I spent the day with the distraught Vice-President of a rather large wholesale company recently. It seems that their installation was getting off on the wrong foot and he was worried about the best course of corrective action. Even before I arrived at his office there were a couple of tail-tale signs in his conversation that included me in as to where he stood.
Sign # 1
The ink is barely dry and the salesmen have disappeared from the face of the earth. As far as you are concerned they all might as well have been in a plane that disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle. Salesmen are not important for the installation process but they are important to have around when the customer begins to question if the software he bought really does what they said it would do. Your salesman is one of your advocates within the software company. You’ve just helped put his son through college with a fat commission check, the least he can do is check in every once in a while and make sure the process is going smoothly.
You hate to accuse software companies of the bait-and-switch routine but it is a fact that the talented presenters and smooth talkers are always in the sales department and the folks that know how to make things work are in the installations department. If you don’t verify that the software does what you think it will before you sign the contract you’re in effect taking the salesman’s word that their software does what he says it does. Part of your selection process needs to be a through understanding of how transactions flow through their software system and if that process matches your company’s processes. No software installation was ever achieved without some level of re-engineering but before you sign up for radical surgery you’d better know what you’re getting into.
Sign # 2
You begin getting upgrade tapes in the mail and you haven’t even gone live yet. One of the rules I’ve discussed in the past was not being the guinea pig for the software company’s latest version of their software. You want a version with all the bugs worked out. The installation process is tough enough with out the added burden of fixing their software.
Not addressing this in the contract negotiation phase is leaving it open to interpretation by everyone involved in the process. The software company thinks they are doing you a favor by bestowing upon you the latest and greatest version of their software and that it could not possibly contain any “special features”.
Sign # 3
You begin to feel that you are the crusader for the software features that your company needs and begin to feel that you’re helping the software company produce a better product.
Let’s face it when you buy a piece of software part of what went into that decision was that you at least smelled the company Kool-Aid. You’re on-board with their thought process and you want to be a team player and get this marriage off to a good start. But step back and look at the process from the 10,000-foot level. It’s not your job to tell the software company what features they need to have in their software! It’s your job to take their finished product and use it to make money in your business. If you haven’t even gone live yet and you’re already telling them what they need to do to improve their software perhaps you should pause and re-think the relationship. I’m not saying that you should box up the software and fancy new computer and send it back but perhaps you should slow down and make sure you’ve got the features and functions you need to make the system work in your business.
Sign # 4
You’re internal staff seems to know more about computers and the project process than the installation team from the software company.
Again, you need to address things like this before signing the contract. Take the time to interview the prospective installation team from the software company. Look at their resume just as critically as you would for someone you’re hiring. They could have a larger impact on your company than someone on your payroll.
These are just some of the problems that I discussed on the phone with the worried Vice-President. There are cures for these kinds of problems and not all of them are drastic restructuring. After taking some time with this Vice-President we concluded that his installation was off the rough start but that with sufficient resources he could be assured of a smooth installation.