Compromise! That is the key word when you are buying standard software. In this article I will share my perspectives on this difficult subject.
Even though compromise is an inevitable part of buying standard software your project could still become a success if you apply the right approach.
The problem is that your situation is unique and the standard solutions only fits part of your requirements. Even the best solution fit for your situation is likely to have gaps between it’s functionality and your requirements. What can you do to bridged the gaps?
Obviously the solution fit is an important aspect. A better fit gives you smaller gaps to close. The task of finding the vendor that offers you the smallest gaps are the first step on the path to success. This is an important process and you should seek counsel!
Some vendors will happily customize their solution to your needs. This can have huge cost impact both in implementation and over time. In my experience this approach should be avoided unless a total cost of ownership analysis can argue otherwise.
Configuration can usually get you closer and narrow the gaps. This should be done to the extent that it benefits the goals for your implementation and does not compromise the idea of the solution. Some solutions allow you to configure to an extend where synergies and overall effectiveness are degraded. So when you have chosen your solution it’s time to challenge you requirements.
Love the one you are with. When you have found the best solution fit for your situation you could close any remaining gaps by changing your requirements! This is the compromise I wrote about. You must be ready to change your ways to fit the solution you chose. It could be as easy as handling some processes or process parts outside of the system and as difficult as changing business processes. My point here is that the solution and you are two parts of a puzzle that need to fit each other and changes are needed on both pieces to make the fit. Readiness to change is a requirement for success when buying standard software.
When you found a way around the functionality-requirement gaps you need to implement the solution in your organisation. The vendor salesperson sold you the solution and now it is your turn to sell the solution to your organisation. Remember that no one likes change and that all the people in your organisation who have not been in the vendor selection process need to be convinced the same way you were in that process. This activity must not fail! Even the best solution might die if not successfully implemented into the organisation.
When engaging with a vendor you are starting a long term relationship. You and the vendor are both reliant on the implementation and operation of the solution being a success. This is a good thing to remember when negotiating the contract terms. You need to land a deal that motivates both parties to 100% commitment on the long term. If you squeeze the vendor to much they may not want to spend time on you after the deal is closed.
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