Some time back, I wrote on the need and ways to evaluate the ERP service providers before engaging them for deployment of your selected ERP product and I got multiple questions on ERP deployment is fine, but selecting the ERP software itself is a lengthy and complex process and takes lot of their resources to research about the right products that fit their industry, their business and has been tested successfully in similar geography, language, size, complexity etc. I was also requested to suggest if the primary research can be reduced so that the team has to finally see the demonstrations of couple of tried and tested products and can decide between them. This quest took me to Don Fornes, who is Founder & CEO of “Software Advice” that he started after a ten-year career in the software industry. His company offers something very similar to what I was looking for, and I am publishing the excerpts of my discussion with him for readers to benefit and take advantage of internet to limit their primary research on Enterprise Software product vendor short listing.
Puneesh: Your website claims that you help more than 1,000 organizations every month to find the right ERP software. How do you understand the specific requirements of software buyers since every one of them is so different and how your model is different than other players in same space?
Don: Let's start by defining exactly what Software Advice does for ERP software buyers and what we don't do. Our goal is to help companies identify the right short list of three to five software systems. While we do provide other content and resources that might educate them on selection and implementation, we do not make the final product selection decision and we do not implement the software. We save the buyer weeks of primary research, but by no means do we replace a rigorous software selection process, nor do we replace consultancies that help to implement enterprise systems.
Our interaction with the software buyer consists of a thorough needs analysis telephone call. During this call, we ask a wide range of questions that help us understand the buyer's business and software requirements. From there, we build a short list for the buyer based on their needs. We have built a robust database that catalogs available software solutions according to industry fit, size of business fit, functional fit, technology fit, etc. Our team of experts, who are already knowledgeable on these products, can query that database to build a short list for the buyer they are assisting. When we conclude the call, we publish an information-rich online resource center for the buyer.
Puneesh: From your experience, what do you think are the biggest challenges for the client organizations to select, deploy and maintain an enterprise-class system these days.
Don: There are certainly many challenges facing the enterprise buyer. However, I think that IT decisions, implementations and maintenance are significantly more efficient today than they were ten years ago. The web - as a best practices resource and as a deployment model - has had a very positive impact. The underlying product technology, functionality and usability has improved as well. The biggest challenge, from my perspective, remains the human elements within change management and system adoption. Sloppy selection, implementation and change management is a big risk.
Puneesh: How do you think the recent economic downturn impacted IT investments across the globe and what changes do you see in this arena as its aftereffect?
Don: The downturn certainly depressed IT spending over the past few years; however, the software and technology industry were not hit nearly as hard as other industries, such as financial services, construction and retail. Businesses recognize the value of successful IT deployments and they face a competitive imperative to improve efficiency through automation.
When IT buyers do face a tightened budget, they tend to analyze and prioritize investments more carefully. So, as an aftereffect, I think you will see more rigorous evaluation of IT projects and a focus on ROI, even as we see an uptick in IT spending.
Puneesh: Do you cover only "on premise" software products or Software as a Service as well (with cloud hosting option) for your customers.
Don: We cover both on-premise and SaaS solutions and we recommend systems based on the buyer's preference. Personally, my business infrastructure is 95% SaaS and I believe strongly in the model. I think most of the shortcomings of SaaS have been addressed fairly well. The biggest issue I see to-date is that the leading vendors, which have the deepest functionality, R&D, viability, etc., remain on-premise, so there just aren't enough enterprise-class SaaS systems from which to chose.
Puneesh: What advice you would like to give to organizations across the world to help them achieve their objectives of growth, expansion, consolidation and standardization by deploying new enterprise software.
Don: Take on the goal of being the best in your industry at selecting, implementing and using IT to become more efficient. If you make that a core competency, your business will improve. However, buyers need to recognize that technology is not a magic pill that makes everything better; it only improves the business when management ensures that they select the right system, implement it properly and manage user adoption. That takes hard work and expertise.
His Brief Bio:
Don started Software Advice in 2005 after a ten-year career in the software industry. Previously he held positions as an ERP analyst at an investment firm and as a corporate development executive at a pioneering CRM software company. He enjoys observing the evolution of software markets, including changing competitive dynamics, the impact of disruptive innovations and the success or failure of marketing strategies. Meanwhile, Don is most passionate about running his own business, Software Advice. Don lives in Austin, Texas with his wife Lauren, daughter Hudson and bernese mountain dog Stinson.