Last week I pointed out that companies don’t purchase software; they purchase a solution to a problem. Buying a solution to a problem is a journey. A journey with many steps.
Based on experience, what follows is an example of a typical PDM buyer's journey. As with any project, it is important to learn as much as possible. Most projects begin with a problem, and the most important step to addressing a problem is admitting that you have one. Let's do that now.
1) You’ve got a problem.
Maybe you are looking to be ISO compliant. Maybe you are spending too much time looking for information. Maybe you need tighter versioning control. Maybe you need a secure vault – something with check-in and check-out. There are a lot of maybes here. These represent only a few...
Ok, what now? In my consulting practice, I identify the client’s specific problems, rank them by what hurts the most, and assign a cost to each one.
In no particular order (because it varies from client to client), here’s what I run into most often:
- ISO compliance – You may want to be ISO compliant to gain an advantage on your competition (not everyone is compliant). You may need to be ISO compliant to compete with your competitors (everyone else is compliant but you). What is ISO compliance worth to your company?
- Looking for information – This requires an opportunity cost analysis. If you didn’t have to spend an hour looking for a file, what could you have been working on? If your time is billable at $200 per hour, you could be generating an additional $200 in revenue. And if you’re managing a team, what could team have been working on? If they’re not paid hourly, don’t you think they might get a little burned out looking for files?
- Using the wrong version (file) – When you end up using the wrong file, how much time do you spend fixing [recreating] the file correctly? Could eliminating this error allow you to generate another $200 in revenue? What does it cost you in ‘good will’ if you send the wrong file to your customer? What might it cost you if you send the wrong file to manufacturing?
- Security – Are people carrying out proprietary information? Do you have the “need” for a secure vault? What happens when 2 people are working on the same file at the same time? Eliminating this problem may generate another $200 in revenue.
2) Can you get budget to address this problem or problems?
What do you need to provide management to get funding? At some point in time, all companies will need a file management solution. Is your company willing to spend some money for something they will need in the future? What does your company’s budgeting process look like? Can you get funding?
3) Assuming you can get a budget, the next step is to begin gathering requirements.
I like to start with a solution vision - if you could actually purchase the perfect software, what would you want it to do? Any solution is possible if you have enough money to throw at it. However, your budget may require you to compromise. Basically, you should refine your requirements to fit both your vision and your budget.
4) After you have refined your requirements, it is time to look at possible alternatives.
Solutions range from creating a protected directory (costing nothing) to purchasing a full-blown software package from Oracle or SAP [costing hundreds of thousands]. For most of you, your options will be somewhere in between.
Start by looking at solutions that are within your budget. Some options may not require any implementation services. But many do. Be sure to include the cost of services into the price. For manageability's sake, it's a good idea to keep your list to between 2 and 4 vendors.
Have the vendors show you how their software might look in your environment. In simple terms, the user interface is what software looks like. Your users will interact through the user interface. Have a user or two use the software. Gather feedback. See what they think. If they hate it – and they have a good reason for hating it – that’s like a “no go.”
Make sure that you ask to speak to a few of the vendor’s customers to find out how the software works in an applied setting. It also doesn’t hurt to find outwhat it is like working with this vendor. How’s their support? How long does it take to hear back from them? Are they receptive to product roadmap suggestions? You will be doing business with your selected vendor for a number of years, make sure you can have a good working relationship with them.
5) Select a solution.
Once you have selected a solution, you will need to put together a proposal, presentation, or whatever you need for management to authorize a purchase order. Remember, you are looking for a go/no go decision.
Good luck. And ask questions!
More teams are using Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, and Social tools to speed up product development. Independent analyst firm, Consilia Vektor, explains how this changes Product Data Management (PDM) as you know it and how this can help your team work smarter.