How should organizations evaluate a solution for CPM, when they all seem to be the same? In our experience there are four fundamental questions that need to be asked, questions that are typically missing from an RFP.
What purpose is the system to support?
The best place to start with any software evaluation is to first agree internally its intended real purpose, as this then dictates the importance of functional capabilities and how they can be combined.
For example, many people looking for budgeting systems place ‘top-down spreading’ as a must, and yet are not concerned whether the system has the ability to draw strategy maps or provide initiative planning capabilities. Of course if you see budgeting as a ‘numbers adding up’ game, then looking for functions that can massage numbers is fine. But if you are looking for systems that directly link budgets with strategy, then that requires a lot more.
The question of purpose can only be answered by senior executives of the organization looking for a solution.
How does the system support our purpose?
The purpose of any proposed software solution is to help achieve the purpose of the process being targeted. So rather than ask for a list of detailed functional capabilities, it is better to ask questions on how the software actually supports the process. For example, for a budgeting solution you could ask:
“How will the software solution improve our ability to link budgets with strategy – what capabilities do you provide that will enable us to continually plan, implement and monitor strategy?”
The vendor’s answer to this question reveals a number of critical things:
- Whether the vendor really knows how their product works from a business point of view. I.e. how the various features and functions add practical value to the purpose of budgeting.
- The breadth of the solution being offered – is it confined to ‘adding up numbers’ or does it fully support the organization’s broader vision?
- How innovative the vendor solution is. They may be able to provide insight of a better way to manage the process based on their experiences in working with other customers.
In my next article we’ll cover the remaining two questions, but if you can’t wait you can see them in our white paper titled “Challenging the RFP: The questions you really need to ask”. You can download it from here.