How to Do a Software Evaluation

When evaluating software products, the most important thing to do is prepare in advance. There are different approaches to software evaluations, and much of it depends on whether you’re considering an Off-the-Shelf (OTS) or customized application.

Remember, any technical endeavor comes with questions and choices to determine if a software product will help your organization. Although daunting, there are a few rules to follow to ensure success. This article will help chart a path for the evaluation process for selecting a software product.

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Review the Proposal

The first step to choosing a software product is to review the proposal outlining the software request. The proposal should be evaluated based on how it fits the organization’s objectives and goals. Once the proposal is reviewed and gets the green light to move forward, form an evaluation team.

Form a Software Evaluation Team

A software evaluation team is not a project team. The team’s goal is to evaluate the software request and determine if it’s feasible. Depending on the complexity of the effort, the team should be small.

A typical software evaluation team should consist of the following members:

  • Executive sponsors
  • Team Coordinator
  • Senior Business or IT Director
  • Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) from each department or area requesting the software
  • Technical stakeholders

The SMEs chosen should include one senior SME who has more experience in the software type requested, or in the business area asking for the application. Technical stakeholders should consist of a software engineer and other stakeholders that can speak to the technical impact of the proposed software.

Except for executive sponsors, the team should focus on the evaluation process. The executives should be engaged, but their role is to keep the process going and shift roadblocks out of the way. Once the evaluation team is in place, the software evaluation and assessment can begin.

Software Evaluation Steps

Create an Assessment Plan

An assessment plan will help determine the application request, how it functions, and who will use it. There are several elevation products available to help. For large initiatives, these applications will require an outside vendor to help guide the effort.

Smaller efforts can use an Excel spreadsheet to capture the business and technical requirements. Either large or small, the assessment plan should use a criteria-based or tutorial-based selection process for success.

Consider Using a Software Evaluation Company

Software evaluation companies like TechnologyAdvice can greatly help your team find the right tool. Their knowledge will help your organization select OTS or custom software deployments that meet your requirements and business goals.

These companies will thoroughly review your organization’s current hardware and software infrastructure, and then offer a narrow list of solutions for your evaluation team to assess. Especially for complex organizations, this step can ultimately save a lot of time and money.

Set Up an Evaluation Checklist

Because you should always look at multiple vendors, attending multiple demonstrations of different software is key. To help your software evaluation team keep track of how different solutions meet or do not meet the company’s requirements, it’s best to set up a checklist.

Evaluation checklists should ask the following questions:

  • Why: Why is the software needed? What business problems is it meant to solve?
  • Who: Identify the department or area using the software, and their specific requirements for the product.
  • What: What are the system’s requirements? Will using the software require additional infrastructure, staff, or resources?
  • How: How will the software be implemented? Identify current and future process maps, as well as functional and non-functional requirements for the development and implementation phase.
  • When: How quickly or slowly could the software be implemented?
  • Where: Are there any other areas of the business that can benefit from the application?

Want vs Need

Finally, when evaluating software products, remember to define what is requested and what is needed. Be sure there isn’t an existing in-house application that can adapt to the business need. Large corporations may already have an immediate answer to the requirements from a former software deployment.

Software evaluations do not have to be complex. By doing the upfront homework and keeping the evaluation team focused, determining the best software for a given use case is fairly straightforward. By following these guidelines, software selection can be easy to perform and rewarding to undertake.

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Kent Barnett
Kent Barnett has been an instrumental professional in the fields of business, technology, and entrepreneurship. He founded his first company creating an organization dedicated to believing that technology and business must align for success. Mr. Barnett now lives in the technology corridor of Northern Virginia, where he has continued to build his expertise while providing advisory services to many national and international companies.

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