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Tech Tips    

A sign hangs high above the floor of the Five Points MARTA commuter transit station in downtown Atlanta.  When the Five Points station was opened in the early 1970's, this state-of-the-art solar-powered sign was supposed to show the current time and temperature to all of the travelers making their way through MARTA's busiest rail station.

 

Today, the sign is BLANK.  It hasn't worked in decades.  Maybe it never did. 

 

MARTA's new general manager, Beverly Scott, calls the sign a "monstrosity".  She says that it's time "to get the doggone thing working or get it out."  Unfortunately, the sign has been unused for so long, that none of the current employees know how to make it work.  It looks like the sign will be removed.

 

Many organizations can relate.  Old, dead pieces of technology linger in our offices, often unused, taking up space. If they are being used, they don't do the job very well. They add little or no value to the work we do.

 

This month's RoadMap, Software Selection Phase 2, will help you select technology that fits your needs and that will bring value to your organization.  We hope that following this RoadMap will prevent you from being known, long after you retire, as the person who brought that technological dinosaur into your organization.
Software Selection RoadMap
Roadmap
Phase 2 - Vendor Selection

 

1-Identify potential vendors
You will be amazed at how many software vendors want your business.  Your biggest challenge will be to identify the relatively few vendors who will most likely meet your needs (the long list).  Once you have gathered information from the internet, it is time to talk your colleagues and industry associates to find out what software they use, whether it fits their needs and whether or not they are happy with the vendor support of the product.  If the timing is right, you may want to attend a trade show to talk informally to a number of vendors. 

 

2-Issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) and Evaluate Proposals
Use your RFP to communicate the requirements you formulated in Phase 1 uniformly to all of the vendors you are considering. Ask specific questions about cost, project timeline, technology platform, vendor support and customer base.  Answers to these questions will help you cull your list of possible vendors down to a short list, which should be no more than 6 vendors.  It is a lot of work to evaluate each vendor on the short list so you will not want to select too many vendors to go to the next stage.

 

3-Invite selected vendors to Demonstrate their software
Invite the vendors to visit your location and present a demonstration of the software.  Make sure that all members of the core team are in attendance at every demo.  Some vendors will want to demo the software over the internet.  If you are talking about purchasing a very expensive software package, you have every right to insist that the vendor visit your location so that you are able to meet with and evaluate the vendor in person.  Beware of vapor-ware. Vapor-ware is some part of the software the vendor is trying to sell you that is really not there.  It is a "picture" of something that they would like you to believe is part of the functionality of the software, but, in reality, has not been developed yet.

 

4-Call references
Interview references as rigorously as you would interview a new employee. It is best to call the reference and set-up an appointment for a conference call with the members of your core team. Have a checklist of questions that you ask every reference.  Schedule some time immediately following the reference call to discuss the responses among the core team members.

 

5-Make sure that the proposed system will meet your specific needs
By now, you should be able to select a final list of vendors.  Select no more than 3 (too much work) and no less than 2 (no competition among vendors).  Bring the vendors into your offices to do a proof of concept using your data and your workflow scenarios. Create a script which goes through a day in the life of your organization.  Make sure you identify important business processes, documents and reports. This is a time consuming task for the vendor and for you, but you will only be going through this process with the vendors who are most likely to get your business. If you are asked to pay a vendor for the proof of concept, make sure that you get a fixed price quote for the work before you decide to go ahead with the vendor. 

 

6-Make sure that you know the total cost of ownership for each system
Understand all costs associated with the software.  The original license fee is not the only cost.  There are recurring costs as part of all software purchases including yearly license fees, implementation costs, support costs, hardware, networks and communications costs.  Know these costs for each software candidate before making a decision.

 

7-Negotiate price and contract terms

Do not accept the vendor's original quote as the final price.  Negotiate.  Make sure that the vendor believes that there are at least two software systems that will satisfy your requirements. Never let the vendor know that you have definitely selected their product until you have negotiated the best possible deal.

 

8-Install the system
System installation and configuration is the joint responsibility of you and the vendor.  You will have to agree on a timeline for the project to ensure that your system is up and running when you need it.  Make sure that you are happy with the way the vendor proposes to assign staff to your installation project.  Also, don't forget training.  The vendor is responsible to ensure that personnel in your organization know the capabilities of the system and how to operate it. Make these issues part of the contract.

 

 

Congratulations!! It's been a long process!!  The system is installed and you are ready to use your new software tool to accomplish your work more efficiently!!

SmartSite Technology is the virtual IT Department for small and medium sized businesses and non-profit organizations.  We provide all of the information technology services that a business needs to compete in today's marketplace.
 
Our goal at SmartSite Technology is to help each of our clients to be a success!! We know that technology is not a core competency for many small business owners and non-profit professionals. We believe that every organization benefits when they automate their business processes. We work closely with all of our clients, especially those who are the least comfortable with computers and technology, to help them fine tune the automated processes used in running their business. 
 
Contact us today to discuss your most pressing technology problems.
Sincerely,
 
Tech Tutor
SmartSite Technology 
February 2008
In This Issue
Software Selection RoadMap
Your Tech Tutor Says...
 
Don't Violate Copyright Laws!!
tutor pic number 1

 

Ask permission before you copy anything!!
 

The board meeting starts in an hour.  You are putting the finishing touches on your presentation and you would like to add music to make the presentation more engaging. You go on the internet and find the perfect song by a popular country artist and add the music to your presentation.  Your presentation is very well received and a member of the board requests a copy of the presentation to show during a television interview he has agreed to do in the morning.   

 

Success!!  But wait...you have a problem.  Copyright violation!  You cannot use that piece of music in your presentation without the permission of the copyright owner.

 

--Copyright laws protect the intellectual property of the copyright owner from infringement

--Material published on the internet has the same copyright protection as printed material

--Graphics and multi-media files have copyright protection

--Material does not have to be published to have copyright protection

--A copyright notice and copyright registration is no longer required

--Assume everything is under copyright

--Exceptions include facts, slogans, titles, simple phrases and works of the US Government
--Exceptions do not apply to state, local or foreign government works

--To be safe, never use any printed or electronic material without obtaining permission from the copyright holder first
Quick Links
 
An Excellent article by lawyer Kathy Biehl exposing Nine
 
 
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