Choosing back office software is an unforgiving and unenviable task. Some get it right, others are not so lucky and careless decisions can be very costly. Whilst it is not an exact science, system evaluation should always involve the following considerations:
Before going to market, ensure that you document your requirements and expectations at a high level. What are the ‘areas of pain’ affecting your business and driving the need for change?
Define an approximate budget covering initial implementation and ongoing costs. This will enable you to qualify suppliers ‘in’ or ‘out’ early in the process, focussing effort on more feasible options.
The software should be based on a mainstream platform such as Microsoft Windows. Unless you have specialist requirements it is recommended that you avoid applications using proprietary programming languages and databases.
Usually one of the top software gripes. As reports are often a ‘moving feast’ it is better to understand whether the data is accessible, structured and ‘queryable’ using standard tools such as Excel.
The ‘operator experience’ is very important. Is the software interface logical and easy to use?
Systems that run slow are unusable. Attention should therefore be paid to response time on queries, screen updates and report requests.
Is your data safe from external and internal threats? The software should support comprehensive validation routines, access controls and audit trails.
Can the package be modified and updated in a controlled environment without leaving the version/upgrade path?
This is crucial to the success of any software implementation. Operator training must be practical and engaging, supplemented by comprehensive course material and help files.
What level of supplier support is needed? Software that needs constant support is clearly not well tested, documented or developed.
Always do an independent check on the shortlisted suppliers. What are the experiences of other users? Is the supplier ‘culturally right’ for your business and committed to a mutually beneficial partnership?
Never enter into a contract without taking appropriate advice. Are your future rights protected in areas such as termination, dispute resolution, warranty, upgrades and support?
The choice is yours. Look well before you leap!
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