Enterprise level IT systems require money and time to deliver. They can also impact how employees do their job. So how can you go about procuring the right IT system? We think a structured approach is best. The first step is system specification and selection.
Specification and Selection
This is our approach for IT system specification and selection. We designed it for both software and hardware.
- Key drivers. Do you have a clear understanding of the reasons why a new system is required? What are the key business drivers and desired benefits? Is there agreement that the benefits are sufficient to merit a new system? Astute buyers ensure there is buy-in on the need for a new system and its benefits. Your management team need to be on board and they must be supportive for the procurement to be successful.
- Requirements. Compile a list of key requirements and share them with potential system providers. However, do not make the mistake of assuming this is a job for your IT team. Remember that the system will be a tool used by your business. Business processes might change. So think about how the current ways of working can be improved. It is important that the final priorities and requirements are clear. Remember any vagueness can result in cost overruns, delays and unfulfilled expectations. There are three broad areas that should be considered:
- Business Functionality: A new software system should have the scale, scope and ability to meet current and future business requirements as much as possible. Consider also compatibility with your existing IT infrastructure and any required integrations with other office systems.
- Key Controls: Is the business required to comply with any regulations or standards? What are the requirements for security, data protection, and IT governance? Think about how reporting and metrics will work: what information do you want to be able to extract from the system?
- Ongoing Support and Quality of Service: What is the expected life-time of the system, and what is the vendor’s development path for the software? Think about what support will be required to manage the system. Ask vendors to include these in their cost structure.
- Selection process. Set weightings for each of the requirements depending on their importance to meeting each of the business’ objectives. Also define the selection criteria and compare all options against them. Likewise, it goes without saying that it is best practice to approach more than one vendor with your requirements. Ask for system demonstrations and also ask for references from other customers. Also when you review potential solutions, consider the amount of customisation required to configure and deploy each system. Highly customised systems are more costly to deliver and maintain.
- Contract negotiations. Remember that contract negotiations are not just about agreeing a price. Roles and responsibilities must be clear and explicit. Also include your requirements for the Service Level Agreement.
- System Implementation. It is important to anticipate the implementation effort and its impact on your business. Shifts in scope or a large number of changes will reduce the chances of success. For bigger IT systems, implementation may be a significant project: this will require a project plan with tasks, responsibilities etc. and a project manager. It is not wise to rely on the vendor-appointed project manager only. Instead appoint your own project manager who can liaise with the vendor’s project manager and take the lead for collecting end user requirements, understanding the new system completely, working with the vendor on data conversion, coordinating training and acting as the point of contact for all users. Also ensure management supports the project team. Allocate sufficient resources, and make sure the decision making process is clear and effective.
If you follow the specification and selection approach outlined above it will help to make your system specification and selection more effective. As a result, you will gain a solution that maximises your investment and meets the need of your business.
More help on sourcing and procurement
We have deep IT specification and selection experience. We also have lots of experience in sourcing and procurement across all spend categories. So, check out our Procurement Sourcing services to see how we can help with your procurement needs. Not only that, you can also search for ‘Procurement Sourcing‘ articles on our blog.
Public buyers in Ireland can get more advice from the Office of Government Procurement on the best tendering procedure to use and you can use etenders.gov.ie to request a tender. Likewise buyers in the UK can find the best tender portal for them by checking our handy list.