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Specify before you buy – getting the right technology solution for your business

The aim of a system specification is to help identify and document your business objectives and the associated technology requirements. A good specification then forms an excellent starting point for any discussions you have with suppliers about potential solutions.

So, you’re thinking about buying a new car. You’re looking for a four door model for the family, an estate version for the dog, excellent miles per gallon and low running costs.

Essentially what you’ve done is develop a specification of your requirements, which will help you to select the car that most closely meets your individual needs. Well, purchasing technology solutions for your business should be no different.

There are a variety of on-premise, hybrid and cloud-based hardware and software systems which can help you to grow your business by improving its efficiency. The availability of superfast broadband has only extended this choice. Making the right choice of technology can have a really positive impact, but make the wrong one and you could be saddled with an expensive mistake for a number of years.

The aim of a system specification is to help identify and document your business objectives and the associated technology requirements. A good specification then forms an excellent starting point for any discussions you have with suppliers about potential solutions.

Focus on the business need

First and foremost it’s important to remember that any investment in ICT should be part of your formal ICT strategy which not only supports your day-to-day operations but also provides a framework for the future growth of your business.

The key to developing a good specification is to focus initially on the business drivers for acquiring a new IT system. Engage with your teams to ensure important operational and managerial factors are considered, getting early buy in will always help the eventual deployment of any system.

For example, you may be looking to automate your accounting activities, so you need to establish the features that will be important to you. Aside from enhancing the basic accounting functions, your two main requirements may be to integrate accounting with your payroll and have the solution available on both your tablet and mobile phone. Consequently, the business drivers are streamlining your accounting processes to provide a more efficient service, integrating accounting and payroll, and ensuring you have 24×7 accessibility.

These drivers should remain at the forefront of your thinking throughout the development of the specification and during the subsequent procurement exercise. 

The system specification should, therefore, focus on what is required, rather than on how it’s going to be done. Having identified your requirements they should be written in a way that is clear and accurate, indicating which of these are absolutely essential and which are simply “nice-to-have”.

A win-win scenario 

At the procurement stage a well written system specification is a winner not only for your own business but also for any suppliers that you might approach.

From a supplier’s perspective it will provide clarity on exactly what type of solution you are looking for and the main features that will be critical in the selection process. So, there’s no second guessing your requirements and no time wasted in coming up with a proposal that simply doesn’t meet your needs.

This will enable you to quickly and easily compare various offerings and identify any requirements that have not been fully met, or indeed any alternative or innovative solutions that may be offered.

 Find out more in our guide: Developing the Right System Specification for your Business

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