In this blog we outline the core steps you should take when considering a software supplier, including how to implement your chosen software effectively.
Step 1: Establish your business’ requirements.
Do an internal audit
The internal audit is like looking under the bonnet of a car and checking whether the engine is running as efficiently as it should or could be. Essentially, this is your fact find to understand exactly what is not working or could be improved in your business.
Your audit can be as big or small as you want – we recommend you identify all your pain points, focusing on what’s costing you time and/or money.
Consider involving your staff – they live with your business processes day in, day out and will have ideas for improvement. Ways to get staff feedback can range from sitting down and having a chat, through to undertaking a staff survey or running workshops on how to improve processes.
More often than not, you will have identified lots of improvements in your audit. But you can’t do everything – and you don’t want to either – as too much change at the same time can put pressure on already stretched staff.
- From your audit identify the top 3 challenges in terms of productivity loss or cost that you know technology could address. Prioritise the one which could offer the biggest gain across your business.
- Establish whether you’re looking to fix a single problem with a one solution or you want to fix multiple problems using one integrated solution. This will help you find the right product and supplier.
- Agree who should be involved in the decision-making process and consider whether a steering group is required.
Set your criteria
Setting criteria makes it easier to select the right supplier.Consider the ‘must-haves’ versus the ‘nice-to-haves’ from a software functionality perspective– no off-the-shelf system will work in your exact way or do everything you want, so you need to establish what you can and cannot compromise on.
- Do you want a generic solution or one that’s designed specifically for construction?
- Do you want a cloud-based or server-based solution? If it’s the latter, do you need to buy additional hardware?
- What is the pricing structure and contract term?
- What kind of set up is required? And how are you supported?
- What training is needed and how is it delivered?
- Consider setting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to help you measure success further down the road.
Step 2: Engage & select your supplier
Engage with suppliers
You now know what you want to achieve and have defined criteria on which to basis decisions. It’s now time to look for potential suppliers. Consider the following:
- Look for a partner, not supplier. A supplier will simply sell you a solution, job done. A partner will take the time to get to know you, to ensure their solution works for you and will actively work with you to shape the future product.
- Ensure the right person is leading supplier engagement. This person needs to fully understand the criteria set by your management team and have the company agenda at heart, rather than a personal one.
- If you’re unsure where to start, talk to associations, like the FIS, as they may have recommendations for suppliers.
Get a demonstration
Ensure all your questions are answered by having a personalised demo with your chosen supplier(s). And if you need more time with them, have more meetings.
Consider whether an online or face-to-face demo is the best option. An online demo is often a good use of time if you just want a taster of the software. If you’re interested, you can organise a more detailed face-to-face meeting.
Talk about your requirements openly, including the things you’re struggling with. It will give the supplier a good understanding of your pain and help them to show the right functionality to alleviate it. Any good supplier will be honest if they don’t think their solution meets your needs.
Select your supplier
So you love the product and think you’re ready to press ‘go’. Here are just a few final things to consider:
- Read testimonials and case studies. Even better, see if you can talk to an existing customer, as clients will gladly talk about their experiences.
- Check through your selection criteria. Do both the supplier and product meet your needs? There are often workarounds, but if not, can you live with the things they don’t offer?
- If the software requires an implementation plan, request a meeting with the person responsible for your set up and training to ensure you know what to expect.
Step 3: Implement, measure & improve
Prepare for change
As Benjamin Franklin said, ‘by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’. If you don’t adquately prepare to introduce a new software solution into your business you could be putting both adoption and success at risk.
Regardless of your business size, it is always advisable to communicate internally to anyone who will use the new software. They need to know why you’ve chosen to introduce a new solution and the benefits it will bring. This could be as simple as an ‘all staff’ email, a workshop or a presentation in a company meeting. Also consider how you will support your team in adopting a new tool and prepare a plan.
Set up & train your team
If you’ve bought an off-the-shelf system, there will naturally be process changes. Learn the principles of the new software and support your team in transitioning from their current processes. If they’ve done something a certain way for years, there may be hesitancy to change and they’ll need you to lead from the front. We recommend you actively participate in the learning programme and welcome training tasks set by your supplier, as the most efficient way to learn is by ‘doing’.
Finally, it may sound simple, but you’re often up against it and it’s hard to find the time to dedicate to setting up and learning a new solution. Remember the business issues you’re trying to fix and ensure you commit the necessary time to implementing your solution effectively.
Monitor, measure & improve
So you’ve taken the time to implement your new software solution and it’s time to review whether it’s working well for your business.
Start by reviewing the measures of success you identified when you set your criteria. What Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) did you set and are you achieving them? Ask your staff for feedback and do more of the good and less of the bad. If you’re falling short, identify the gaps and put a plan in place to plug them.
It’s important not to review performance just once. Make sure it becomes part of your regular business measurement and continually consider how you can get the most from your chosen solution. Don’t be afraid to ask for a review with your supplier’s account manager as they will have ideas on how you can harness the latest new features and updates for maximum business gain.