Secret life of an IT manager - How to choose the right software for your company

I’ve shared my experiences with you, warts and all, as I took on a new position as the IT Manager of a small manufacturer. I’ve had to rise to the challenge as “the only expert in the village”, and become a technical guardian-angel. Now it’s time to try and impart some final words of wisdom.

We all go through the challenge of convincing our boss that a large investment in technology is right for the business in the long-run, but as I am now out the other side of that long tunnel, it definitely feels like we’re moving forward as a business. With the investment made, I now need to train 100 users on the system. I’ve convinced my boss of the benefits of the software, but persuading the team that this is a better way of working is a whole new challenge.

I told you, I’m a guardian-angel of sorts and after having my manager’s nephew in the office for a few days last week, I’ve realised this even more. He’s going to be shadowing my training over the week and is keen to get an insight into the wonderful world of IT.

He’s coming in at a good time, there’s a lot to see and get to grips with, and it turns out he is actually pretty clued up on the IT infrastructure of a manufacturing firm–a project at Uni, he says. That’s great news so I’m keen to take him under my wing and show him that a career in IT isn’t (always) as dull as it’s made out to be.

He’s keen to hear more about the new implementation of ERP software and the process behind it, so I thought it would be best to start at the beginning by explaining the many steps of the initial decision making process, and show him that an IT manager can have significant influence on how a business evolves and grows. It was of course a process that took a significant amount of time and input from various levels within the business, but I was interested in at least sharing an insight into the factors behind our eventual decision. Here are some of the words of wisdom I shared: 

“To be honest, making a software purchase can be a bit like getting lost in a maze. Turn left and you might be led down a complex path of locating software that doesn’t quite function the way you need. Turn right and you might be in for an uphill struggle of mounting costs and slow service. As a first port of call we wanted to reveal our business ambitions to the vendors so that they can suggest the options that will fit with the overarching business strategy. Of course, there is always the motivation of a sale from the vendor’s side, and it can take a bit of weeding to get through that initial sales puff, but any vendor worth its salt will be able to honestly guide you in the right direction about the best solution for the business’s requirements.”

Never a dull moment

I think it took him by surprise, ‘What? A software vendor can help with the decision?’. Well essentially yes, they’re the experts in what their solutions can provide, so us IT managers need to listen and collaborate from the beginning. “Another value is  they go through this cycle of purchase with many customers each year and can share the best practice model to help us with the process and the cultural changes involved.”

“Considering that we were replacing legacy software, it was tempting just to write a list of what annoys us about the old software. However, we needed to bear in mind our future business goals. The new software might need to cope with 100 users this year but what about in five years’ time? It was important to ask questions such as—what is it about our existing system that we don’t like? Why is it not fulfilling its purpose? We listed our functionality requirements to make sure the new software allows for the changing demand of our products and the future growth of the business.

From there the money does do some of the talking. It goes without saying that it’s always going to be a big investment but I needed to prove ROI. To do that, I had to consider budget alongside a wider discussion about the benefits that we could expect to gain from the software, as well as the long-term maintenance costs. It’s important to remember that ROI measurements must take more into consideration than just initial cost-per-user.

“So, there I was, the middle man, trying to convince everyone involved that this significant investment is best for our long-term business aims. For anyone else in the same boat, I would say make sure you’re highly informed, and not there with your head in the clouds plucking business goals out of thin air. With the right information behind you, educating your colleagues that the investment is a sound one shouldn’t be a bewildering task. Similarly, an important part of making our decision was assessing the level of support that each vendor offers. Whilst most vendors will include support and upgrades in their sales packages, as a one-man-band I had to make sure that the vendor was able to offer additional help with training and ongoing support, whenever I may need it.”

He was nodding away and I hope I injected a bit of life into what is often (rightfully) considered a time-intensive, and research-heavy process. Ultimately, once you cut through the marketing waffle and know which vendors can give you the most support, the process is just that little bit easier.

After my initial spiel about the decision-making process, I think it’s fair to say I haven’t completely turned him off IT management. But that said, it is only Monday afternoon and he has a week left… Joking aside, I’m secretly enjoying having someone else as part of my mini-team, and sharing insight into the project I’ve been incubating over the past few months. It isn’t all dull over in the world of software implementation you know–I promise. Now it’s just convincing the next generation of IT managers of the same thing. Wish me luck!

 

Dave York
Image source: Shutterstock/niroworld