A recent Linkedin post referred to a story from the Microsoft Dynamics Convergence 2013 conference. The story was told by a Microsoft Dynamics NAV partner. The partner had a prospect who was considering a couple of partner options through a social connection. The prospect asked Bill Gates which partner he should choose. Gates replied that he should go with the one who knows his business and will value him over the long run.

This underlines the message that it is the people and relationships that count more than the software package that you choose. The fact is that there will normally be several packages that can meet your requirements; and the software itself will not deliver business benefits. You need to choose a partner who can understand your business; who looks beyond the solution to delivering benefits like competitive advantage, balance sheet improvement and revenue growth without staff growth.

Software companies often talk about ‘delivering a solution’. This is a short-sighted approach and very often these companies drop and run. A good company won’t be happy to sell just the software, they will want to work with you to ensure that the intended business benefits are delivered.

Quite often a business will go looking for a software package based on what I call points of pain. When asked what they want, their responses might be: ‘It’s taking too long to process invoices’; ‘Our stock control is a mess’; or ‘Deliveries are wrong and we have to issue too many credits.’ These points of pain might have prompted the search for a software system but at Fenwick we want to go deeper than that. There are three levels of deliverables that should be defined before you choose your system and an implementation partner:

  1. Project Objectives
  2. Business Objectives
  3. Business Benefits

A project objective might be to deliver a good stock control and picking system within six months.
The business objectives might be to remove picking/delivery errors and resulting credit note processing.
The business benefits (quantifiable) might be one of the following: to decrease stock on hand value by $150,000; to decrease customer loss by 50% or to decrease the cost of credit note processing by $32,000 p.a. (It is preferable if the values are in hard dollars).

It is the business benefits that deliver the return on investment. A good partner will be more interested in working with you to achieve the business benefits than simply selling you the software.

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Written By Peter R Hill

Peter has been in the Information Services industry for more than forty years with broad experience covering a number of industries working in both Australia and New Zealand. He holds an MBA from LaTrobe University. For seventeen years Peter headed and was a director of the International Software Benchmarking Standards Group (ISBSG) a not-for-profit organisation with a mission of improving the performance of IT through the provision of project history data. He has served on a number of Boards of IT companies. In 2010 Peter became an non-executive director of Fenwick Software. Peter has been a speaker at conferences in Australia, Asia, Europe, Brazil and the USA.   He has had a number of articles published, covering key aspects of the Information Services industry.  He is a past Chairman, Secretary and Fellow of the Australian Computer Society. He is a member of the Committee of Management of Writers Victoria. Peter has compiled and edited five books, including: "Practical Software Project Estimation"  published by McGraw-Hill. In his leisure time, Peter enjoys motor sport and writing.

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