Cloud, Software as a Service and Web 2.0 technologies have complicated an already difficult process of software evaluation. New trends in software evaluation reflect a rapidly changing business environment and what companies are looking for in their next enterprise software solution. Organizations are now shifting their priorities on a different set of evaluation criteria such as business agility, business process management, social capabilities and vertical expertise.
Business Agility is the ability of the software to quickly adapt to changing business conditions and processes without much vendor engagement. Many new systems are incorporating richer user interfaces and easier configuration options to enable the customer to do most of the changes themselves. Since many systems are on par with respect to feature/functions self-configuration is heavily being considered within the evaluation process.
Business process management is now a unifying link that can reside inside or outside the software. The business process engines contained within the software often allow integration and unification of disparate systems. This is one method that software vendors use to combine functionalities and unite their own software. These new business process engines allow for decision making capabilities, offer BI/EPM visibilities, and collaboration. They also define workflow, dataflow, and creation of approval triggers. They allow changes to be tested without disruption to current process through data modeling. They can facilitate sharing information upstream and downstream to suppliers and partners; a major shift from before.
Social media capabilities have become an intricate part of the software evaluation paradigm. Enterprise software vendors are beginning to incorporate these applications into their software via integration or as a part of the SOA platform. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc., are being leveraged to create a social profile for users to have maximum information about prospects and customers. Organizations can customize information to specifically target existing and new customers. Whether the social component is used for customer service, retention, acquisition or monitoring your company's social image, it has become an important aspect of the evaluation process.
Organizations now realize that software is pretty much equivalent in functionality and use the vertical expertise of the vendor as a differentiation point to select the appropriate vendor. Organizations sometimes mistakenly compare a vertical specific solution to the base application which is often more general in nature (a common mistake). The ability for the vendor to distinguish itself within a vertical may prove beneficial to the evaluating organization. Vendors must show they understand the customer's business and consequently their support requirements for their industry.
For 2012, software evaluation priorities will change to include cloud and SaaS criteria as ROI and TCO are now calculated differently. Organizations need to have an enterprise technology strategy and understand where cloud and SaaS technologies reside and how they may be utilized. Since software evaluation priorities have shifted in prioritization considering business agility, business process management, social presence and vertical expertise carry as much weight or more than traditional feature/functions.
Keywords: Software as a Service, Business Agility, Vertical Expertise, ERP & Enterprise Systems, Software Architecture & SOA, Business Process Management, Technology, Business Strategy Alignment, Quality & Metrics, Supply Chain Analysis & Consulting, Global Supply Chain Management
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