5 tips for developing selection criteria for your next trade investment project

9 February 2015

Peter Wardle

Peter Wardle


When starting a new Trade Investment project, or any IT project for that matter, there are a number of key decisions which need to be taken at the outset. Considerations like which vendor and technical solution to choose, selecting the right implementation partner(s), and identifying the right resources for the project team are just a few examples of the decisions that need to be made early on to ensure project success.

None of them however, are straightforward, so it’s critical to spend sufficient time developing the selection criteria for the technical solution, and the partner to deliver it, in order to make the right choices.This can be tricky and time consuming, so before you begin the round of product demos and publish your RFP, here are five questions to consider.

1) Cost: Is the price right?

This may sound like a statement of the bleeding obvious, but “how much will this cost?” is likely to be the first question asked by the Project Sponsor and Finance Director, closely followed by “what’s the ROI?”.

Unfortunately, these are often the hardest questions to answer! Why’s that?Well, a robust cost estimate depends upon detailed requirement gathering and the knowledge and experience of your partner, and ROI is difficult to measure if the project is focused on process optimisation.

It’s therefore often helpful to start with a Proof of Concept (a ‘try before you buy’) which allows the business to swallow a bite-sized chunk of cost before committing to a less appetising larger outlay.It also gives the SI an opportunity to demonstrate their capability, for the project team to generate engagement with the business via a solution prototype, and to explore requirements in sufficient detail to generate a robust cost estimate for the final solution.

Fortunately, it is easier to measure the ROI of Trade Investment projects as there are discreet tangibles which can be measured such as forecastaccuracy, promotional spend levels, volume uplift etc.You may not have the time, budget or inclination to run a Proof of Concept, but consider whether investing a little more time and expenditure up-front, will ultimately save costly delays, rework, or overspend later.

2) Partner capability: Have you got the right people on the bus?

Jim Collins said that companies which go from good to great start by getting the right people on the bus.  Well, the same is true for great IT projects. It’s imperative to select the right team, with the right combination of skills, for the project to succeed.  Consider whether your SI has sufficient insight, experience and understanding of your industry, to combine with their technical expertise to deliver a solution which truly meets your business requirements. For example, if you’re developing a Trade Promotions Management solution, does your partner have any experience of dealing with the large multiple grocers who consume such a large proportion of your overall trade spend? Make sure you follow-up those references and speak to other organisations who have worked with your chosen partner to get the inside track on what life is really like working with them after that initial Purchase Order has been raised.

Also, you need to consider whether your partner’s preferred ways of working fits your organisational culture and project requirements. For example, do you favour agile or waterfall project methodology, and what’s your desired balance of on v’s off-shore development?  You may find it preferable to work with an On Shore partner when developing your roadmap, defining your processes and designing your solution, and then off-shore some of the development work.  Alternatively you may want to partner with just one SI for design and delivery. It’s a case of ‘horses for courses’, but it’s important to find the right balance for your needs.

3) Solution capability: Does it deliver what users desire most?

What’s really driving the request from the business for IT to deliver a new solution?Is it better visibility of trade spend, the need to systemise the creation of customer business plans, or efficient processing of trade claims? Doubtless there will be numerous functional requirements, but there will always be a couple which are the ultimate benchmarks of satisfaction from a user’s perspective.

Whatever they are, identifying core requirements and then assessing potential solutions against them is an important stage in the selection process. It is important to understand whether the solution delivers the desired functionality as standard, or requires customisation to do so, and if not, whether these omissions form part of the roadmap for future releases.Managing expectations within the user community is vital to ensure a smooth landing for your solution, especially with sales teams who are not renowned for their patience with IT (I should know, I used to be a NAM!).

4) Fit with the IT strategy: Is your solution future proof?

Nobody knows how business requirement might change in the future, but aligning your solution with the broader enterprise IT strategy will help to ensure that whatever you deliver is well placed to provide lasting value to the organisation. For example, how tightly does the solution integrate within your existing landscape, is it scalable on a regional or global basis, and does it fit with the long-term strategy regarding Cloud, On-premise or Hybrid deployment?

5) User experience: Will users actually want to use this thing?

How many projects have been wrecked by poor user experience with the end tantalisingly in sight? Too many! A good user experience is critical to a successful project, because it drives solution adoption and without it old ways of working will proliferate as users revert to good old MS Excel to plan their promotional investments, or pay lip service to the new solution by simply doing the bare minimum.

It is imperative therefore to include user experience within the selection criteria for any solution, to involve users in the product demos and/or Proof of Concept to capture feedback early in the process, and to make positive user experience a key deliverable. See Is your current implementation sufficiently focused on the user experience? by Cliff Pennycate for further tips on how to get the user experience right.

It might not be rocket science, but considering these five questions at the start of your trade investment journey will help ensure that not only do you reach your end destination, but that your business users are glad to see you when you get there.

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