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Knowledge Based Selections

Written By: John Diezemann
Published On: March 14 2001

Knowledge Based Selections
J. Diezemann, B. Spencer & J. Dowling - March 14, 2001

Executive Summary  

Performing a selection for a technology product requires a company to marry a myriad of internal business requirements, both present and future, with a myriad of vendor attributes that relate to both products performance as well as the ability to effectively provide long-term value to clients. In order to truly reach a "best" and "justifiable" decision that will stand up to the scrutiny of critics both inside and outside the organization, true business requirements, linked to long-term strategy must be distilled and hundreds, if not thousands, of vendor attributes must be evaluated.

Whereas with enough hands, enough expertise and enough time, an organization could plow its way through the voluminous amount of information to reach a proper decision, a Selection Methodology that utilizes a Knowledge Base and decision support tool and expedites business requirements collection and the vetting of vendor claims, will enable a company to rapidly conduct its due diligence and select a technology vendor that best fits its requirements.

Knowledge Based Selection has several unique characteristics:

  1. It leverages a pre-built knowledge base that covers:

    • Typical User Requirements

    • Product Technology

    • Vendor Viability

    • Service & Support

  2. It follows an explicit methodology that creates maximum leverage from people, process & technological tools.

  3. It has a consistent approach to evaluating Technology Providers see article "Do You Know How to Evaluate Your Strategic Technology Provider?"

  4. It enables the auditing of decisions through the use of scientific methods as are embedded in TEC's ERGO 2001 selection tool.

Goals of Knowledge Based Selections  

It is important to determine whether or not your project and business goals, as they pertain to technology selection, are aligned with the goals of the Knowledge Based Selection Method. These goals are summarized below:

  1. Process objectivity

    Objectivity is a high priority for Knowledge Based Selections. It is vital that internal needs assessment and technology evaluation be conducted without allowing individual group biases to enter. Although the company benefits from a good rapport among departments, even the suggestion of bias would greatly impair the validity of the results.

    Companies who elect to conduct a technology selection project using only internal resources face numerous challenges. In large organizations, work groups are often distributed over large distances in terms of both physical distance and corporate role. This separation, perhaps efficient in some ways, creates a barrier to selection projects that require participation by these disparate groups. Also, internal project team members can be perceived as biased no matter how honorable their intentions. You need a means of maintaining objectivity in selections, thereby mitigating both bias and the influence of internal political agendas.

  2. Make as highly detailed a comparison as possible

    Virtually all technology selection teams appreciate the importance of product functionality and product technology requirements in making the right decision. Too often, however, these are the only criteria that play a role in the decision-making process. Other factors can determine the eventual success or failure of a new system, including vendor corporate strategy, service and support capabilities, financial viability, cost and qualitative measures with regards to process fit, ease of use/navigation, market feedback, vendor diligence and product flexibility.

    Your process must ensure validation of the product technology and functionality through detailed technical reviews of application architecture and design and by employing scripted vendor demonstrations. It should develop repositories of hierarchically arranged criteria that ensure the selection incorporates this breadth of criteria.

    Another frequently forgotten, but important aspect in technology selections is detail. Selections that fail to consider requirements at a sufficient level of detail inevitably produce costly surprises during implementation. Your selection process must combine sufficient degrees of breadth and depth in order for project teams to make valid comparisons among vendor options.

    The selection process should also have a methodology that facilitates a well-documented audit trail of the processes and each vendor's capability to support those processes. It also should provide a method to deliver a statistical best match between the your needs and each vendor's capabilities.

  3. Position the implementation for success

    The selection process that gives the implementation the best possible chance to succeed will:

    • Enable a comprehensive and detailed exploration of the organization's needs,

    • Provide an automated decision support framework,

    • Leverage deep expertise to manage the overall selection process, and

    • Deliver a sound recommendation that supports the business strategy.

    No organization can afford to embark on a system implementation that is predestined to fail. To that end, your process should include a readiness assessment through interviews with executive and senior managers. From an analysis of needs, concerns, attitudes, experience, knowledge and desired business architecture, you can constructs a Risk Profile for each selection to help guide the GO/NOGO decision and risk mitigation choices.

  4. Mitigate ongoing costs

    While there may be more than one product that satisfactorily addresses your requirements, differences in total solution cost can be significant. These costs are not restricted to license fees, implementation services, and user training fees. Years after the go-live date of the new system, the ongoing maintenance, training, and upgrade costs can reach totals that greatly overshadow the initial expenditure. Clearly, a thorough selection demands that initial and ongoing costs assume a prominent role in determining the one product that offers the greatest cost effectiveness.

    You should include both initial and ongoing costs in the decision model. Cost effectiveness can be represented as criteria within the decision model hierarchy and compared to other feature/function criteria, strategy, viability, or service and support. Cost can also be represented as values, allowing other criteria, such as functionality and technology to be compared against it.

  5. Solve business needs

    A strong mandate to adopt a new IT strategy and/or technical approach is critical if the company is to keep pace with current and future business developments. The selection process builds upon acquired knowledge to yield technology recommendations that solve day-to-day business objectives, while supporting its long-term goals

    Your methodology should have potential suppliers prove that their solutions can work in the manner that you envision your company operating after the system is implemented. At the end of the process you should have detailed business scenarios based on your specific operations and be able to provide suppliers with a crystal clear picture of what is desired and what they are expected to demonstrate to the selection team.

Conclusion  

Companies that are ready to make a technology selection can benefit greatly from the Knowledge Based approach. The utilization of structured models tailored to a specific technology selection decisions and populated with vendor data that has been vetted by an independent research analyst, position these companies to conduct a detailed comparison of their business needs to the capabilities and attributes of competing vendors. The Knowledge Based approach quickly sorts through the "noise" and delivers a clear and documented understanding as to why a particular choice is "best" for a company.

TEC's web-based decision support models are available using WebTESS.

Or,

You may choose to download a stand-alone version of ERGO 2001 with limited configurability. Download Now.

Another selection methodology that addresses some of the points covered in this note is available at: http://www.capterra.com

 
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