TEC's Software Selection Methodology

At TEC, we've developed a comprehensive three-phase software selection methodology, and refined it over hundreds of client engagements. From research to evaluation to selection, each phase includes a series of tasks and activities designed to help you choose the best fit software solution for your organization.

Phase 1: Research

A successful software selection project begins with careful research. Before you can evaluate potential solutions, you need to understand your existing infrastructure, map out your business processes, and clearly define what you need from a new, or an updated, solution.

Key steps include:
  • Defining your short- and long- term objectives: You need to understand what you hope to accomplish with your software selection project. Are you trying to solve a particular problem? Streamline business processes? Upgrade older systems?
  • Identifying and interviewing your stakeholders: An enterprise software purchase affects people at all levels of your organization. It's important to get input from all of these people in order to properly define your requirements.
  • Selecting your project team: These are the people who will actively participate in the selection process. Ensuring that all of your stakeholder groups are well represented will help the implementation run smoothly and increase the chances that the new solution is adopted early and easily.
  • Review your existing systems and business processes: Knowing the capabilities of your current software is key to understanding where you need to add and improve functionality. At the same time, reviewing your business processes will help you pinpoint areas where you can replace inefficient practices with best practices that will be supported by your new software.
  • Determine and prioritize your functional and technical requirements:
    • Functional requirements are capabilities that you need the software to have. For example, functional requirements for a new customer relationship management (CRM) system might include marketing automation functionality.
    • Technical requirements are platforms of technologies that the new software needs to support in order to integrate smoothly into your IT infrastructure. For example, you might require support for a particular server or database platform.
    Assigning initial priorities to these requirements will help you sort out what is important, what is not, and what could be a deal-breaker.
  • Create a working list of vendors: Based on your requirements, you can put together a long list of solutions for initial evaluation.
At the end of the research phase, your project team should have a clear understanding of what you expect to achieve, and a working list of solutions to begin evaluating.

Phase 2: Evaluation

Coming out of the research phase, your project team should have a clear understanding of the goals and requirements of your selection project. Now you can begin refining the working list of vendors, developed during the research phase, in order to produce a short list of vendors to evaluate in greater depth.

Key steps include:
  • Turning your prioritized requirements into a decision model: Now that you know which features and functions are most important to your organization, you can turn those requirements into a model of your ideal solution. Later, you can rate each vendor's offering against that model, to identify the top performers.
  • Sending out requests for information (RFIs): A formal RFI asks vendors to indicate how well their solutions address each of your requirements. Because your RFI is based on your unique decision model, the vendor responses will give you a good idea of which solutions are right for your organization.
  • Collecting, validating, and analyzing RFI responses: As the vendors' RFI responses come in, you'll begin to see which solutions directly support your requirements, and which require third-party add-ons or customization. Detailed RFI analysis will help you narrow your working list of solutions down to a short list, from which you'll make your final selection.
At the end of the evaluation phase you should have a ranked short list of the vendors that you'll invite for on-site demonstrations.

Phase 3: Selection

While the research and evaluation phases of the selection process are all about gathering information from vendors, the selection stage is where you start examining solutions in detail, and asking vendors to demonstrate exactly how their solutions support your requirements.

Key steps include:
  • Collecting and rating vendor information from several sources:
    • Market data – This may include more detailed technical information, case studies, and other marketing material.
    • User trials – To ensure that your people are comfortable with potential solutions, it's important that they get some hands-on time with each vendor's offering. Make sure to carefully prepare trial scripts that address users' day-to-day tasks.
    • On-site demos – Along with user trials, on-site demos from the vendors are the most important part of the selection phase. You'll need to prepare demo scripts that address your most important requirements, and make sure that the vendors follow those scripts closely.
    • References – Talking to companies who have already implemented a given vendor's solution gives you an opportunity to ask about real-world pros and cons, implementation and adoption issues, quality of support, etc.
  • Evaluating vendors' implementation strategies: Make sure that each vendor under consideration has a clear idea about how to implement their solutions. A good implementation strategy should work within the constraints of your budget and business processes, and include realistic schedules and detailed progress reports.
  • Conducting a total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis: Find out the true cost of each solution, including license costs, implementation costs, maintenance fees, etc.
By feeding all of this information back into your decision model, you can factor into your evaluation so-called 'soft' criteria such as ease of use and your general comfort level with each vendor, as well more quantifiable information like cost. This helps you form a complete picture of each solution you're considering and accurately rank the vendors on your short list. After a final review, you can select the winning vendor and begin negotiations.

After the Selection

Once you've selected the best software solution for your organization, you can begin negotiating with the winning vendor. The information you gathered during the evaluation and selection process can help you keep the contract negotiations on track, so you can arrive at an agreement quickly and move into the implementation phase. During the implementation, you may find that you and the implementer, be it the vendor or a third party, have different perspectives on many implementation issues. You'll need to monitor the implementation carefully to make sure the contract is fulfilled and avoid scope creep.

Key post-selection steps include:
  • Notifying the vendors: You'll need to send a formal notification to the winning and losing vendors. Be prepared to handle disputes from vendors whose bids you rejected.
  • Negotiating the contract: Before you sign, make sure that the contract satisfies all of your requirements, and includes provisions that help you monitor the implementation process, get regular progress reports, and avoid hidden costs.
  • Planning for implementation: Make sure that your plan includes specific deliverables for each milestone, a clear definition of the scope of each step, and contingency plans that you can put into action should the schedule begin to slip.
  • Monitoring the implementation: As the implementation progresses, a careful audit of each milestone will help you ensure that the vendor is providing all of the products and services specified in the contract.
  • Keeping stakeholders informed: Audit each implementation milestone and provide detailed briefings and progress reports to your stakeholders.
  • Negotiating additional products or services: Sometimes, scope creep is inevitable. Be prepared to negotiate the cost of additional products or services as the need arises.

TEC's comprehensive software selection resources and services are designed to help you through each phase of this best-practice methodology—whether you doing it on our own, or with help from our software selection experts.

TEC's Evaluation Centers equip you with all of the resources you need to research, evaluate, and select enterprise software solutions. From the latest articles, reports, case studies, and white papers to the TEC Advisor evaluation and selection tool.
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Powered by the ebestmatch™ decision support engine, TEC Advisor provides a structured environment for defining and prioritizing your requirements, and comparing vendor solutions to find the one that's right for your organization. Using easy-to-understand graphs and charts, you can see what drives each solution's ranking and perform sensitivity analysis to see whether the top-ranked vendor will stay on top, should your priorities change.

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TEC's Software Selection Services team can equip you with everything you need to manage your own selection project, or get directly involved to guide you through each phase of our best-practice selection methodology. In addition to complete evaluation and selection projects, we offer a range of supplementary and advisory services—including post-selection services designed to help you through the contract negotiation and implementation phases.

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Our Software Selection Services team can help you research, evaluate, and select best-fit software solutions using TEC's Evaluation Centers and best-practice selection methodology.
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