Part Three of Three

choosing-var-for-business-management-system-implementationInstalling and configuring modern business management software is, in some respects, much easier than it used to be: insert DVD, Click Install, enter a location on your network, wait a few minutes and you’re done – right?  Well, certainly that part of the installation is easy.  There are, however, many technical challenges as you integrate with the various business systems on your network (Windows Server, Active Directory, Microsoft SQL, Internet Information Services, Exchange, Office, Credit Card Authorization, EDI, Web store, Excel, other applications and more).  The technical part does get complicated; however, the challenge is configuring the software based on your business needs.  Technical challenges can be expensive and costly; the business challenges of a poorly configured business management system can be deadly to your business.  Consider the list below of ranked software selection criteria from a Deloitte and Touche survey of 1,500 companies. (1 being most important and 10 being the least).

1. Price of the Software
2. Ease of Implementation
3. Ease of Use
4. Software’s Ability to Fit the Business
5. Functionality of the Software
6. Software works with Existing Hardware
7. Growth Potential of the software
8.Level of Support from the Solution Provider
9. Quality of Documentation
10. Vendor’s Track Record of Performance

Oh, one important point – the 1,500 companies who took this survey ALL failed in their software implementation.

In our opinion, and in the results of studies done of successful implementations, the right outside implementation team is critical.  Does your software provider fit with your company culture and style?  Are they process oriented or do they “fly by the seat of their pants”?  The non-quantifiable is typically more important than the quantifiable because more of the system functionality will be caught than taught.

Let’s go back to the Deloitte and Touche findings for a moment.  Although all these companies failed at their first implementation, they succeeded in their second. When asked to re-rank the criteria it came out as follows:

1. Level of Support from the Solution Provider
2. Vendor’s Track Record of Performance
3. Software’s Ability to Fit the Business
4. Growth Potential of the Software
5. Price of the Software
6. Quality of Documentation
7. Functionality of the software
8. Ease of Use
9. Ease of Implementation
10. Software works with Existing Hardware

Bottom line notes…

1.    Feeling comfortable with the VAR and their level of expertise is crucial.

Items 1 & 2 relate to the VAR and the abilities and experiences of the VAR’s team.  If you feel comfortable with the VAR, go with his recommendation.  If you aren’t comfortable with the VAR – PASS.  Okay, maybe that is a little too simplistic, but don’t waste your time if you don’t think the VAR can do the job.  Your task at this stage is to evaluate how well the software and VAR fits your business.  Your VAR should be able to effectively demonstrate how the software meets your top business objectives and tell you what area will require some work.  No software product is perfect; some will fit better than others.

2.    Know exactly who is doing your implementation.

Whether you buy direct or through a VAR, find out who will do the implementation.  You may want to meet them during the demonstration.  If you are working with a VAR, one of the implementation teams may do the demonstration.

If you buy direct, find out whether the developer uses employees or contractors to do the implementation.  With whom will you contract to do the implementation?  Is the software vendor responsible if the implementation goes poorly?  Software implementations are challenging.  Having access to the salesperson during implementation can clarify misunderstandings.  Is there a clear hand-off from sales to the implementation team?  Are they all in the same room and does the implementation team have full access to the discussions that took place during the sales process?  If a contractor does the implementation, find out how many implementations the contractor has done of this software product and how many of these systems they support.  (Experience from supporting software helps shape best practices during implementation.)  Did the references you talked to use this implementation contractor?  Is the VAR or the contractor responsible for the implementation if something goes wrong?

VARs tend to be local or regional, although there are some who are national or international in scope.  VARs tend to have a greater interest in your success as you represent one customer in a smaller number of customers.  Direct salespeople and implementation teams will be moving on to new prospects and implementations, perhaps in other parts of the country, whereas the VAR has a stake in the territory; as it is their home territory.

If you’d like to learn more about choosing the right VAR for your business system implementation, click below to download our complimentary whitepaper: ERP Project Success – How to Implement an ERP System.