiative and feasibility of budget being made available for a purchase.
The overwhelming result in this Bottoms Up approach is a lot of time wasted and no software being purchased. Our internal stats show somewhere in the range of 60%-70% failure in these types of evaluations in buying any software, not just our Planview family of applications.
The more successful path, outlined in our recent Webinar, is a Top Down approach which aligns executive sponsorship earlier in the process. This approach takes a data driven look at value, addresses what’s important to your business and assesses ROI or other metrics required for successful executive and stakeholder alignment. In doing so, you transition your efforts from compiling abstract requirements matrices to discussing tangible business outcomes that will propel your business forward.
Vendor Selection: Pitfalls to Avoid
Common challenges in evaluating software include identifying your organization’s highest priority needs, analyzing the marketplace, facilitating an efficient selection process, obtaining funding and driving end user adoption.
Below are recommended pitfalls to avoid during your selection process.
Pitfall 1: Trying to Satisfy Everyone
Looking for a one-size-fits-all solution often leads to less than optimal results. HR, Marketing and Finance may already have a system in place, but chances that system will accommodate your highest priority needs if you’re in IT or the PMO are slim.
Why? Because you’re formally trained in project management and they’re not.
In addition, if you are expecting an ITSM solution to operate as a PPM solution check with the analysts first. Gartner has a great write up titled: Be Wary if Buying an ITSSM Tool to Use Beyond ITSM 2.0 for those of you who are being pressured to sacrifice core PPM and Resource Management capabilities because some of your colleagues think a ticketing or help desk system can double as a portfolio, governance and resource management application.
Pitfall 2: Letting Emotions Dictate your Decision
Don’t get distracted by the shiny objects or the endless “bells and whistles” your end users will never use. Keep it simple. You need to make sure you stick to what is most applicable to your organization. Focus on data over emotions, outcomes over features and ROI over User Interface.
Pitfall 3: Reluctance to “stop” the process
It’s okay to tell a vendor “No.” You heard it here.
It’s also okay to stop your evaluation and save your colleagues from wasting valuable time if there’s no feasibility of a purchase being made in the foreseeable future. You can do your best to build a groundswell if that is your choice, but remember 60%-70% of your time and efforts won’t lead to a purchase so set realistic expectations both internally and externally.
Building a Vendor Partnership
If you have a specific timeline you’re working towards, remember that internally there’s probably a process you need to follow (procurement, security, legal, vendor registration, budget allocation) in conjunction with your vendor selection that will impact your Go-Live Target.
Find out how your organization buys software so you’re ahead of the curve.
Lastly, when it comes to engaging with vendors, keep in mind what we, as vendors, are trying to determine:
- How serious is this prospect? We want to know whether your organization is in education mode or more serious about purchasing software.
- Will this be a good use of my time? We’re allocating scarce resources as well (contrary to popular belief) and have to account for opportunity cost, trade-offs and escalation of commitment similar to you. Be respectful of that fact and seek out true partners who care and are willing to invest time to make you successful.
- Do we have a deal? Vendors want to see you experience value from your purchase. Our belief is that you care about your profession and are passionate about leveraging tool-sets which will advance your career and help your company innovate. The sooner we can help you realize the value, the better for everyone involved.