Selecting planning software – 3 essential steps
You are looking for planning software to better schedule the time in the business. To save time. But you do want to find the correct planning software. And that takes time. Mark de Jong of Timewax, as a former software selection consultant knows like no other how this process can best be performed – in three clear steps:
Selecting planning software isn’t rocket science, but do tackle it in a structured way – else you won’t see the wood for the trees. If you are looking at various systems at once, you are flooded by a lot of details and impressions. So work with a clear structure. In addition, there is a serious effort involved in both time and money, so you should be able to justify the choice. In this blog we describe a step by step plan to achieve the right choice for planning software.
If you do what you always did, you get what you always got
The first step is a moment of reflection. What is the blueprint that the planning process forms part of? A contractor doesn’t just start building either. He does this from a drawing – a blueprint, which indicates what the intention is.
In an organization you can make the blueprint by reflecting on the goals of the company and seeing how the planning process supports it. What are the benefits/results you want to achieve with planning? Does it work? If not, what are the bottlenecks? Where are these bottlenecks? Not everything can be solved with software. Often, a different method or the deployment of staff with better knowledge and skills also offers an outcome.
In this way you define top-down the principles for selecting new planning software. This is how you make a proper distinction between bottlenecks that can be solved by planning software and bottlenecks that can be remedied by a different way of organizing. The advantage of this approach is that you prevent that your current problems become automated with new planning software.
The outcome of this step is an overview of bottlenecks that you want to solve with new planning software and the benefits you want to reach. Such an overview provides a proper focus in the next step, in which you will set up your knock out criteria.
Knock-out criteria: Twenty is plenty
In this step we are going to select candidate systems and then knock most of them out with our criteria.
In this step, you will draw up selection criteria that allows you to compare the different planning systems. That need not be a long list of requirements and needs. In fact, you must absolutely avoid that! Keep it concise and work with knock-out criteria. Knock-out criteria are basically the ‘must haves’. If a planning system doesn’t comply with this, it is simply dropped. About 20 knock-out criteria are more than enough. But do focus on hard requirements that can also be formulated concretely. So not “The software should be modern”, but “The software should be available 24 x 7”.
Then you draw up a long list of possible suppliers. Usually you have enough with 7 to 8 suppliers. You’ll find the suppliers by doing research on the internet and asking fellow companies. Just make sure you put software solutions on the list that are appropriate for your industry and business process. It’s no use putting Microsoft Project on the list, if you need something for shift planning. Also, make sure the systems are affordable. Don’t look for a Ferrari, if you can’t pay for one.
Then you start scoring software systems based on the knock-out criteria. On the basis of the information provided by them on their website, you already have much to go on. For missing information, contact the vendor. You can do this quite officially by drawing up an RFI (Request For Information – questionnaire). You can also keep it practical. It really depends on how big the project is and how much you can gather yourself. After scoring, select the best 2 or 3. This is the shortlist.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating
In this step, you take the time to have a taste of the remaining systems on the short list.
Make a business case to test in all systems on the shortlist. It is a pitfall not doing so but just look around a little in each system, or to just get an impression of what a sales representative shows you. Thus you won’t get an objective view. It doesn’t have to be a comprehensive report. A one-sheet with the steps that you want to go through and reports that you want to see is already sufficient. As long as you have something that you can evaluate all the systems on.
Many vendors offer their software in the form of a trial version. In that case you can test the software yourself according to the business case. If the supplier doesn’t offer a trial version, ask the supplier to give a demo. This can be on site or online via a web meeting. Do ask the dealer to prepare the demo according to your business case. When testing or during the demo, keep notes of your findings according to the business case and the knock-out criteria.
Optionally, check with existing customers of all systems. That doesn’t necessarily require a visit. You can also just call. Please note that you should select customers from the same industry and with approximately the same size. Mainly try talking to the administrators of the planning software, end users and the project manager responsible for the implementation.
Evaluation and selection
Finally, choose between the candidates on the short list. For example, organize a workshop with all internal stakeholders, in which you assess all aspects.
Aspects to be reviewed in the workshop:
- the test of the business case
- impression of the supplier
- technical aspects
- investment and costs
Based on this, you choose the supplier/the system with which you proceed. Mark is Sales & Marketing Manager at Timewax. He has a background as a project and resource manager with PricewaterhouseCoopers Management Consultants with expertise in the field of Professional Service Automation (PSA)
Mark de Jong
Mark is Sales & Marketing Manager at Timewax. He has a background as a project and resource manager with PricewaterhouseCoopers Management Consultants with expertise in the field of Professional Service Automation (PSA)