Categorized | Software Selection

Requirements definition

Clearly defining the requirements for a Integrated Workplace Management Solution is underestimated quite often and will inevitably lead to poor satisfaction. Therefore, this article is extremely important as part of the Software Selection Series.

Goals

The Request for Information will serve as a first point of contact with the vendor. Since the journey from project initiation until closure will take quite some time (6 months +) this phase of the selection procedure is primarily to gain mutual confidence. But…

Writing a Request for Information document can be is extremely time consuming and is boring not something people tend to like. We have been in your position for over a decade now (in software selection procedures for several Fortune 500 companies) and came accross most of the problems you are facing right now. Therefore we have created a best practice structure that you can help you to structurize your requirements definition process. 

Most of the information in the Requirements Definition should be reused in the Request for Proposal (RFP). Therefore it’s most important to keep this in mind whenever you sit down to define your requirements. Also keep in mind that this phase of the selection procedure is about gathering information that can help you to complete the selection procedure.

Structure

  1. Introduction
     
    The introduction is primarily used as a starting point for commercial vendors. Identify yourself towards vendors. What organizational part is requesting information?  Add a statement that clearly describes that the only purpose of this document is to gather information that will help in writing a Request for Proposal. 
  2. Background
     
    This section helps vendors to understand what the current situation is in your organization and how your situation evoluated. Items that you should list here are: trends and developments (mergers/acquisitions), previous initiatives, organziations involved, etc. Don’t mention your goals and objectives yet. These are to be discussed in another section.
  3. Scope of the project
     
    In this section of the Request for Information you clearly outline the scope of the project. What does your organization want to achieve? What are the results of the project? But most importantly, when is the project considered a success.  

    1. Objectives
       
      What do you want to achieve with the proposed system? Is it just integrating all applications in one system? Or reducing the number of applications to be maintained? Or perhaps you want to enhance the customer satisfaction of your employees? This is still high level.
       
    2. Results
       
      What are the results you expect to be achieved? E.g. 20% cost reduction in service desk fte’s, 3% space vacancy reduction, 15% less critical standstills in your HVAC installations. As you can see these goals need to be very specific and detailed as the success of the project needs to be measured according to these results.
       
    3. Success Criteria
       
      In addition to the results above some success criteria should be taken into account that have to do with the project itself. E.g. The project needs to be live within 6 months, including data migration, interfaces etc. All Service Desk Employees are trained before live date. The entire Real Estate Portfolio needs to be in the database before date x. In this section you define when a project can be considered a succes. Please make sure that you list all MUST HAVE SUCCESSES.   
  4. Vendor Questions
    1. About the Vendor
       
      It’s important to have solid information about the vendor. You want to know that this vendor will be around by the time you have finished your project. In addition to that, you want to be sure that the vendor can correctly implement the system according to your requirements. Questions you could ask: 
       
      – What is your annual revenue over the past 5 years?
      – What is your customer base?
      – In how many countries do you operate?
      – Do you have subsidiaries?
      – How many employees does your organization have? 
      – Of which how many contractors?
      – How many employees are in Sales & Marketing, Senior Management, R&D, Services, Training, Support?
      – What percentage of your annual revenue is reserved for R&D?
       
    2. Functional Requirements
       
      In this section you should write your functional requirements. Remember that the Request for Information is not a Request for Proposal and thus doesn’t need to have the same level of detail as a RFP. The answers to the questions provide the input for your RFP.
       
      As a suggestion:
       
      – Please provide a detailed description about Preventive Maintenance
      – Please provide relevant material about Lease Management
      – List your reporting capabilities
      – How does your solution audit / log information?
       
    3. Technical Requirements
       
      To be sure about the technical fit in your organizations IT Infrastructure you need to set some technical requirements (together with IT) otherwise you will be in trouble later on in the project.   
       
      Questions you could ask include:
       
      – Which OS does the solution support (Windows Server, Unix, etc)
      – Which databases (+versions) are supported?
      – What is the dominant programming methodology?
      – How many databases does the product use?
      – Also ask for schematics and diagrams of the solution
      – How is Security handled?
      – Provide minimum software and hardware requirements
        
    4. Implementation Method
       
      When the selected vendor comes to implement the proposed solution you want to make sure that your objectives are met. Therefore a structured implementation method is necessary.
       
      Questions you could ask include:
       
      – What is the average through put time for a similar project?
      – How many members does an average project team have?
      – With what experience?
      – How do you handle data migrations?
      – Describe your implementation methodology.
      – Which phases do you recognize in a implementation procedure?
       
    5. Maintenance & Support
       
      After the implementation is completed you want to make sure that the you are supported when working with the solution, therefore you could ask the following questions:
       
      – Do you provide 24/7 support?
      – Do you provide technical support in case of critical standstill?
      – Do you provide a support website?
      – Do you offer annual maintenance which includes upgrades, patches, etc.?
      – What is your Annual Mainteance percentage? 
       
    6. References
       
      It’s difficult to compare references with eachother, however references are a good indication of an organizations ability to execute. If you want to compare relevant references please ask for:
       
      – Three references in the same vertical as you are in
      – Three references with the same functional requirements as you have
      – Contact Data of the references
  5. Selection Procedure
     
    To clarify the entire selection procedure a section has been created in the Request for Information about critical dates, response format, the way to ask questions and contacts.
     

    1. Critical Dates
       
      To streamline the selection procedure it’s imperative that you list activities and corresponding dates, therefore iwmsnews.com suggests the following:
       

      Activity Deadline
      Letter of interest  August 21st, 4:00PM CET
      Response August 29th, 2:00PM CET

       By listing activities and corresponding deadlines you structurize the entire RFI process.
       

    2. Response Format
       
      One important part of the Selection Procedure is the way you want the vendor to deliver its’ response to you. Please describe whether you want to have hard or soft copy. And if hard copy, how many. Also list the activity and deadline in the Critical Dates table.
       
    3. Questions
       
      Sometimes descriptions of requirements can create unclarity. Therefore you need to decide wether you want to grant vendors the opportunity to ask questions. If you do allow them to do so set a specific time and incorporate the activity and deadline in the Critical Dates table.
       
    4. Contact
       
      Finally you have to decide who is primary vendor contact and the way you allow correspondence between your organization and the vendor. E.g. only communicate via e-mail besides the Questions meeting, or only by phone. This is pretty much depending on your own preferences.
  6. Disclaimer
     
    Last but certainly not least the disclaimer. Make sure you list everything regarding the selection procedure here.

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