Buying Software Solutions

Buying Software SolutionsCRM, SCM, FAS, ESS, ECM and BPA are just a few of the endless stream of acronyms and buzzwords that confront small business owners searching for good software solutions to automate key business functions. The promises of many cloud-based software solutions to automate key functions of a business are impressive. The ability of the technology sales rep to speak an entirely different language using English words injected with acronyms, jargon and unique expressions is equally impressive.

This creates an air of superiority as apparently only special people can know all of this stuff and make any meaning from it in business terms. Many small businesses readily adopt these solutions, believing they will accrue the compelling list of benefits.

The challenges for the business owner go far beyond learning an entirely new befuddling language. More importantly, they must learn to adapt their business processes, people, policies, practices and all of the information and work that must flow through the business functions served by this software. Ironically, many very large businesses cite this failure to execute this adaptation process as the reason many such systems fail to meet their expectations. This despite the hordes of information technology resources and business consultants applied to manage the process.

Small business don’t have access to the same array of experts to help them manage the transition. Instead, they tend to rely more heavily on the supplier of the software solution. Unfortunately, most of these software suppliers do not provide services to help their customers redefine their business processes and work flows. The software supplier is focused on installing the product, providing training on the best practices in the usage of the product, providing basic technical support for the software and then moving on to the next prospect.

After a short period, the frustration mounts as the existing processes and work practices of employees in the business clash with the way the software operates by design. Attempts to adapt the software to the existing workflow or to develop workarounds to seemingly inappropriate or missing functionality invariably produce more frustration. All the while, the business never fully realizes the full benefits of the software as sold by the sales person. The truth is that the business never fully adopts the software so the benefits will only match the degree of its utilization.

Acquiring the software license and turning on the first user name and password is the easy part. To achieve the real value of this purchase requires an accurate and comprehensive assessment of the actual business processes in place in the business compared with those provided in the software solution is required to determine the work required to implement it successfully. This assessment must include process mapping, change management plan for each process, system and workflow integration, user training, and real-world testing and overall project plan to manage the transition to the new mode of operating. A competent project manager with business operations, business process analysis and software deployment expertise can be an invaluable asset to enabling long-term profitable deployments of software solutions for small businesses.

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