Last year, I needed to buy a new TV. Having debated the pros and cons of various models with the salesman, I opted for an active 3D set and paid the extra. Now, six months later, the 3D glasses remain in their original case and I have yet to watch a programme in 3D. My original need was to replace my television. But I had let my buying decision be clouded by debate over fancy features rather than what I needed.
This experience led me to start thinking about how technology is – and how it should be - evaluated. I have always believed that technology is an enabler for a business. It should help to increase productivity and improve efficiency with the goal of driving more profitable business.
Yet far too often I’ve seen technology decisions taken in isolation of business needs, and based on how the software looks – or on features that the company doesn’t even need.
Firms have then implemented the solution, only to find that it does not deliver on its promises. Worse, it does not fit or integrate with any of their existing software. In some cases the software can’t even co-exist on existing hardware. The company then has to spend even more money before it can use the technology. Choosing the right technology and technology partner are vital. Technology underpins and empowers a company’s business, processes and people, helping it to meet its objectives. Or it should, at any rate. The wrong technology can do just the opposite, leading to too many compromises.
This is especially true of Client Management Systems. The CMS system should be the heart of a company’s technology. But too often the assessment of new technology is narrowly focused on features and price instead. As an organisation, you cannot afford to change your technology without a better understanding of what value your technology supplier will bring to your business. In an environment where suppliers are constantly entering or leaving the market, you need to place your emphasis on the supplier’s background. Is the supplier investing in its technology? Is there a proven track record of execution against a roadmap? What do the company’s customers say about them? Are they credible?
This needs to be followed by a better assessment of their non-functional capabilities. How will they get you to be where you want to be? (and not where they would like you to be) How will they deliver real benefit? Will they be able to support your business as it evolves? Do they offer cloud based solutions? If so how will this interact with your existing software and hardware? Or can they take you a step further and offer platform as a service (PaaS) – that is, host and maintain all of your software, including third party applications. Don’t just assess the cost of the software on its own. Think about the physical and labour costs required to run and maintain that software.
Having your IT delivered as just another utility can have massive benefits. But here the technology supplier will have to demonstrate its ability to ensure data and information security. Not to mention capability for disaster recovery and data backup. The supplier also needs to provide SLA’s (service level agreements) that are right for you. When it comes to price, this should be more than just a straightforward cost per user per month assessment. Try to work out the total cost of ownership over the period. Is the pricing flexible enough to allow users to pay only for the functionality they are using? What is included – and more importantly what is not included in the price.
Best practice would suggest applying a weighting to the key criteria as follows:
- Key Criteria Weighting
- Company background, credibility, product offering, proven track records: 30%
- Functional requirements: what is in the box? 20%
- Non-functional requirements: what is the approach you will be using to get me where I want to be? 20% Pricing: 30%
About the author
Head of Strategy and Propositions — SSP Select and SSP Adviser. “What interests me is understanding how the financial services and general insurance sectors are evolving and helping clients respond to the challenges that this brings. I really enjoy working with clients to identify the business and operational drivers of value and then designing and delivering innovative insurance solutions that help them to meet tomorrow’s challenges.”More content by Sham Gill