Specifying, choosing and implementing computer systems

Stage 4 - Choosing a system


It is not the purpose of this website/book to cover this subject in detail because there are so many options depending on the size of organization, technical requirements, budget etc.

Based on experience, I suggest you consider the following:

 If you haven’t already done so, recruit a project manager to lead the selection team. How to plan projects (critical path analysis for example) is outside the scope of this book.

 Form a small selection team (less than 10) from the users who will be most affected by the new system.

 Be clear on your objectives and requirements (see above)

 Get the users to approve the requirements (SS 2-2) and Essential Requirements (SS 4-1).

 Check that risks likely to affect the implementation (SS 1-8) have been identified.

 The selection team now examines the requirements (SS 2-2) and pulls out those which are considered essential. These are numbered and copied onto an evaluation sheet (SS 4-1)

 Your choice of software vendors will depend on your requirements. Be prepared to have a ‘long list’ of vendors which you can quickly reduce to a ‘short list’ by checking whether they can deliver your essential requirements.

 Understand ‘vendorspeak’: A ‘bug’ is an issue the vendor will fix; a ‘feature’ is an issue which the vendor won’t fix.

 Check if the software has a user group. What are its current requests? How quick is the response to requests? Can you ask members of the group?

 If you are dealing with a small vendor, check their accounts for financial stability.

Drawing up a 'Long list' of software vendors

Where to find software vendors selling the computer system you require? Starting points are:

 A web search.

 Trade associations and their publications.

 Contact with other companies in the same business as yours.

 If you have a software supplier (in our example, Belper Software Ltd.) ask them for suggestions.

Reducing the long list to a short list

You should have identified about 10 essential requirements (SS 4-1). You will now need to check if the vendor’s system will deliver these. This could be done by:

 Checking the vendor’s website and documentation. This isn’t ideal as these may omit information and be over optimistic about what the system will deliver.

 A phone call with a vendor’s salesman.

 A presentation from a salesman. This can be time-consuming and is best left to shortlisted vendors.

 Using trial software. Again, this can be time-consuming and is best left to shortlisted vendors.

Choosing the best system from the short list

 Ideally there should be about three vendors on this list, since you may have to spend several days evaluating each one.

 You may have already had one presentation from the shortlisted vendor as part of the ‘long list’ reduction. You will now need much more detail.

 Your choice of software vendors will depend on your requirements. They should carry out a presentation of their systems. Ideally visit their offices for this; it will give you an idea about how they operate.

 Evaluation will be against a series of requirements based on the output requirements you have identified, ordered by activity/task. SS2-2 is used to drive this part of the process..

 Prior to the presentation, send the vendor the list of requirements and scenarios which will affect the system. Require an actual demonstration to ensure the system meets these requirements. Be wary of salespeople assuring you that your requirements will be met without a demonstration.

 Set up example input forms to take to the evaluation. In our example these should include; item set up; location set up; supplier set up; order details; typical items; typical payments. The aim, as far as possible, should be to operate the system as it would be operated in your business.

 Take examples of the output forms to check if these can be produced.

 If possible, get a trial system to really check its suitability. If so, formally document your tests and their results.

 If you can, visit installations already in operation.

 If none are able to meet your requirements, consider picking other suitable candidates from the long list. Otherwise you will have to examine the requirements which can't be met and consider if there are 'work arounds' to meet them.

The implementation stages

The software has been chosen. Your project manager (you?) will hopefully set up a project plan which details what needs to be delivered, and when. This plan should include:

 As appropriate, writing programs, spreadsheets and databases to deliver the functionality required. This work is outside the scope of this document.

 Establishing the technology to support the system (Stage 5)

 Setting up a test system which is available to users in order to experiment. This system may have to be replaced at regular intervals to keep it consistent with the ‘live’ system as this is developed. (Stage 6).

 Setting out the structure of the procedures manual and planning its completion (Stage 7).

 Documenting the input. (Stage 7)

 Documenting the processes around the system (Stage 7).

 Documenting the output (Stage 7).

 User acceptance testing (Stage 8).

 Training (Stage 9).

 ‘Go live’ date (Stage 10).

 Holding regular meetings to assess current risks to the project (SS 1-8).

previous page Next page site map