Given the majority of participants in a selection committee are not enterprise software specialists, quality enterprise research on applications is crucial. Even if you are employing consultants (with their cute business attire and boxes of love they give during the holidays---my PM brother-in-law once scored a leather jacket, but I digress), it’s still important to be well versed about the solution sets you are considering.
Having been an editor at TEC for over four years now, I’ve done my fair share of Internet research on enterprise applications. It is incredible how even the best solutions have the worst copy. Moreover, finding relevant information on even the most prominent enterprise applications can be … well, (uh-oh, I’m going to say it) like looking for a needle in a haystack, a process that can be as mundane and as tired as that old expression.
ERP research, however, is a step that no selection committee can ignore.
• Majority of decision-makers on a selection committee are not enterprise software specialists
They are specialists in their field and will be looking for particular functionality that will make their department’s tasks easier.
• Majority of enterprise software seats are unused. Users often site lack of relevancy, or unfamiliarity as the chief reason.
• Every single workbook, primer, or article on how to select an enterprise software solution lists researching market options as a main step in the evaluation process.
Here's a brief list of resource areas you can draw on to find relevant information.
Look for White papers and Case Studies
White papers are meant to guide readers to a vendor’s product by presenting factual information, with little to no marketing babble. Case studies are where client companies extol the virtues of the vendor’s solution. While they act as the marketing mouthpieces, the give a synopsis of a company’s pain points and how their selected system remedied it. Case studies are a good start point to see whether a vendor is aware of issues in your industry, and has the capabilities of addressing your vertical.
Don’t ignore trade journals
I used to teach college students business communications, and my curriculum included research methodology. Of the four hundred or so students that I taught, none had any hesitation rushing to the Internet whenever they had a project. However, when it came to looking at relevant journals and print copy, they were stumped. Yes, it does take more time to locate a journal than to google ERP, but finding a reputable journal means that information has already been filtered. You will not be wasting time needlessly clicking on pages designed for SEO purposes. You know what I’m talking about, those promising titles that lead to pages with little content, but a lot of key phrases.
Look at the date the product was released
It’s easy to fall into the mindset that because you are looking for a software solution in 2008, that all of your information must be written in 2008. However, an enterprise application will cause the most buzz when its first released and in the months that follow. Software reviewers want to stay current, and being current means reviewing as soon as possible, so don’t dismiss a review that was written in 2006. If that’s when the product was released, you have a relevant review.
Check out discussion boards and blogs particular to your role, especially ones that seek to troubleshoot issues.
If you’ve read up on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 and think it’s the solution for your organization, don’t just look at general reviews. Check out what your peers are saying about it and how the software handles specific cases. This will give you a stronger background when you start screening vendors. You'll be able to ask them what workarounds they’ve created to address specific problems and you can even work those situations into your scripted scenario when you're auditioning vendors.
Consider buying premium content
But be careful to make sure you’re actually getting quality. Make sure that the research company is reputable. See if they have been quoted by major web or print publications. At times, large research companies will have slimmed down versions of their reports available for free. Check these and see if they have anything valuable to offer. If they do, it might be worthwhile accessing their premium content, but be forewarned, it might cost a lot more than your company is willing to spend at this stage of the project (some research reports can cost well into the thousands to purchase). Smaller research companies will offer a lot more for free or for a nominal price. It might mean fielding some calls from consultants before you’re ready, but at least you’ll be knowledgeable about what they’re talking about.