Taking responsibility for an enterprise-class software purchase and implementation can be stressful. All those people. All that money. All those expectations. TechRepublic's Patrick Gray has a few useful suggestions for buying big software packages wisely.

His top four tips:

  1. Buy based on the business case: Evaluate your software decision in light of the business case that triggers its purchase, and demand the vendor demonstrate how its software will support your key business processes.
  2. Factor in all the costs: The best way to get a handle on costs is to investigate past large implementations at your company. Look at the amount of customization that was required versus what was expected, and use that to extrapolate implementation costs.
  3. Get "real" references: Insist on talking with current and past customers of the provider. Past customers that the vendor provides were likely successful implementations, but currently implementing customers represent more valuable feedback, since the jury is still out.
  4. Stack the team in your favor: Ensure your team retains control of scoping decisions, and don't shy away from bringing in an impartial advocate to evaluate the project team's structure, checks, and balances before the implementation even starts.

Always take your time, do the research, and seek out experts other than the people trying to sell you the solution. After all, with software this big and this pricey, it's guaranteed that you'll be living with it for years to come, so getting it right the first time will save you lots of pain down the road.

-- Don Willmott