How do you pick the right software tool?

6 tips for a successful software evaluation

Software can extend the capabilities of humans beyond our imagination.  Implementing the right software tool can significantly change the bottom line of an organization.  So can implementing the wrong one.  By following this six step process to conduct a structured software evaluation or software trade study, you too can select the right software tool to revolutionize your business.

  1. Determine what you need.  In project management, we call this the requirements gathering phase.  Essentially, this is the wishlist for the features and functions that your new software tool will offer.  I have an Excel template that I use to ensure that I’m documenting all the wishlist items.  Be sure to consider what you expect from the vendor company as well.   Your wishlist should then be categorized into must have and nice to have.  This categorization will help during your down select process during the software evaluation or software trade study.
  2. Survey the market.  Search, search, search.  Wikipedia, Google, Find the Best, Forrester, and trade publications like are some of my favorite sources to find the top software products for a particular application.  Asking your colleagues or LinkedIn groups is another good way to crowd source recommendations. At this stage, you want to have a pretty large list, depending on what you are looking for in this software evaluation or software trade study, between 5 and 10.
  3. Review each vendor at a high level and update your wishlist again.  As you start reviewing the different vendors, you may identify new wishlist items that you didn’t even know were possible!  Start to rate the vendors against the wishlist.  I usually use a simple rating scale of 0-does not have; 5 – partially delivered; 10 – fully delivered.  If you see that a vendor just isn’t going to cut it, don’t worry about completing the entire wishlist – save your time and move on!
  4. Down select to three vendors.  You’ll pick the top 3 vendors based on the scoring done in the previous step of the software trade study.  You could get fancy and create a weighted scoring model, but generally, I add up the must haves as one score and the nice to haves as another score, and compare them independently and then together to select my final three.  Knowing the must have score is important, as you could inadvertently pick a tool that only has nice to haves.
  5. Talk to your top three vendors extensively.  This is where the true “study” comes to play in a software evaluation or software trade study.  Get a live demonstration, specific total cost of ownership pricing and speak with at least 2 customer references.  Search for their online reviews.  Once you see one vendor rising to the top, ask if you can test drive the software.  You probably won’t have time to do this with all vendors, and it isn’t fair to the lower scoring vendors to waste their time or yours.
  6. Select the software, negotiate a contract, implement and roll out.  Sounds easy, right?

Conducting a software evaluation or software trade study can be time consuming, but selecting the wrong one is more costly and time consuming.  Executing a structured software evaluation or software trade study like the one outlined above will ensure you’ve conducted your due diligence and made the right choice.  The Mandrier Group has extensive experience in conducting software trade studies –  contact us today to see how we can help you or signup for your free software evaluation process diagram!

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