Software Assessment and Selection
Enterprise IT has changed with the evolution of social network, mobile capability and cloud services. Identifying how your business need responds to the 3 C and 3 S of iLynx CLAIMS can determine the future of your newest enterprise product. ‘C(cc)LAIMS(ss)’ is a term used by iLynx associates that stands for ‘Cloud’, ‘Cost’, ‘Customize vs Configure’, ‘Lease’, ‘Analytics’, ‘Integration’, ‘Mobile’, ‘Security’, ‘Social’, and ‘ Support’. Discussions are set around these topics to identify business requirements and to select your next Enterprise Software.
Cloud: Cloud has changed modern Enterprise IT. It has changed the way we access our network, plan for our infrastructure, pay our vendors, track our software expenses and most of all, it dared the large software vendors to think smart. The use of cloud and mobile-friendly platform, software-as-a-service to reduce upfront cost and streamlining upgrades to cut maintenance costs has re-energized the Enterprise Software industry. When David Duffield (former owner of PeopleSoft) and Aneel Bhasuri (chief strategist of PeopleSoft) introduced cloud based ERP (Workday) following a hostile takeover by Oracle, it changed the way we see enterprise resource planning software. Other ERP leaders like SAP or Oracle followed. Over the years, cloud leaders such as Amazon or Microsoft has changed their offerings to better fit enterprises, ERP leaders started to offer their own cloud solutions and consulting companies rushed to declare themselves as the cloud experts to survive. Whether you are a consulting company or an Enterprise software provider or a cloud service provider, we have all come to terms that cloud is here to stay. Selecting the right Enterprise software with the proper type of cloud services is one of the most crucial decisions for your Enterprise IT today. This can drive your company expenses for platforms and maintenance, budgeting for training and internal resources, tracking of cost as operating or capital expense, and most importantly, determine your ability to stay competitive with current and future business demand.
Cost: Evaluate the cost of the software platform and whether it is appropriate for the functionalities that it offers. Determine if the charges will be one-time or recurring. If the latter, decide whether your organization can truly afford to use this system on a continuous basis. Determine the charges for annual maintenance, as well as any upgrades. Consider any hidden costs that might not be immediately apparent. Calculate the long-term total cost of ownership for all aspects of the system, including hardware, software, and support. Once you have finished with these evaluations, estimate whether the projected return on investment will be significantly more than the costs.
Customization vs Configuration: Any sales rep will tell you that their software is the best on the market. It can do everything you need and more. The strategy is to impress you with what the system can do and distract you from what it cannot do. Some Enterprise systems that are truly configurable will not even entertain core code changes. They don’t need to. This is because their architecture allows you to simply set up the program according to your exact needs. New functionality can be added and improvements can be made – all without having to reconfigure what you’ve already done. This will allow for seamless upgrades without affecting your quality management system.
Lease: With the introduction of cloud, decision of owned vs leased has to become imminent. Do you need to own your Infrastructure or can you lease servers from a cloud provider? Need for Software as a Service, Platform as a Service, Metal as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service or even Desktop as a Service should be answered prior to planning future of your Enterprise IT or budgeting for the next large purchase.
Analytics: Software analytics is yet another recent term (first used in 2009) refers to analytics specific to software systems and it’s capability of predicting, improving and management of a complex software system. Data Analytics refers to an assortment of applications, from business intelligence (BI), reporting and online analytical processing (OLAP) to various forms of advanced analytics. With better data analytics capability, it can help business increase revenue, improve operational efficiency, and optimize marketing campaign and customer service efforts.
Integration: Following core capabilities are generally considered must have integration features in most organizations:
Access data from a mix of sources: The chosen data integration software needs to directly access various data structures and types of information such as Relational, columnar, in-memory and NoSQL databases, plus multidimensional online analytical processing systems and other specialized databases. Flat files, application messaging, web services, software as a services, CRM and ERP, social media data and websites, software as a service applications, mobile platforms and legacy systems such as mainframes.
Transform data. Basic data handling features are crucial, including data-type conversions, date functionality, string handling, NULL processing and mathematical functions. The same goes for data mapping capabilities; such as join; merge; lookup; aggregate and substitute; and for workflow support, which enables the creation of an integration process with multiple source-to-target mappings that are potentially interconnected based on data or functional dependencies.
Enable effective design and development. Another key data integration feature is a graphical design interface that simplifies the construction of source-to-target mappings and integration workflows with data, transformations and other elements displayed in design palettes. Data integration products also need to provide interactive testing and debugging functionality, and the ability to create reusable and shareable components.
Additional capabilities such as error handling, operating environment that can handle both on premise and cloud environments, being able to support virtualized servers and distributed processing environments are key points to consider as well.
Mobile: MEAP stands for Mobile Enterprise Application Platform, a development environment that provides tools and middleware for developing, testing, deploying and managing corporate software running on mobile devices. Almost all enterprise IT and ERP products has a robust mobile platform these days. Expenses can be created, processed and approved from mobile phone, vendor applications and bid submissions are streamlined using mobile devices, payments are paid using mobile payment systems such as Apple Pay, even banking is performed online using services such as PayPal. It is the era of mobility and your enterprise needs to have a product that stays ahead of this trend and is platform independent. Capability of working virtually from a tablet sitting in another part of the world is becoming the normal expectation. Submitting your timesheet sitting in train station or just waving your iPhone at restaurant counter to pay is the trend. Choose your software that fits the need but most of all, understand future trends before selection.
Security: Security is one of the biggest concerns in this era of mobile payment, cloud storage and socially active enterprise. Anyone with a laptop from another part of the world may have the capability of accessing your network where in the old days your servers were stored in a secured room in your office. Security practitioners often point out that security is a chain; and just as a chain is only as strong as the weakest link, a software security system is only as secure as its weakest component." Attackers go after the weakest point in a system, and the weakest point is rarely a security feature or function. When it comes to secure design, make sure to consider the weakest link in your system and ensure that it is secure enough. Finding a software that is secure, flexible and easy to configure for your organization is scored highly by iLynx experts.
Social: Enterprise social platform generally do a fine job allowing users to reference data within enterprise software. It usually provides you with a robust, powerful features to manage your band at a large scale. Companies mostly need a key set of features on a daily basis and those features may vary company by company. To identify an enterprise software that fits your need, you have to identify those core features and a product that is cost effective, provides advanced support and continuous optimization.
Support: Service-level agreements (SLAs) for helpdesk support is another important factor to consider. Does the vendor have a proven track record of conforming to SLAs? Does the vendor have clients similar to you, with SLAs that match your minimum performance level expectations? Getting the SLA right is vital to the success of your project, and your vendor should be ready to spend the time to draft them. The importance of helpdesk support can’t be overstated. The software vendor could be an otherwise perfect match, but without a solid support network you won’t be able to maximize your ROI. Support comes in many shapes and sizes, so to determine which model is best for your business, consider the following:
Do you prefer on-site or online?
Do you require support 24/7 or in multiple languages? In this case, a larger vendor is more likely to offer these services.
Do you prefer a call-center style or one-to-one? If you’re more comfortable with the latter, choosing a smaller vendor will often give you the opportunity to speak with the same few representatives who know you and your business on a personal level.
Lastly, do not neglect the business perception of IT when you select your solution. One of the primary goals of your Enterprise IT should be to increase end user self-sufficiency and improve the IT-business relationship. IT organizations must therefore understand how their service management tool facilitates such improvements.