Things to ask yourself before signing the bottom line

Before you make the commitment to any professional services automation software, you first need to answer several questions about what your organization needs and wants to accomplish as a result of implementing a software solution.  The answers will help you best determine the right solution and the specific functionality you will require to reach your goals.

  1. Does the management team support the project?  Were they involved in identifying problem areas in the existing business processes?  Were they part of the discussions on how to best roll-out the software and how to measure the results?  Are the department heads aware of what will be expected from them during the roll-out?  Including all these decisions and discussions with your management team will go a long way to ensuring you have a good level of buy-in.
  2. Have you identified the subject matter experts for each department?  They will be the best people to document your existing processes and where there is room for improvement.  They will also be best to scrutinize the new best practices and how they will work in your business during the analysis phase of the roll-out.  They will be the front line for measuring the benefits as a result of using the software.
  3. Who will be your project manager? One person; either an existing staff member or an outside consultant will be in charge of managing the project along with their counterpart at the software company.  They should be part of the selection process and coordinate the demonstrations and help with the decision criteria.
  4. What are the specific, high-impact problems you need to address with the software?  For example; you may need to shorten the billing cycle on projects and service calls, you may need to optimize inventory levels, better manage prices lists and vendor inventory information, track time more accurately or improve utilizations rates, the list goes on, but it’s important to pick a hand full that will have the highest impact on your business and really drill down on those.  There will be many other benefits as well, but you can’t focus on them all and still implement the software in a reasonable amount of time.
  5. What are the goals and metrics you will use to measure the business results?  What key performance indicators (KPIs) do you use now?  Start with those and then benchmark status quo and then again at 3 months, 6 months and a year after going live to check on the progress of improvements.  There will likely be many more things you can track after you start to use the software.
  6. What are the specific features that people need to increase their productivity?  Ask your team for their input and pose those features to your vendors to see what functionality or access to data they can provide to solve the problem.
  7. What best practices are the vendors offering; either built into the software or through the way they implement the software with their professional services team.
  8. Are there other considerations such as multi-currency, multi-company, niche market expertise that can be leveraged.  Where is your business going?  Does the vendor have depth in your market as far as their customer base?
  9. How flexible is the software design?  More than ever businesses are changing, consolidating, diverging, markets are changing, customer needs are changing.  Does the software you are looking at have the ability to change to address these unknowns?
  10. How scalable is the software?  If you have 75 users today, what will you have in 3 years, 200?  Will you have to forklift a vendor’s software through that growth line or will it accommodate you and still be a good fit?

These questions are just a sampling to help you start the process of vetting out various solutions to help you achieve your business goals.