We are committed to applying methods that are appropriate to each client's needs and requirements.
System Specifications: Requests for Proposal (RFPs) or
Invitations to Tender (ITTs) (in the UK)
Companies planning to acquire third-party systems often make one of two mistakes:
(a) over-specifying their requirements (as if they were building a system from scratch) or
(b) underspecifying, i.e., not being specific enough about critical functions that the business requires.
By working with our clients to identify the truly significant operational and reporting features and functions that will optimize order processing, customer service, inventory management, fulfillment, and eCommerce functionality, we are able to produce "strategic" RFPs that focus on key features and functions in enough detail to determine which vendors best understand the challenges ahead and have the best chance of customizing their solution, as required, to meet them. We have developed a Comprehensive Client Questionnaire to help our clients through this process, in conjunction with our own intensive on-site requirements review and consultation.
We are also familiar with all the direct commerce order processing vendors and their systems (in the US and the UK), and keep our initial list of prospective vendors at a reasonable length (usually 6 -8) to facilitate system evaluations.
Finally, we can assist in helping to negotiate a fair and equitable contract, which gives the vendor a fair fee for services rendered without unreasonably encumbering our client for charges that the vendor ought to bear.
The process of system implementation is often the "make-or-break" phase in the systems life cycle. Prior to actual implementation, we sit down with the vendor and our client to:
review in detail what the vendor is promising to deliver
negotiate the timeframe that must be met
develop a formal project plan (with milestones for deliverables)
review the approach the vendor will take to satisfy those expectations
We then monitor the vendor's progress in following the Project Plan and intervene for "mid-course corrections" as required.
These activities are undertaken in conjunction with helping our clients through the four major phases of the systems implementation process :
The Validation phase consists of the following steps:
Data Conversion, to convert legacy files and databases for use in the new system (often a labor-intensive process requiring manual review of converted data sets)
Test Data Creation, to help the vendor's analysts and programmers meet modifications and customization specifications
Functional Testing: to make sure that modifications and customization have been achieved as planned
Documentation Review: is the entire system documented, including the customized features and functions
The Verification Phase consists of the following steps:
Data Integrity Checking
Regression Testing: does the system integrate as it should with other systems?
Audit Trail Testing
Stress Testing (benchmarking)
Disaster Testing: how does the system recover from a complete failure?
Documentation: we know it's all there, but is it accurate?
The Walk-Through Phase consists of the following steps:
Orientation and training of Walk-Through testers
Creation of system-testing "scenarios"
Live activity testing on a test system
Evaluation of system performance
While training is the obligation of the third-party vendor, we can help to assure that the vendor has an appropriate training strategy, that it is executed to best advantage, and that users are sufficiently empowered and prepared before the system "goes live." We can also assess when refresher training is advisable, and we can help to create an in-house training staff to train new and temporary employees.
Managing The Process of Change
We believe that systems fail for the following reasons:
Poorly defined objectives
No enterprise consensus
No Enterprise Systems Plan
Function "creep" (failure to freeze the project before implementation)
Failure to manage the process of change
In some ways, it's as simple as the old cliche: "plan the work, then work the plan." But the planning process must include all key players in the organization. We are committed to assuring that this happens not only on the front-end, in defining systems requirements, but throughout the systems implementation process as well. It is imperative that users "buy in" to the new system and develop a sense of "ownership." If necessary, we can assist in the creation and management of a formal "Change Team."
We are also aware of the dangers of failing to develop a positive and constructive relationship with the third-party systems vendor. Ultimately, the user/vendor relationship will be a significant part of managing a successful system, and we work with our clients and the client's vendor to make sure that a productive relationship develops.
One of the people who helped me with the response to the RFP you sent us made this comment: "This is the best RFP I have ever had to respond to." The person that said that measures their experience in decades. When I asked "why" they said: "It flows, there's no redundancy in requests, it's easily understood, it obviously took some time, it's well- thought-out, it leaves little to question."