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New System Selection: Part 2
By Enabliser Andrew Mc
A first meeting is a little like a first date, all about getting to know each other – your prospective partner should be finding out about your business and especially what makes you unique and you need to get an understanding of them – their successes, how they will go about bringing this change to your business.
One thing the meeting should not be about is detailed functionality in a solution. There may be some burning features you are keen to ensure are covered by a new solution but my advice is not to try to get ahead and make sure the solution they represent has them yet – as this could lead to a major opportunity being missed: the opportunity for your prospective partner to use their experience from helping many other businesses to look at your business issues from a fresh perspective.
We all have our own perspectives, especially if you have run your business along the same lines for some time. This can make it difficult to have a completely fresh perspective, this is the opportunity for a good partner to show their worth with a fresh perspective and some newer ideas. This may be a packaged ERP or CRM solution around your industry or some unique approaches to solving your business problems.
The critical first step is to get everyone on the same page around your business.
The primary reason for this is that a prospective partner should understand why you need a particular function and how it might be used before establishing trying to put together a solution for you – trying to establish the big picture before trying to understand each component. If you go straight for detailed functions this will quickly degenerate into a feature/function shootout and defeat any chance for the partner to not only get a full understanding of your business but to maybe suggest solutions that you might not have thought of.
Let the prospective partners make suggestions on how to tackle business problems, you don’t have to take their advice but it may help to get some different viewpoints throughout the process – this can only add to the final outcome. Also, your response to suggestions may uncover more about your business and issues which will further help the solution evolve. After the meeting allow the prospective partner to come back to you with how they may address particular challenges – a good partner should have a team behind them that they are discussing your options and potential solution with.
The next stage should be a solution outline or draft proposal from the partner, this should outline a solution (albeit at a high level), not just give a generic description of software modules and prices. In evaluating the solution – are promises backed up? If they are saying the solution will increase cash flow, will it? How will it? What about features, does it discuss your requirements or is it a generic list of modules? Does the document stand alone or do you need to explain the goals and challenges it addresses to every reader?
And finally the outline pricing, how is it put together? Are amounts justified with some reference to software and hours to implement, and what do other outlines contain for similar activities? Asking a prospective partner about the implementation activities may uncover more about how they operate and whether the price they are talking about is realistic.
The next article will discuss the software demonstration
If you wish to speak with an Enabling Trusted Advisor on this topic, click here.