Once we have decided the kind of enterprise software we are going to use in our organization, it is yet necessary to choose amongst many available alternatives. No matter if we are talking about ERPs, CRMs, Project Management software, … all these markets are quite fragmented and we must decide which provider better suits our needs. But how to do it? Is there a proceeding to reduce the risks of making a wrong decision?
There are no magic recipes but in this post I will explain you how we choosed the CRM in our organization. Previuously we had decided to use a Cloud based CRM but there were yet many options in the market.
1. Organize a team that represents the key affected areas
Any business management software is a tool that affects many areas of an organization. In fact, they are designed to work in processes instead of functional departments. So, it is important to involve in the selection process users of the main areas affected by the new tool.
For instance, in an ERP I would try to include at least, people from Operations, Sales, Finance, Production, Warehouse and IT. The team should be leaded by a Project Manager with experience and knowledge of the company and the industry. In a CRM I would like to have at least people from Marketing, IT, Sales and Operations.
In both cases the composition of the team would depend on the modules of the tool that we want to implement. These management tools usually include many modules and every organization must decide which ones are necessary in its case or simply which ones they want to implement in a first stage.
2. Decide what is important for you
It is important to consider your specific situation and decide what aspects of the new tool are more important to you. Everything does not have the same weight when taking decisions. For instance, in the selection process we followed to choose the CRM of my company we analyzed:
- Strength of the manufacturer
- Maturity level of the product
- Backup offline (availability)
- Data protection compliance (housing)
- Processes automation
- Activity audit
- Workflows customization
- Level of possible customization to our needs
- Storage capacity
- Possibility to implement the tool without external providers
- Availability of external support (manufacturer or consultants) if needed.
Everyone of these criteria must have assigned a weight according to its relative importance. Indeed, maybe some of them can be mandatory.
3. Analyze the market to find posible candidates
This is a market research. Now that the team knows what is important for the organization, let them explore the market to find possible candidates.
In this phase it is important to read comments from current users of possible candidates on specialized web sites, talk to consultants, contact the manufacturers, contact to other companies who are using the soft, …
4. Let the team evaluate the candidates
After the research, the team should have some meetings to exchange views and to decide the final candidates that they will assess.
Once they have the group of candidates, one member of the team can present one candidate to the rest of the group, explaining the results of his research. After that, every member of the team should evaluate the candidate according to the criteria identified in point 2.
Finally, every candidate will have a final score based on the average points awarded by the team.
5. Make your proposal to the Direction
In this moment the team is ready to present its results to the managers of the company. The whole group or the members who are more skilled doing presentations should conduct one introduction to the performed study and its results. As a result the team will recommend the implementation of one of the applications studied or consider that there is nothing in the market that suits the needs of the organization.
In the second case, the requirements or the criteria of the organization should be reconsidered. Another possibility could be considering the development of a customized software for the company. But this is out of the scope of this post.
The company management may accept the recommendation of the team or may consider that a further research must be done to be showed in another presentation.
Once the direction of the company accepts the proposal of the team, the ideal case would be to have a first (or preferred) option and a second option (or B plan).
6. Negotiate with the main candidate
It is important to keep a second option available until the end. This provides your organization some extra bargain power with the providers. They must know that if there is no agreement with them the company has other options.
I am not going to detail in this post how to negotiate with potential vendors. I would need a new post. But it is important to assign the role of main negotiator to a member of the team with experience in these situations.
If you do not achieve an agreement with the main candidate, start your B plan and give the opportunity to the second candidate.
Finally, if you consider that you have achieved a deal with the potential provider that satisfies your needs, propose the agreement to the Direction of your company with your reasons to choose this vendor. And let them decide.