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New Post 6/29/2011 2:23 PM
User is offline anonymous
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Comparing similar applicatons 

Hi,

I'm assigned a project to compare three similar applications and make a recommendation as to which system should be used and which systems should be eliminated.  The proposed high level approach is to have the business experts identify the core functions and how each function can be objectively measured.  Then, execute the measuring and enter the scores in a weighted decision matrix. 

Does anyone have any experience in doing this type of analysis?  Any suggestions on how to best proceed?

Thanks!

 
New Post 6/29/2011 9:03 PM
User is offline NitWitNick
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Re: Comparing similar applicatons 

Are these 3 new COTS packages that you are reviewing and must give a recomendation on which one the company should purchase?

Or

Are these in-house concepts / designs and you need to select the best one to start development on?

Or

When you say "which system should be used and which systems should be eliminated", are there already 3 working applications the company is using and you want to consolidate them?

Or

Does the company have a current system in place and one of the 3 similar applications you review will replace that current system or interface with a current database?

 
New Post 7/1/2011 12:36 PM
User is offline anonymous
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Re: Comparing similar applicatons 

These are vendor supported apps, two of which are being used by the company.  The third system is not used but per the business stakeholders should be included in the comparison. 

 
New Post 7/4/2011 6:20 AM
User is offline KJ
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Re: Comparing similar applicatons 

Cruscille,

1. Id set the Technical criteria (ease of integration, scalable, would it run on existing equipment, ease of modification etc.) Give each criteria a rating (1-10 equals best)

2. Id set the Functional Criteria (does our core business out of the box; does accounting well but not marketing etc). Give each criteria a rating (1-10 equals best)

3. Draw a matrix, with the vertical axis the Technical Criteria; and the horizontal axis the Functional Criteria. (mark each axis 0-10 or L-H, or 4 quadrants). (Google BCG matrix)

4. Lets say product A is a Technology (2) and Functional (9); product B is Technology (7) and functional (5); and Product C is Technology (6) and Functional (7). Map these points on the grid.

5. Now product A requires a shift from a 2 to a 8 or 9 Technically -> How much would this cost and would it benefit the company (strategy A); Product C requires a functional shift from a 7 to a 9 (this might require software development, and although only two points - you know its never going to happen because its a large ERP system and you are small fry); Product B is a small local software house, and they can enhance the functions from a 5 to a 9 (Development is costly, and they might go broke)

The reason for the low Technical rating for A is youre a Microsoft shop; but the Functional Software runs on UNIX; CIO says no way will they consider Unix. Tuff call. The CIO threatens to resign if the technology platform ever switches to Unix. Solution: Fire the CIO and buy the cheaper hardware.

The reason for mid range functionality for product B is its lack of a good and robust invoicing system. Product B vendor will do some inhouse software development; but no-one at your company has any software development experience. Invoicing is critical to the business. Solution: CIO is happy Microsoft standards throughout the company; major risk - Invoice = Cash flow, and no cash flow = no business.

Final solution: Product B is just too risky. Product A is the one, hardware is relatively cheap and we'll arrange a farewell for the CIO.

Note; the BCG Matrix from Boston Consulting can be applied to IT strategy using the axis I've described. And, like the BCG Matrix, it allows you to strategise your Infrastructure and Functional moves.

warm regards,

K

 

 
New Post 7/4/2011 1:21 PM
User is offline anonymous
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Re: Comparing similar applicatons 

K,

Thanks for taking the time to respond.  I really appreciate it.  Based on discussions with my manager, it sounds like the tentative approach is to use a weighted decision matrix.  The first step in the tentative approach is to work with the business experts in each functional area to identify their core functions and assign weights to each function.  The second step is to identify if each system has a way to perform the core function.  If not, indicate as a gap.  If yes, then identify how it can be measured (e.g., the time it takes to perform the function, the number of clicks needed to complete the function or the number of screens accessed).  The third step is to execute the measuring of each function.  The last step is to tally the results, using a scale from 1-10 and plug the results in the weight decision matrix.   There will also be a section in the decision matrix for the Technical Criteria you mentioned in your step 1 in which we will rate each factor like cost of ownership, scalability, etc.

Does this sound like a good approach to you?  My concern is the amount of time it is going to take to perform this analysis.  I know one of the functional areas has already indicated they have approximately 50-70 "core functions". 

C

 

 
New Post 7/4/2011 6:58 PM
User is offline KJ
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Re: Comparing similar applicatons 
Modified By KJ  on 7/4/2011 11:33:41 PM)

Cruscille,

Doing this matrix and scoring items based on criteria is OK. But what you need to do first is to get "the essential process". This is an offshoot from the old Data Flow Diagrams days.  Many a time when products are evaluated, the focus shifts to HOW functions are satisfied. eg. How the invoice is entered in product A, B and C.

To put it in perspective, you have a choice of three solutions to satisfying the essential processes.  Each of these products will satisfy the essential processes in a unique way. Here is the dilemma, when you ask stakeholders they will tell you their HOW instead of WHAT they do. So when you say, that you have 50-70 "core functionality" - it might be that this core functionality is mapped to HOW things are done NOW. Most stakeholders are not conceptual thinkers, they want to do an "Invoice" in the same way they did it years ago. This is the Subject Matter Expert dilemma, he or she will always tell you HOW they do things  

Its your job to derive the "essential process", FIRST,  then evaluate products A,B and C against these processes and ascertain the gap or improvement.I trust that you have a high-level business process for the core business activity and  somewhere in your arsenal of things, you have end-to-end "essential" processes defined. These "essential" processes constrain the requirements (ie, the system selection are governed by the essential requirement, NOT the HOW). So before you do your step 1, get the business experts in a room and map the "essential" process - the focus is on WHAT needs to be achieved (This conversation is normally technology agnostic).

Lets take a simple essential process statement: "When we ship goods we invoice the customer, right?".

A SME might say "After I've packed the goods, I print an invoice of the items delivered and include a copy with the goods. Some customers want an email of the invoice as well, so I create a PDF of the invoice and email it to them". The essential process here is " When we ship goods we invoice the customer and we use various means to send the invoice to the customer".So when you discuss the "functional" requirements with the Warehouse SME, the SME might insist that they have the capability to create a PDF of the invoice (which is a HOW). Later, In conversation with the Debtor department, you find out that the Debtor SME wants a way to match the warehouse invoice PDF (which is a HOW) against the remittance advice received from the Customer. In fact the entry of the PDF at the customer end to create the remittance advice causes problems and if you now want to replicate this issue in the new systems, you perpetuating a problem.

So you not only need to identify gaps, you also need to identify problem/opportunity areas. Dealing with functional SMEs without the context of an essential process, might mean that you'll perpetuate their issues and select a new system that perpetuates these problems.

Heres a suggestion:

1. get the groups together and identify the high-level processes.

2. identify the issues/opportunities and gaps

3. Consider a new WOW (way of working), perhaps a new process for the warehouse/debtor process

4. Define the functions and new responsibilities; and

5. then map the new systems against the these new WOW and existing functions

All the best.

warm regards,

K

 
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