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Saturday, May 31, 2008

I read with great interest the March Smart Talk column “Evaluate Software Vendors Carefully.” The points presented are extremely important. Of course, a complete list of considerations would be lengthy and can be situational, but I wanted to add a few additional items.

As you rank the features and benefits you desire in new software, do not forget to include the features in your current software that you do not want to give up. For example, if you use your current software to track asset depreciation, be sure that any prospective software offers a method for handling that task, as well.

When assembling your team for software evaluations, be sure to include staff that may not directly interact with your current software. Your finance department, for example, may use raw data outputs or extracts from your current system to assemble period-end financial reports. Be sure any new software can supply the data needed in an acceptable manner.

Know what “third parties” may be involved. What hardware vendors or adjunct software vendors (databases, operating systems) will you need to contract with for maintenance/upgrades? Will all of these costs be covered in your master agreement?

If you are leaning toward a “hosted” solution, important new questions arise. Who will be hosting your data? What is the business continuity track record for the facility? Will there be an uptime or service level agreement (SLA) in place? The list of questions for hosted solutions can become lengthy, as well.

Remember, a new system is seldom implemented as quick and easy as portrayed. Nor is it necessarily as difficult as we sometimes make it. It is, however, a serious top-down commitment of resources that you must be ready to make and keep. You would not build a new office with plans to underutilize its capacity, and you should not do that with a technology commitment either.

Randi Neal, Homecare technology advocate