So what are Software Evaluation Criteria? You've probably heard it described as "evaluating vendors," but that's not quite right. Vendors, after all, are the people and organizations who sell you goods and services—they're not the product itself. So what is it exactly? Well, there are actually two main parts to this process. The first step is assessing your needs and goals so that you can best determine which products will meet them—and which won't. This can be called conducting a gap analysis (or gap assessment). The second step requires comparing those products against each other by rating them on certain criteria - so that you can find out the one that best fits your need.
Introduction to Software Evaluation Criteria
Software evaluation criteria is a tool or a set of tools that can be used by buyers to evaluate vendors in response to an RFP or some other form of vendor selection process. As you may know, Viewpoint Analysis runs technology vendor selections for a variety of companies, so we know a thing or two about this area. It is a scoring system that helps you compare vendors against each other and score them based on their responses to your questions.
It's important to note that the software evaluation criteria should be tailored based on your organization's needs, but there are some universal concepts that apply across all types of procurements:
Why You Need Software Evaluation Criteria
You'll need to ensure that you are comparing apples with apples. It's not enough to just look at the features, you need to make sure that they are the right ones for your business. For example, if you have a large team of developers who know how to use JIRA and Trello but don't have time for Salesforce, then this may not be the best solution for your company.
In addition, it's important that you cater for the needs of all the key stakeholders in order to make sure they buy into any decisions made during or after an evaluation process.
At the end of the selection process, someone needs to justify the decision - to internal team members, business leadership, and to the vendors themselves. If you have a strong view of your software selection criteria, it makes life that much easier throughout the process.
Key Criteria to Measure Against
The most common criteria to measure your software solutions against are as follows:
Functionality: Assess the software's features and functions to ensure it meets your company's specific requirements.
Ease of Use: Consider the user-friendliness of the software, how easily it can be adopted by your team, and the learning curve involved.
Integration Capabilities: Check if the software can easily integrate with your existing systems or other essential software tools used by your company.
Customization Options: Evaluate the level of customization the software allows, such as custom fields, workflows, or settings, to ensure it aligns with your business processes.
Scalability: Consider whether the software can adapt to your company's future growth and handle increasing data volume and user load.
Reliability and Stability: Assess the software's stability, reliability, and performance by reviewing user reviews or conducting a pilot project to identify any potential issues.
Vendor Support and Reputation: Research the software vendor's reputation, availability of support, and responsiveness to ensure you will receive ongoing assistance and timely updates.
Security: Evaluate the software's security measures, including data encryption, access controls, and compliance with industry regulations to protect your company's sensitive data.
Cost: Consider the total cost of ownership, including licensing fees, maintenance costs, training, and any additional expenses associated with using the software.
Feedback from Users: Seek feedback from current users of the software to get insights into their experiences, challenges faced, and overall satisfaction level.
Software Delivery - does the vendor provide the solution in the cloud, or does it need to be installed on the customer site?
What to Consider When Evaluating a Vendor's Costs
When evaluating a vendor's costs, you should consider the following:
The cost of software and services. This includes licensing fees, maintenance and support contracts, implementation fees (if applicable), and training costs.
The cost of implementation--how much time it will take your team to implement the new system as well as any costs associated with this process.
The cost of integration - how much will it cost to connect your systems to the new software?
The length of the contract - how long will you be locked in for? Is it a multi-year contract?
Maintenance and support costs--what kind of ongoing support does this vendor offer? Will they provide 24/7 phone support? How responsive are they when you need help or have questions? Are there any additional charges for certain types of incidents (e.g., outages) that occur during business hours versus after hours? Do they offer free trials so you can test out their customer service before signing up for an annual contract?
After reviewing these factors carefully, consider how each one affects your organization's bottom line before making a decision about which solution will work best for your organization's needs!
We hope that this article has given you some insight into how to evaluate your software options and choose the right solution for your needs. Perhaps the most important element is to bring everyone together on the same page - so that you know exactly what you are measuring and comparing - and that everyone buys into it.
If you would like to find out more about how to score an RFP - something closely associated with this area, you can find more in our other article.