Sometimes the initiative starts from the top, sometimes it starts with Project Managers, and sometimes it starts with an IT department. However, it is surprising how often these searches begin without the other players knowing about the search, without evaluation criteria being established, without budgets being established – basically with no plan at all.
More often than not this results in no decision being made because the chaotic decision process eventually leads nowhere. This is an expensive waste of everyone’s time! Or, the wrong Project Management system is procured for the wrong reasons. Or, a good system is purchased, but the same lack of planning and chaos that characterized the procurement process spills over into the implementation process resulting in a failed implementation.
How should a company properly approach this process?
- Do we need a new system in the first place?
Decide if you really need a new system; sometimes a proper re-implementation of an existing system is what is really required. If professional consulting assistance is required, this is an investment that you should make.
- Should we hire a third party consultant to assist in the procurement process?
If you have somebody available internally who will be given the responsibility and authority to drive this, that’s fine; if not, you should seriously consider hiring a consultant.
- Should we generate a formal RFP?
Yes, you must develop a formal list of functional requirements, and get that responded to in a structured manner – whether having the vendor complete it, or using it as a checklist during a demonstration of the product. However, simply having people ask questions as they come to mind during a demonstration of a product is not how to fulfill your requirements in a structured manner.
So, the bottom line is PLAN YOUR EVALUATION PROCESS. Do not take the undisciplined route of simply inviting a bunch of project managers and administrative staff into a product demonstration, telling them to ask any questions, and then asking them what they think. Like any good process control, define your requirements in detail, put a “blueprint” in place, complete a “punchlist” and let that be your guide through the process.