Choosing the best software and vendor for your business
Updated: May 5, 2019
Your core contract management systems are at the heart of your business and replacing your core systems is a large undertaking, frequently disruptive, impacting your employees, business partners and customers alike. So it’s important that you choose the right software and, just as importantly, the right providers that will work for you for many years to come. In this post I’d like to highlight a few things to consider in the selection process.
The 3Ps of business (Product, Process, People) are often used to describe a successful company and are also useful for system selection.
Assuming you’re in the market for an off-the-shelf system, then of course you need to find one that meets your system requirements. Convert your requirements into an RFI, if necessary, followed by an RFP. RFI, RFQ, & RFP: What’s the Difference provides a useful summary of each. The RFI/RFP format must allow for systematic analysis of the responses so be sure to include the importance (e.g. using MoSCoW) of each feature, which you might choose to disclose or hide from the vendors, and categorised answers (e.g. “fully supports”, “partially supports”, “package enhancement”, “custom enhancement”). Where a feature isn’t fully supported out of the box you might want to ask for an estimate for the required enhancement, although beware of overly optimistic estimates. Also ask for a brief description of how the requirement will be met by the system.
Your RFI / RFP should also request high-level estimates for the implementation (design, development, integration, testing, change management, data migration, project management and application support, etc.) so that you can shortlist the suppliers based on functionality and price.
Shortlist 3 or so vendors to attend workshops. The purpose of these workshops is for the vendors to demonstrate how they will meet your requirements. Beware of any vendor who follows their own script, you need to ensure that they meet your requirements. In advance of the workshops you will need to provide them with the scenarios to be followed. Firstly, provide a set of representative contracts, covering all of the key variables such as repayment structure, interest calculations, fees and charges, securities, and accounting (our post on system requirements has a more comprehensive list). Each vendor should be able to load these into their system, achieving broadly similar rates and accounting calculations. If they can’t then system enhancements will be almost inevitable; it’s imperative that your existing product set is supported, especially if you’re intending to migrate your contract portfolio to the new system.
Next, provide an outline of each of the key business processes that you need the system to support. Generally, it isn’t necessary to provide detailed process descriptions because each system will be different, and you’re looking for a vendor who will propose the best, ideally pre-configured, process for their system. You need to provide enough leeway for them to showcase their software. For example, this might be sufficient detail at this stage:
Process a refund:
Record the details of the required refund
Refer the refund for approval, subject to user approval limits (“four-eyes” approach)
Issue a direct credit to the customer:
Allow a customer to restructure their remaining repayments:
Calculate the new repayment structure and issue a quotation, e.g. by email or customer portal
Upon acceptance by the customer, automatically determine whether new credit underwriting is required
Apply automated underwriting and/or refer for manual review
Upon approval update the contract with the new repayment structure
Automatically identify new delinquency and send initial correspondence, e.g. by email or an alert to an app
After a pre-determined period, escalate the case to an agent based on case characteristics.
The last bullet, for instance, allows each vendor to showcase and discuss how cases can be prioritised and assigned within their system, and what automated processing is available. The workshop demos should prompt discussion about your detailed processes; so make sure you have all departments represented, as well as consistency across sessions.
If you can, have a play on each system yourself. Is it easy to find your way around without help? Do you find it pleasant to use? Consider both the end customers’ and your employees’ experience. Whilst your employees have no choice but to use the system, a pretty, well-designed system will enhance their daily working life and contribute to a better overall work environment.
And finally, take a look at the tech stack. Does it align with your own technical strategy? Is it simple to integrate with, both upstream and downstream? Is it hosted by the vendor and/or installed on your own network (we’ll look at hosting in more detail in a later post)?
How well will the vendor’s processes fit in to your own organisation? Do they have an implementation methodology, and how will it fit into your own? How do they structure their teams, for instance do they adopt a more collaborative approach with customer and vendor representation in all teams, or a more formal handover approach?
How about their software development process? Do they engage with all their customers to create a customer-influenced product roadmap? If any system changes are needed to support your requirements, how will these be designed and delivered? Will custom enhancements make taking future upgrades more difficult? How do they verify the quality of their software, for instance through both manual and automated regression testing? How frequently do they produce package upgrades, and what is the process for adopting them? What is the release process? Is there adequate segregation of duties between development and deployment? How is a package progressed from development to test to production? What about support fixes? How are fixes applied to both production packages and future major releases?
What is their delivery record like? If they say they have a 100% delivery record, what does this really mean compared to the original scope and timescale of the project? How do they manage scope and change control?
What is their approach to integration with other systems in your IT landscape? What is their approach to data migration from your existing systems?
You will be dependent on the vendor, and other third parties, during the implementation and in live operation. Try to meet everyone who will be involved, from your initial meeting with the sales teams to the implementation team to the application support team to company management. There are plenty of stories in the software industry where the knowledgeable sales team has handed over to a disappointing implementation team so make sure the implementation team has a comprehensive understanding of your business and the wider industry. And just as importantly, do they fit your organisation? How much time will they spend on site with you, vs providing remote support? There’s a balance to be had here – on-site teams come at a cost but may be much more effective.
How is the application support team set up? What are the team’s hours? Is it on shore or off shore or follow-the-sun? How does the team(s) keep up to date with changes made to the product? How well will the team(s) understand your business?
Moving beyond selection
Once you have a preferred supplier be sure to take references. Can you take a reference from any of their customers, and if not, why not? A falling out, for one reason or another, is normally the cause; we don’t know of that many companies that will refuse to give a reference as a matter of policy.
When it’s time to start formalising a proposal and contract, how does the commercial team negotiate with you? You want a long-term partnership, and not be held to ransom once the software is live. What is important to them, what are their red-lines? Beware of tactics to delay finalising contracts while the implementation progresses, ideally you should have full contracts in place before you start paid for work.
How Finaptix can help
We have been involved in supplier selection as both a customer and a vendor so are well qualified to help you. We understand financial services, especially asset finance, so already know most of what you are looking for.
Our background is in software delivery and support so we know the pitfalls that major systems projects encounter and can help you to mitigate that risk though negotiating strong contractual terms with your software vendor. Contact us today.