Why You Need to Take Software Evaluation Seriously

Enterprise software is big business. This becomes evident when you add up the costs of purchasing software licenses, implementing the system, migrating data, training employees, and maintaining the system. If your enterprise system doesn’t meet your expectations, you risk running some of your investment down the drain. Unfortunately, it is quite common for companies to take shortcuts when determining their software needs, which often leads them to acquire a system that doesn’t exactly match their business requirements.

At Technology Evaluation Centers (TEC), we prolifically use the word “evaluation” to describe what we do. After all, it’s an integral part of our company’s name and at the heart of our business model. But what does software evaluation really mean? Why is it so important? And why do we keep making a big fuss about it? The meaning of the word evaluation will largely depend on your business context and needs.

Need for Enterprise Software
If you’re a small- or medium-sized business and looking to purchase an enterprise software system, such as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, you’ll need to be fully prepared before making the plunge. First, you will want to identify your key business processes (e.g., purchasing, recruitment, etc.) and gather your requirements from the people within your organization that will be benefiting from the software. Once you have completed this crucial step, you will need to make sure to research the solutions in the marketplace that can potentially meet your unique needs. Your information technology (IT) people will likely already have a preconceived list of the solutions they want to consider for evaluation. That’s fine. Use this list as a starting point and conduct additional research to create a more robust working list. For example, consider having a look at:
• Recent analyst research and reports
• Software buyer’s guides
• White papers, case studies, and market reports
• Client reference checks and testimonials
• Online discussion forums

Got Software?
If you already have an enterprise system in place, but are unsure of whether you need to modify, upgrade, or even replace your system altogether to satisfy your changing needs, you will need to evaluate how it supports your new and future requirements. For instance, ask yourself:
• Is my current system missing key functionality?
• Is the system flexible enough to accommodate my new business requirements?
• What types of costs are associated with maintaining my existing system versus upgrading or replacing it?

To start, you’ll need to survey your internal stakeholders to find out exactly which modules, features, and functions your new or modified system must support. You can use predefined functional and technical requirement sets to help document your requirements and priorities.

But I Can’t Do It on my Own!
Figuring out what your company really needs from an enterprise system can be a big challenge. If your organization doesn’t have the internal know-how or resources to map out your current and future business needs, and stack them against your existing systems’ capabilities, you’ll likely need to seek assistance from outside your organization.

Enterprise software solutions typically have lengthy buying cycles—between 6 to 18 months, on average—and span multiple phases (i.e., research, evaluation, selection, and implementation). With a vast amount of information available about enterprise software solutions on the Web, filtering out the vendor hype and comparing solutions objectively is time-consuming. TEC has multiple online resources and advisory services that can help you with your software evaluation needs. Whether you’re looking to evaluate and assess the capabilities of your existing system, or evaluate and compare various software solutions in the market, TEC has the expertise that can help you gather your business requirements, discover your system’s true capabilities, and compare and shortlist solutions that meet your specific needs.

To get started, try TEC’s online software evaluation system, TEC Advisor, which provides a structured environment for defining and prioritizing your needs. With this information in hand, you’ll be able to begin evaluating solutions—whether that includes assessing your current systems or comparing other solutions in the market—and reviewing their strengths and weaknesses against your changing business requirements. By doing your homework and properly evaluating solutions that are a fit for your business, you’ll be able to better reap the benefits of your enterprise software system now and avoid costly mistakes over the long term.
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