Selecting Business Software Packages

Except where there is a clear Business Case to justify the expenditure for bespoke software, the majority of your software is likely to be packaged. Selecting the right package is critical, because it is expensive to correct mistakes later, and will have consequences for years to come.

N.B. This topic concerns software systems which directly support your business processes, e.g. Accounting and General Ledger, Sales, Order Processing, Inventory Control, and so forth, rather than selecting office software packages for word processors, e-mail, etc.

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  • Selecting a package which fails to meet your business needs can not only result in direct financial loss, but inevitably wastes time and resources.

  • Always develop a Business Case to crystallise the business issue(s), the proposed solution, and to obtain agreement to the project and budget.
  • Prepare a User Requirement Specification document which details the business requirements.

    N.B. The production of such documents may seem complex and onerous, but they are of substantial value - even in outline form.
  • Prepare a Request For Proposal and send it to a selected group of software vendors / suppliers.
  • Whilst the software may meet your requirements functionally, lack of available support will increase the risk to your systems processing, and hence the businesses which are reliant upon it.

  • Define your expectations of support in the early stages of negotiation.
  • Recognise that many of the more mature systems, require more hands on technical support than those released more recently.
  • Ensure that the support availability matches your Uptime business requirements and that such support is backed by a Service Level Agreement.
  • Many mature systems have been written for proprietary operating systems which require daily support duties that rely on skills that are possibly less common. Your inadvertent neglect of such duties may result in failures which endanger your business operations.

  • Be wary of selecting a business system which requires technical 'housekeeping' skills beyond that which you can reasonably accommodate - whether internally or through third parties.
  • The specification of your current equipment may be too low (or only marginally adequate), resulting in strain and overload which could corrupt information if the system were to crash.

  • With input and support from the supplier, you should perform a sizing exercise to determine the expected capacity requirements of the new system. The supplier should refer you to one of their current installations which approximate your circumstances.
  • Recognise that many PC operating systems are fragile when overloaded. Consider the possible need to upgrade the PCs in question within say, 6 months following implementation. The results of any additional requirements, should be updated within the Business Case.
  • Business software is usually expected to work with other attached peripherals, e.g. fax, scanner, modem, printers, etc. However, and especially with older equipment, the drivers may be obsolete and only operate with certain software etc.

  • Consider how the software will be used and the need to integrate with other systems.
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