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System Evaluation Series, Part 1: Help Prepare the Team

In this blog, we have often talked about the importance of matching marketing activities and content to the buying process. For this series, we have been given the unique opportunity to follow the systems evaluation and purchase decision of a real company. Our guide on this journey attended Convergence as a prospect and volunteered to share his experience leading a business management systems evaluation. We'll refer to him as "Dave" throughout the series.

While the focus of this evaluation is ERP, the lessons learned from this selection process apply across all significant technology investments.

The name of the company and Dave's true identity will remain anonymous to protect their privacy, but we'll share a few facts. The company is a manufacturer of specialty industrial machinery with 200 employees in seven North American locations. A Microsoft-centric organization, the company currently uses Syspro for ERP and SharePoint for document management.

As head of operations, Dave's role includes oversight of IT. He leads the eight-member evaluation team, including an executive team of four and the department managers.

The initial goal of the project is to define what systems the company needs to support growth. The first milestone is the development of a systems roadmap, due by the end of June. The roadmap will include a five-year systems vision and a 24-month action plan.

Education First
Last week, the selection process kicked off with a meeting to educate the evaluation team. Dave prepared a 44-slide PowerPoint presentation to introduce the project and get everyone on the same page. The deck covers:

  • Lingo: Eighteen definitions of terms commonly used by vendors. Terms like VAR, ERP, add-on, workflow, integration and SharePoint.

  • The Issues: Very high-level description of why the project is needed. Several slides on the importance of changing bad habits during the implementation.

  • Getting to the Solution: Definition of next steps and deliverables.

Dave closed the presentation with these words of wisdom:

  • Every company has these bad habits and system issues,

  • Software looks wonderful in its demonstration state,

  • There are hidden "uglys" in each solution, and

  • Implementation of completely new systems is a ton of work (but may be worth it).

Lessons Learned
There are "Daves" out there now searching the Internet or asking their friends for information to help educate their evaluation team. Be ready to support their first steps and they will keep coming back for more. You can be prepared to help with:

  • A page on your Web site with common definitions, include a downloadable PDF.

  • An article or white paper on change management best practices -- something like, "How good companies break bad habits."

  • An update of the services pages on your Web site, written for non-technical readers. When in doubt, ask a non-technical person to read it and explain it back to you.

  • An "Evaluation Team Introduction" PowerPoint ready for your sales team to send to prospects.

To Be Continued
We are just getting started on this journey. We'll check back with Dave every couple of weeks to report on progress and build our lessons learned. Special thanks to Dave for allowing us to follow along and learn from his experience. His time and openness are appreciated.

What content do you have ready for the evaluation process? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

More from This Series:

Posted by Barb Levisay on April 11, 2012