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Package Evaluation - Additional Considerations

 

 As a packaged software product consultant one typical request that comes from client embarking on a CRM transformation is to find out the best packaged application that meets and exceeds their requirement. For one such request I immediately set out to find the product features of each application from various sources and prepared a list of product capabilities that can be used to compare and contrast. Halfway through the exercise I realized that such material is available in public domain and each product vendor display such comparisons on their website. That led me to think if there are some other criteria that are not considered because we are so 'familiar' with such package comparison requests.

I started to question why does an organization choose product X over Y. Should it only be guided by the capabilities of X and Y? Our clients take tremendous effort to implement packaged applications and expect to reap the benefits of the package over a period of time. What are the benefits? We could immediately list out how the product improves productivity, achieves cost reduction by its operation, enhances user experience; etc. But again these are all related to the product capabilities.

If we take a step back, to see the ecosystem of the packaged application we will realize that there are some more factors at play. I am attempting to list some of them here. It is not exhaustive and the reader may have some more to add based on his/her experience.

For the lack of a better word I will use the word "Ecosystem" to define these additional considerations.

Third Party Application/Marketplace

As most applications especially CRM are in SaaS model we should consider how rich is the marketplace of third party applications. More the applications in the marketplace implies that there are people and companies willing to invest resources in building bespoke applications because they firmly believe in the longevity of the said packaged application. For instance Salesforce.com has 30000+ applications in Appexchange, Oracle CX Cloud has about 585 applications in Marketplace and MS Dynamics has about 180 applications in AppSource.

For a SMB CX offerings from SugarCRM, Sage, Insightly, SFDC SMB edition, Zoho, Freshdesk the vendors themselves offer bolt on applications.

Quality & Availability of implementation Partners

To provide an unbiased view we should list the number of such vendors available and the ease with which such partners are available. A paucity of quality vendors implies either the packaged application has a bad track record of successful implementations owing to factors such as complexity, product vendor support or just plain monopoly of the product vendor. Either ways it means the client implementing the said package is at the mercy of a few partners for implementation and support. Though a small/medium enterprise may be tempted to go purely based on cost and go with a smaller application provider the enterprise may find it difficult to find system partners to maintain/enhance it.

Cost of Partner Resources

This is a direct fallout of the previous criteria as fewer partners imply higher cost.

Qualified Resources

If the client were to manage the packaged application in-house then would it be easy to get qualified resources. If resources are in short supply then the cost of maintenance goes up adding to TCO. The client is then at the mercy of a few qualified resources and their exit could jeopardize the stability of the application and business operations.

It is relatively easier to get qualified resources for CX applications from large vendors like SFDC, Oracle, SAP or MS compared to vendors like Sugar, Sage, Zoho;etc.

 

So, in summary the criteria for evaluation of packaged software applications should not be restricted only to the application capabilities but also the accompanying ecosystem.
Do you feel are there more factors to be considered?

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