An Enterprise Software Buying Guide, Part II: Cross Functional Team Formation

In our last post, we overviewed the basic eight-step process that should be followed whenever you embark on acquiring a new piece of enterprise software. In today’s post, we start our deep dive into the process steps, starting with the issue of cross-functional team formation.

1. Form a Cross Functional Team

The starting point is to form a selection team that consists of representative stakeholders from each group that will be using the system, each group that will be paying for the system, and each group that will be supporting the system. This will help fully define your needs and requirements and ultimately insure that no solution is shortlisted that doesn’t meet a basic need of one or more parties (and minimize the chance that you buy a(nother) multi-million dollar “shelfware” product). It’s also necessary to insure you don’t buy a product that one or more intended users will boycott (which could result in your selection being a failure and a money-pit from day one).

In supply management, the following stakeholders will need to be represented in every purchase:

  • Buyers
    Buyers, or a subset thereof, will be the primary users of the system.
  • Procurement Managers
    Supervisors, Directors, and the CPO will need to track the activity of their buyers, track spending, and, most importantly, track productivity increases and cost avoidance.
  • Accounts Payable and/or Accounts Receivable
    Supply management is all about buying and realizing savings, especially those that take the form of discounts, rebates, warranty claims, and returned overpayments. Even if AP and/or AR doesn’t need to use the system directly, they will still need the data from the system.
  • IT
    Even if it’s SaaS, IT is still going to have to support the system one way or another. If it’s on-premise, IT will likely be responsible for the installation, maintenance and upgrades. If it’s hosted ASP, IT will need to manage the remote integration with the other systems that need to push data into and pull data from the new system — and, no doubt, run security checks and audits to ensure that the hosted software passes basic security checks. And even if it’s SaaS, IT will still have to support the requisite environment as most software is only certified for specific browser-based environments (such as IE 7 and/or Safari 3 on Win XP SP2+, Vista SP1+, or Mac OS X 10.4+) if it’s thin client, or specific operating system configurations if it’s fat client (such as Win XP SP2+ with Cisco VPN software).

Furthermore, the following departments will be affected by certain types of supply management software acquisition:

  • Risk Management
    If your organization has a dedicated risk management function, since every aspect of supply chain involves risk, you’ll need to involve risk management.
  • Strategic Planning
    If you have a long-term strategic planning division, and you’re buying software that supports scenario planning, what-if modeling, or (network and/or market) simulations (like strategic sourcing or supply chain network optimization), you’ll likely have to consult with strategic planning.
  • Legal
    If you’re buying a contract management system with contract authoring support, for example, legal may end up being a primary user.
  • Human Resources
    If you’re buying software to support the procurement of temporary labor, you’ll need a sign-off from HR.
  • Regulatory Compliance
    If you’re buying a global trade management system, a carbon emissions tracking system, or a SOX compliance system, you’ll likely need to make your selection under the guidance of regulatory compliance.
  • Production
    If you’re buying software that impacts forecasts and production plans, you’ll need to work closely with production.
  • R&D / Engineering
    If you’re buying software that impacts or supports PLM (Product Lifecycle Management), you’ll also need to involve R&D and/or Engineering as it will critically impact their operations.

In our next post, we will discuss need identification and documentation.