Finding the right software partner for
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When looking for the ideal software to help you support and grow
your business and develop your people plans, you know you’ll be
making a big investment – and not just a monetary one. You are
forming a partnership which could have a huge impact on your
business. That’s why you need to be sure you get it right. When it
comes to convincing the board, they’ll want to be sure you’ve done
your homework. But if you’re concerned you don’t know where to
start, these 10 pointers will get you there.
1. Know what you want. Easier
said than done? Make a list of what’s important to your business,
plus any ‘pain points’ you have where things are not going right.
You need to align your aims with those of the business. It’s not
all about you, either: you need to get others involved. You’ll need
to get the input of IT, the FD, employees and managers, so think
now about who you need to consult.
2. Do your research. Get
recommendations from those in your network already using different
systems. Use social media to seek recommendations - Twitter and
groups on LinkedIn. Remember, it’s not one size fits all here, so
consider what makes your business different when you hear other
people’s experiences. Use supplier directories, comparison sites,
supplier websites, exhibitions and recognised professional bodies
such as CIPD and CIPP. For example, the CIPD run a technology show
every year with a free exhibition which is always good for getting
to understand products and see demos of software.
3. Shortlist time. After this
you should be ready to build a shortlist. Develop one based on your
requirements and research. The market is still quite crowded so you
will probably have a preliminary look at a lot of companies. Narrow
them down according to what you have down as your ‘must-haves’.
During this process you’ll probably discover functionality you
didn’t even realise was possible. Consider what you need, what you
may utilise in future and how it will work. Are there modules which
can be introduced or unlocked one by one? Is it on-premise or Cloud
based? Who hosts the data? Be brutal: ideally a shortlist should
have only four or five likely candidates.
4. Point scoring. Develop a
scoring matrix so you can look at each supplier equally and fairly.
Include all the ‘must haves’ from your original list and ‘nice to
haves’. Leave some room for any extras you hadn’t considered which
may have come up during the shortlisting process. Although price is
important, it may be best to put that aside until later. Focus on
functionality – what it does - and user experience – how it feels
to use – rather than being concerned too much about cost per head
at this stage.
5. Set up demonstration
meetings. Get them to come to you and show their software.
Don’t leave people out – make sure you invite all important
stakeholders. This means IT, perhaps an employee representative or
office manager, or other people who may use it more than most, and
anyone who may be an administrator on the system. The more people
know and understand about the aims of the software and how it
works, the easier the process will be to engage users and make it a
long term success.
6. Narrow down the shortlist.
Use your scoring matrix and compare the suppliers you saw in terms
of what matters most to you and your organisation. This will enable
all involved to clearly see the benefits of each application and
consider what really is most important to you and the organisation.
The comparisons should consider the business goals you want to
achieve as well as the functionality, user experience, how it is
hosted and how you’ll be working with the suppliers in the
7. Sometimes, you get what you pay
for. Price is important, but it shouldn’t be the only
reason you choose a supplier. Lower prices may reflect poorer
quality goods and services which, in the long run, may not be the
most cost-effective option. Consider the types of businesses you
are looking at. You want to partner with a company which has
longevity and will be able to serve you in the long term. They may
not be the cheapest.
8. Play the long game. You’ll
need more than just the sale – there’s training, support,
consultancy, just for starters – you’re entering into a
relationship here, so don’t do it lightly. While the product is
important, and you need it to meet all your requirements, the
supplier is equally as important. What will they be like to work
with? Will you get the support you need during and after
implementation? Do they view the relationship as a partnership?
Will they be able to support you and the future growth of your
9. Training and change
management. Ask the supplier about what training they
offer. How will they deliver training – online, or perhaps in
person at your offices? Or do they have UK-based training centres?
Will they commit to help you get the most out of their system?
Remember there is also a change process you’ll be going through too
as an organisation as it will change some of the ways in which you
have been doing things. It’s crucial HR gets ready to support the
whole organisation through the adoptive stage. Ask your supplier
for advice on this as well.
10. The final. You may feel
now that you have two potentials. Invite them back for a second
demonstration meeting. Again, think about who needs to be there and
what you want to get out of the meeting. Invite the board, the
other stakeholders and potential administrators and listen to
feedback. Ensure you have the key people you need on board to move
it forward to make the partnership strong and to help buy-in and
adoption. After this, you should be ready to choose your new