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You may have read my last blog, where I remarked that I was delighted to find a better way for companies to research and contract with new software tools (CRM, ERP, marketing automation, chatbots, etc.).

These ideas come from the book, The Right Way to Select Technology by Tony Bryne and Jarrod Gingras.

I promised to dive in a bit more, here it goes! This blog is focused on a few things: One, what is your internal capacity to bring on a new system? Two, do you have a laser focus on what areas a new system would be most helpful? Three, what are the right questions to ask a software company you are considering?

Your Capacity

Something I especially appreciated—that the authors called out in the book—is the honest look at your internal capacity to use and adapt to the new system.

While you may have grand visions of what you can do when you have a new tool/system, you must consider:

  1. Do you have the required skills in-house to get the most out of the new system?
  2. How well does your culture manage change? Asking teams to learn a new system and a new way of doing things requires a mind shift as well as the time and dedication to learning. What’s realistic? In what time frame?
  3. Do you have the expertise, time, and resources to shepherd the selection and implementation process?

Be honest with yourself on these questions (and others outlined in the book). Understand, too, that it is likely that it will take way more time than you realize to (a) project manage this process, and (b) have the full selection team participate in each step in the process.

Get Clear on What You Most Need

You will want to think about who will use the system—perhaps employees only, or employees on the backend and customers on the frontend.

Start by creating personas of who will be using the system, then write up “user stories.” Those stories outline the ‘who’ and ‘what’ the persona is trying to accomplish via the new system. Overall, shoot for creating 6 to 8 high priority stories of what the system needs to support. Keeping these stories in mind during the whole process is important for the project manager and team. You will want to check out the book for helpful ideas on how to determine those priorities.

What Questions to Ask

Now you have the above priorities from user stories; you will want to develop targeted questions of how the software can fit your needs. Please note, at no point in this process do you want a big list of requirements (e.g., we need an Outlook plugin, we need the interface to be useful on a mobile device, etc.). The problem with that long list is that any software company can say, “Yes we do all these things.” You want to know HOW their tools address your user stories and questions.

I love this approach! You frame up your questions (to be inserted into the RFP) by first providing some background and then asking your “how” question. An example question may be: “Please describe how your system supports X.” It’s not asking, “Can the system do something?” It’s asking how it works to meet the need. The answers to these questions will be brought to life in their response to your RPF and a later meeting to dive into all these important details.

Come back for the next blog that will focus on how to target the right suppliers, plus how to get ready to create a compelling RFP and how to get a POC (proof of concept) and more.

Want to talk about this approach and how I can help you, send me a message.

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