How To Involve Stakeholders In Selecting Enterprise Software
Choosing the right software to run a critical business process can be a high-stakes game. Rarely will any one product perfectly fit all requirements, but an expensive software purchase that misses the mark by too much will be a drag on the organization for years, creating inefficient systems and compromised workflows.
Let’s take a quick look at a few key strategies for ensuring that proposed enterprise software solutions meet your organization’s needs—and have the full support of relevant stakeholders.
Identify Stakeholders Early
From the moment you recognize the need for a software solution and start defining what you’re looking for in a product, consider whose job this software will impact.
Is there a manager who will rely on the software for critical reports? Which teams will be knee-deep in the program on a day-to-day basis? Consider potential user groups, and identify representatives from each to aid in defining requirements and selecting the appropriate software solution.
As you determine who should have a role in the decision process, also consider what role they should play. In project management, roles inside any collaboration are often defined with the acronym RACI, which can be applied to selecting a software solution:
Recommenders take an active role in the software selection process; they will do the research and come back with a specific proposal.
Approvers are ultimately responsible for the decision—but will make it based on research and feedback done by others.
The Consulted are, well, consulted—their opinions will be sought and valued, but they may not take an active role in research or decision-making meetings.
The Informed have no role in making the decision, but are given information along the way so that when the software is implemented, they are prepared for the change.
Decide which of these roles your stakeholders will play, and then involve them accordingly.
Agree on Requirements: Collaborate with identified stakeholders to determine what everyone is looking for in a software solution. Start with the big picture by asking, “What problem are we trying to solve with this software?” From there, outline “user stories”—a description of which tasks users will need to complete with the software. These user stories, collected from a variety of stakeholders, will form the requirements that you can compare any solution against.
Communicate: Keep your stakeholders in the loop. Provide updates and clearly communicate about which solutions you’re considering and the strengths and weaknesses of each. As no solution will meet every requirement, it’s critical that stakeholders understand the reasoning behind tradeoffs.
Seek Alignment: After you’ve defined requirements and compared solutions, pull relevant stakeholders back into the final deliberations. Present the findings of your research, the benefits of the proposed solution, and the tradeoffs required.
Whether you are selecting HR, workflow, customer experience, or billing software for a business big or small, a software purchase is a big commitment that affects people throughout your organization.
With different stakeholders having different needs for the solution, some may be more onboard with the potential solution than others. While this approach does not guarantee consensus, it will ensure alignment, with each stakeholder understanding the vision and the tradeoffs involved in the final decision.
(The author is Chief Operating Officer at ZipBooks Online Accounting Software)