Editor's note: DM Review welcomes Sid Adelman as a bimonthly columnist. Sid has decades of experience to share. His columns will focus on the selection of software and services that you need to perform your jobs.
This is my first column on the topic of selecting technology and services. Future columns will recommend a due diligence process to select software, consultants and contractors, outsource IT activities and select enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. The column will address how to determine your high-level requirements for technology and services. Future columns will deal with building and managing the evaluation team, including the stakeholders, the decision-makers and the rest of those pesky folks who either influence or just bother you as you research and make decisions. The column will help you establish selection criteria. Future columns will provide ideas on how to research which vendors and products you want to consider, including the ones you want to immediately eliminate.
In this first column, I will discuss an initial step in gathering requirements for technology and services - getting direction from your chairman of the board and your CEO.
Everything that is done in an organization should support the organization's high-level vision, core values and mission. Such support includes any IT implementations and the software and products that support the implementation. Not everyone in an organization is aware of these visions and missions, but the information is there. In a publicly traded company, it is in the chairman of the board's letter to the shareholders - found in the front few pages of the annual report. If we look at the letters to the shareholders and bypass the self-congratulatory statements for unbounded success ("We made tons of money") and the explanations for dismal failures ("It was not our fault"), we can determine what the chairmen and CEOs care about, as well as the direction they want to pursue. This will provide you with your directives for choosing technology. Figure 1 shows suggested applications or capabilities taken from statements in these letters.
Figure 1: Suggested Applications from Shareholder Comments
For those in the public sector and for those in nonprofit organizations, your CEO has probably made public statements about where he or she wants the organization to go. These mission and vision statements are probably found on your organization's Web site or in presentations made to the board.
In most cases, we can assume these executive management directives are urgent, which means that the selection process must be timely, there should be no reason for delay nor should the team members be pulled to other projects.
The initial meeting of the software selection team should focus on these directives, and they should set the marching orders for the team. Having a clear understanding of the chairman's primary mission will minimize tangential efforts that could lose the chairman's principal focus. Understanding and agreement among team members should also quash the activities and impact of those who might attempt to kill the project, to extend the time to make the decision or to take the project in an inappropriate direction.
Most of these directives require an IT infrastructure that supports serious service level agreements (SLAs) for both performance and availability, and much of this IT infrastructure requires IT products and services that need to be purchased. Thus we have our initial IT direction.
The chairman of the board's letter should serve as a constant reminder of why the software is being evaluated and a reminder of the team's justification for existence.
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