How to select application software package for an organization

Application software packages must be thoroughly evaluated before they can be used as the foundation of a new information system. The most important evaluation criteria are the functions provided by the package, flexibility, user-friendliness, hardware, software resources, database requirements, installation and maintenance.

Package Evaluation Criteria

Functions included vary by application. But for the specific application, the following considerations are important:

  • How many of the functional requirements will the package meet?
  • Which functions can be supported only by modifying the package code? How extensive are the modifications required?
  • Which functions cannot be supported at all by the package?
  • How well will the package support future as well as current needs?

Flexibility

  • How easy is the package to modify?
  • What customization features are included?
  • Is the vendor willing to modify the software for the client?

User- Friendliness

  • How easy is the package to use from a non-technical standpoint?
  • How much training is required to understand the package system?
  • How much user control does the package allow?

Hardware and Software Resources

  • What, model computer can the package run on?
  • What operating system is required?
  • How much CPU and storage resources does the package take up?
  • How much computer time is needed to run the package? Database/File Characteristics
  • What kind of database/file structure does the package use?
  • Do the standard fields in the package file correspond to the data elements specified by the application requirements?
  • Does the database or file design support the client's processing and and retrieval requirements?
  • Are there provisions to add customized user fields for data elements that are not standard with the package?

Installation Effort

  • How much change in procedures would the package necessitate?
  • How difficult would it be to convert from the current system to the package system?

Maintenance

  • Does the vendor supply updates or enhancements to the system?
  • How easy are these changes to apply?
  • What is the minimum internal staff necessary for on going maintenance and support (applications programmers, analysts, database specialists)?
  • Is the source code clear, structured, and easy to maintain?

Documentation

  • What kind of documentation (system and user) is provided with the package?
  • Is it easy to understand and use?
  • Is the documentation complete or must the client write additional instructions in order to use the package?

Vendor Quality

  • Is the vendor experienced it, this application area?
  • Does the vendor have a strong sales and financial record?
  • Will the vendor continue to remain in business and support the package?
  • What kinds of support facilities does the vendor provide for installation and maintenance (support staff, hotlines, training facilities, research and development staff)?
  • Is the vendor responsive to clients' suggestions for improvements?
  • Does the vendor have an active user group that meets regularly to exchange information on experiences with the package?

Cost

  • What is the purchase or lease price of the basic software?
  • What does the purchase price include (add-on modules, on-line, retrieval, facilities; consulting time: training; installation support)?
  • Is there a yearly maintenance fee and contract'?
  • What are the annual operating costs for the estimated volume of processing expected from the package?
  • How much would it cost to tailor the package to the user's requirements and install it?

The window on Management examines the issue of vendor quality when other requirements lead the potential purchaser of the package to a small, unknown company.

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