Pop Quiz: What does a workout and the software selection process have in common?

Answer: They both often require breaking a sweat.

I hate to admit this, but often I find myself trying new workout routines as a result of commercials I’ve viewed on television. I’d rather not get into the embarrassing details that made up my workouts, but they were insane!

Due to the fickle relationship that I’ve had with achieving an active lifestyle through the years; well let’s just say that I hold more experience than desired when it comes to gym memberships.

[Read more: 10 Rules of Collaborative Supply Chain Planning]  

In some ways choosing a new gym membership is comparable to selecting a business software solution.

When selecting a gym membership, I would typically take a tour of the facilities; just like asking for a walkthrough demo. In some cases, I would ask for a week or day pass to try the gym’s facilities; this is also comparable to asking for a free trial or starting with a pilot proof of concept program with a software vendor. Depending on the type of service, I price shop, compare services and equipment (features), and then after I feel like I’ve found a good match, I would sign up. Most gym memberships come with a one-time signup fee that is often more expensive than the monthly membership fee. This also falls in line with paying for a one-time software implementation fee.

The decision to keep a gym’s membership is often dependent on the type of service that I receive. Certainly, if you implement a demand planning solution that doesn’t meet your business’ needs you are likely to search for another solution, sometime down the line.

So, what are the lessons learned?

4 Business Software Selection Tips to Consider

  1. Big brand name doesn’t always mean better.

Businesses sometimes start their software solution search with the bigger name brands. The thinking behind this is very similar to the thoughts behind my gym searches; if they have a bigger name brand, then it means they’d have better equipment and easier access to instructors.

What I found, however, is that the bigger the gym franchise, the chances increase of receiving little to no attention at the gym. Once you’ve received your membership, you’re on your own.

Are you doing that bench press the wrong way? That’s on you.

In the software selection process, it’s essential that businesses look beyond name brands, and focus on their core challenges and goals. Perhaps, your supply chain process might be at a stage 4 or 5 maturity level, where you have the right people, process, and tools already aligned, and you only need help with a specific issue. In that case, you may not need much hand holding. If you are however trying to establish a better S&OP process, having a vendor who can help create a roadmap for now and the future could be essential. It’s imperative to make the selection based on your specific business need, instead of going by a popular choice vote.

[Read more: Top 5 Lessons Learned After A Year in Supply Chain Planning]
  1. Higher price doesn’t necessarily translate to high quality.

I have a friend who is a fashion designer. She selects higher priced items on almost every piece of clothing if she can afford it. Due to her background, she often thinks that a higher priced item is because of a better material quality used. As I ‘gym hoped’ I implored the same practice: “a $29.99 membership must certainly be of better quality than the $9.99 gym membership.” Through my experiences, I have come to learn that the logic of cost per quality isn’t as sure of a bet as I once thought. The emphasis on quality for me came down to the availability of exercise equipment, how clean the gym looked and if it presented a positive atmosphere conducive to a good workout. In some cases, the cheaper memberships superseded these expectations, and in other cases, they were about even in comparison. Similarly, a higher priced software solution or implementation cost doesn’t necessarily translate into high quality. There are many stories of costly software implementations that have failed. 

  1. Best-of Breed vs. All-in-all.

Through my gym memberships, I’ve noticed that taking a yoga class at the gym could be a completely different experience from taking a yoga class at a yoga studio.

Think about it for a second. In some cases, the yoga routines are similar. So, what’s different?

The specialization.

With yoga studios, the instructors are often more specialized in the type of yoga class that you sign up for. They can give you more attention due to the class size, and often the atmosphere is designed to create a conducive meditative experience, making it more pleasurable.

Since most ERP implementations are marketed as an all-in-one solution for financials and planning, most prospective clients often ask the question: “why do I need a specialized solution?” In truth, for small-sized manufacturers with a fairly simple supply chain process, it’s possible that their ERP can handle their needs pretty easily. However, for largely sized manufacturers with complicated supply chain processes, having a more robust solution that can be configured to solve a specific business need is usually a better fit.

[Read more: Cloud vs. On-Premise Supply Chain Software: And the Winner Is….]
  1. Service. Service.

So, what should businesses consider when experiencing a conundrum of choosing between two or more software solutions that are head-to-head in functionality?

When this happens, the service level could be the potential tie breaker.

How do you make this determination? The service level that you receive through the selection process should give you an indication of the type of support services that you will receive once you become a customer. Is the solution provider responsive? Do they provide you with detailed answers to your questions? How well do they know their solutions? Is there someone to answer your phone call or talk to you? Will you have a dedicated account manager? For functionality minded individuals, it’s easy to overlook this detail when selecting a software solution provider. Unfortunately, a feature-rich software solution is often as good as the support that’s available when you need help.

In the end, for many businesses selecting a software solution is often a cumbersome, long, drawn-out process. Unlike my gym memberships, it’s seldom easy to get out of a contract or to move to another software provider. The total cost of ownership is often high. And sometimes a failed implementation can be extremely detrimental to a business’ success. It’s essential to be diligent and meticulous when selecting a solution.

Look beyond the bells and whistles.

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