Selecting solution and vendor for a IT system implementation

Selecting solution and vendor for a IT system implementation

There may be many very good reasons for pursuing the implementation of a new IT solution. We may need to automate and streamlining work processes. The current system may not be up to our needs anymore. Getting updates to the current system may no longer be possible. I am sure you can name any number of other very excellent reasons.

How do we go about choosing which vendor and which IT solution to pursue? Our choice will be with us through the implementation project and for years to come in daily use, maintenance and upgrade situations.


Scenarios where caution should prevail

Making decisions regarding which solution and which vendor to go with is complicated. We may fall prey to any number of temptations to shortcut the process. For example:
  • Going with the sales pitch
  • Urge to join the new big thing band wagon
  • People issues
  • Comfort zone
The sales pitch: Have you ever been blown away by a sales pitch and the personable sales person? So much so that you ended up buying something that you did not need or that did not suit you? The equivalent scenario in System/Vendor selection results in entering into an agreement without having properly analysed business needs and system landscape implications. This may result in a poorly fitting solution not giving us the expected results. In some cases we may even find that our day-to-day becomes much more cumbersome.

New big thing: Jumping straight to agreement can also stem from an urge to get onboard with the lastest, hyped technology as quickly as possible. We may forget to fully assess whether this technology is truly suited to our business and situation. Further, if we are one of the first movers for this technology, we may not fully appreciate the demands this puts on us for dealing with whatever shortcomings and limitations the technology is born with.

People issues: Individuals can disproportionately influence how vendors and system solutions are selected. Existing relationships between key decision makers and vendors can heavily skew the process. If liking and trust has been built, we may feel that analysis and evaluation of possibilities can be dispensed with. We may also experience internal people issues. We may lack alignment between Business and IT organization. One or both parties may have definite preferences for vendor/solution which can turn the selection process into a contest as to whose preference comes out top (usually the party holding the purse-strings wins).

The comfort zone: We need to be wary of knee-kick decisions to go ahead and get the latest generation of the current system, because we believe it will be faster and easier to implement. The differences between system generations can be very profound, in fact often to the point where the next generation may as well be considered a different system. Staying in the comfort zone of known system solution brand thus does not mean that we can shortcut the organizational change management effort that comes with system implementation. Nor does it imply that the actual implementation will go any smoother or faster. It may in fact mean that We may end up closing ourselves off from solutions that are more suited to our needs and our IT landscape.


Deliberate selection process

Before selecting a vendor/technology solution, thorough analysis and evaluation must have taken place.
  • Establish purpose
  • State requirements
  • Locate solutions/vendors
  • Selection process
Establish the purpose: This could include an analysis and evaluation of the business areas concerned and of the existing system landscape. We may find that we need to redefine our thinking. Perhaps what is needed is not a system solution but rather work on our business processes. Perhaps we find that though useful, the system solution is not key to our purpose and a more scaled down implementation is the most prudent use of our resources.

State requirements: When we know what purpose the new system solution is to serve, we can proceed to selection of solution type and vendor. We can create a catalog of our requirements and prioritize them (essential, important, nice). This catalog should also contain our requirements for the implementation process, maintenance and system update schemes.

Locate vendor candidates: market research and referrals from other companies are useful sources in locating potential vendors. Personal recommendations can be made, but must not be given any preference in the selection process. Vendor experience with solutions, experience with our industry, methodologies they use and their presence in the geographies in which we operate are important. As is vendor solidity, i.e. the vendor will be around in the future.

Pick vendor: we can invite the potential vendors on our list to provide answers to the requirements we have determined previously. After evaluation of the input received, we can go in depth with our top vendor candidates by having them make a presentation and by visiting reference customers. Thus we can ask questions from the vendors, but also hear good and bad experiences from companies who have already gone through the implementation process.

In our selection we need to look out for attempts to box us in. For instance, indications that it will be difficult for us to depart from the solution or that it will be cumbersome to integrate non-vender solutions. We should also look out for solutions that make us overly dependent on continued vendor involvement, i.e. solutions that cannot readily be maintained, updated and upgraded by our own people.


Takeaways

Selecting to implement new technology should be done only once we have carried out thorough analysis of our current situation and how the technology serves our purpose. Vendor selection should only follow after we have clarified our requirements and then we need to apply analysis and evaluation to candidate vendors. That is proceed from WHy to WHAT to WHO. Skipping this process carries with it the risk of poor fit between system solution and our purpose and needs.
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