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Selecting Quality Software

Nancy L. Pasquan, Principal, Eyes On, Inc., Escondido, CA, USA

Keywords: Quality, Software, Vendor

Industry: All

Level: Basic

Abstract

This presentation will provide listeners with take-aways that they can use when selecting a new software application for use in an organization or when selecting a consultant to build or customize an application or tool. There are many software applications to choose from for whatever problem you are trying solve. Choosing the right one for you can make all the difference in both time and cost savings.

Selecting a new piece of software or a software supplier or consultant can be a daunting task. If you are a very small company with limited resources, it is even scarier, since so much of the business may depend on that choice. It isn’t a first date – it’s more like an arranged marriage! It is not the same process as for buying a hardware component or hiring a subcontractor or contract manufacturer. While there are some similarities, the differences can be frightening to someone without some background or guidance.

The first step should be an examination of who you are as an organization and the outside influences that can affect your choices. Are you a manufacturer? Design Service provider? Consulting firm? Are you in a regulated industry? Are your customers regulated?

Next is to determine why you want a software application. What is it that you need it to do? Use caution here – don’t decide based on what that last application did or what you are used to. Really consider what the software must do as well as what the software must be. “Do” includes things like field validation, date formats, database size, interfaces with other applications and the like. “Be” can include compliance with particular regulations, ease of data migration from legacy systems, portability, reliability, etc.

Comparing one application or solution to another is sometimes like comparing apples to oranges. Your requirements from the previous step are the obvious first step. Research into the vendor’s existing customer base and the feedback they are providing can be instrumental. Certifications and consideration of options (validation packages, add-ons) and configurability or customization can also be deciding factors. Cost of ownership is a critical part of the equation. Are consultants mandatory for customization and maintenance (SAP, anyone?). How often are updates available and are they mandatory? What is the learning curve? Seat licenses? Database size? Support options?

Pitfalls are many! Some of the most common are going with what worked at your last job, buying version 1.0 (not always bad, but…), hiring cousin Vinny, settling for Excel, going with the big names when you are still small, choosing a small company solution when you are almost past that point and others. The presenter will share issues observed over a long career for applications for eQMS, ERP, MRP, LIMS, LMS, Calibration/PM, Manufacturing Control, Document Management, and others.

Being a good customer can make a difference in how you perceive your new system. Asking the right questions up front, building a relationship during implementation, and providing feedback can make both you and your vendor better at what you do.
















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(*) based on previous conference attendance






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