You’ve seen the demo and read the brochure. You’ve read a dozen RFP responses, and expertly managed conflicting requirements and competing stakeholder expectations. You’ve short-listed the vendors, and authored a business case that you can be proud of.
Project success is all but assured, if only the Executive Steering Committee would approve your budget. If you can relate to this, then you’ve led an enterprise software selection process.
Enterprise software selection is complex and rewarding. In my career, I’ve been fortunate to experience this from both sides of the equation – as the bank’s IT delivery manager on one hand, and as the Solution Provider on the other. Along the way, I’ve learned how important a well-executed selection process is to selecting the right vendor. I’ve also learned that no one step is more critical to your evaluation than a well-run Proof of Concept.
The Proof of Concept provides you with the best opportunity to test vendor claims. It allows you to validate your assumptions and conclusions from the demos, the brochures and the meetings you’ve had with the most senior, most experienced team members that the vendor has to offer. At the conclusion of your Proof of Concept, you’ll have answered three critical questions that an RFP can’t address:
What can the product actually do? Test your short-listed vendors against two or three high-value use cases to find out how configurable, extensible and ideally suited for the enterprise the products are. As a bonus, well-crafted use cases will help you clarify your own business value proposition, allowing the opportunity to pivot or adjust prior to submitting your business case for approval.
What will the users think? The importance of early end-user engagement cannot be overstated. Solicit their feedback during the Proof of Concept to generate excitement and build advocacy for your software implementation project. This will pay dividends down the road when you need it most, by building support for the change management process and driving early user adoption.
Who is the vendor that I’m considering doing business with? You are entering into a multi-year relationship with your chosen vendor, so you’ll want to understand who they are as well as you understand the product they sell. The Proof of Concept will bring you into close contact with the vendor and allow you to assess their working style, problem solving skills, technical and financial services domain expertise. You’ll determine whether or not they are a cultural fit for your organization, and if they’ll engage with you as your strategic partner. These characteristics may be the most important predictors of future project success.
The Proof of Concept is an investment; it takes time and energy, but the payoff beyond the brochure is that you’ll be a well-informed buyer, optimally set up for project success.
I’ll explore how to prepare for and execute your Proof of Concept on my next post.