The Third Step – Define Your Requirements and Qualify Potential Vendors
In this series about the software selection process we have already discussed the contracts to use with any consultant you hire, and about the steps you should take to initiate the selection of your next ERP solution.
Today we’ll talk about the steps to define the requirements for the new software so it’s a good fit for the organization. We’ll also go through the steps for identifying potential vendors of the solution. At the end of this phase you will have all the information you need to send requests for a proposal (RFPs) to selected vendors.
Please keep in mind that in this phase – as well as in all phases of this process – communication to, and commitment of, stakeholders and particularly of senior management are very much the key to success of the project.
Defining the Requirements of the New System
Try to cast a wide net when thinking about the requirements, the scope of the solution and the software selection. This is the time to think big. Take all the time you need to collect and write requirements. You want to do this now so you won’t have to deal with the pain of having chosen a system that isn’t a good fit or won’t grow with the company.
Involve as many people as possible. Ask them to say what they need, what they want and what they would like from the new system. Ask them what would make their life easier or solve a problem they’re struggling with in the current system. Each requirement should be given a score of 1 to 4, with 4 indicating the requirement is considered ‘Mandatory.’
The goal here is to not miss anything, you want to make sure that the new system works with your business processes. And don’t forget IT. Can they support it? Should it be on premise or in the cloud? These requirements, combined with cost and other factors, will point to the best possible solution.
Requirement Gathering Techniques
Here are three different requirement gathering techniques to choose from– depending on purpose and audience:
Interview Technique: This is just a conversation with one or more stakeholders to obtain or validate needs and requirements. The interview may also involve a Q and A session to discover any discrepancies between needs; the high-level requirements derived from those needs; and the resulting detailed requirements. Interviews make it easier to get stakeholder contribution, feedback and approval.
Joint Application Development (JAD) Technique: This is an extended, facilitated workshop. It involves collaboration between stakeholders and systems analysts to identify needs or requirements and has the advantage of having people’s undivided attention.
Survey Method: In this method, an electronic or paper-based list of questions is given to the stakeholders so they can identify needs or requirements.
Some techniques work better for gathering requirements from stakeholders while some are better for validating the list of requirements with them.
Business Acceptance of Requirements
At this point all the requirements have been identified and the next step is to present the full list to the company leadership team for review and approval.
Once the requirements are approved we move to the next step…find the vendors and solutions that are good candidates for evaluation.
Now we are ready to send the list of requirements to potential vendors. Typically, the list is distributed by email, asking vendors whether or not they offer a solution that can meet the business requirements. Vendors are asked to send the list back, making sure to write YES next to each requirement their solution meets and NO next to those requirements their solution doesn’t support. The responses received are used to narrow down the list of vendors; those that meet most requirements will be invited to send a request for proposal (RFP).
Business Acceptance of Vendors
After receiving and analyzing the responses from contacted vendors, the software selection team will present the list of selected vendors to the management team and the key stakeholders for feedback and approval. In order to be transparent, the original list of vendors that were contacted and the responses that they provided should be presented as well.
Ideally, you want to have seven or eight vendors participating with an RFP.
Don’t miss the next installment of our Software Selection Series where we discuss the process of sourcing. We will go from discussing the creation of the Request for Proposal (RFP) all the way to the evaluation of the proposals.