IT managers are highly skilled at defining requirements for new technologies and in planning and implementing projects—but few have extensive experience in pre-buy technology trials.
Technology "try-and-buy" decisions—trialing a new technology in your company before you agree to purchase it—are increasingly common. Companies like try-and-buys because by kicking the tires of a new technology they can feel more secure about a major tech investment before they make it.
In a pre-buy trial, you might find that you have systems that are difficult for the new technology to integrate with, or business requirements that are unique, or users and business processes that aren't compatible.
Of course, business and IT managers want to avoid waste like this. Here's a look at the keys to trialing a new technology in your company before you buy.
SEE: Vendor relationship management checklist (Tech Pro Research)
1. Use your requirements definition document as a starting point
When you first started talking to your vendor, you presented a requirements document that stated everything you were looking for in the new solution. Trialing the solution is the time to take your requirements document and test it against the technology when it is installed at your your company. Is it meeting all of the requirements you set out to meet?
2. Include key checkpoints in your trial that your requirements document may not include
The most important checkpoints to trial that may not be in your initial requirements are:
- Integration testing—will the new technology integrate well with your existing systems?
- Usability testing—how easy will it be for your users to develop fluency with the new solution?
- Stress testing—will the new technology be able to handle heavy loads of data or transactions that your company produces on a daily basis?
3. Trial your prospective vendor's support and training
A technology trial is like an implementation. There are bound to be some glitches. How quickly does your vendor respond to problems that come up? Is it likely that your vendor will be able to provide the levels of training, support, and service you expect from a long-term technology business partner?
SEE: Open source vs. proprietary software: A look at the pros and cons (Tech Pro Research)
4. Don't forget about security and governance
Your security and audit teams should be part of the technology trial. It's their job to vet the system for conformance to your internal security and governance guidelines.
5. Get your influencers engaged and enthusiastic in the trial
It is critical to engage your business users and your key influencers in the trial of a new technology. If these individuals aren't enthusiastic and participatory in the trial, it is best to defer a purchase commitment until the enthusiasm is there.
6. If a technology decision is deferred, revisit it later
Sometimes, lackluster user participation in a new technology trial is more a reflection of poor timing than a lack of interest. If you think the technology is a good idea for the company, keep it on your technology roadmap as a future consideration.
7. Evaluate ROI to the business
Your technology trial should be able to confirm the return on investment (ROI) you originally projected for your company—whether it's a savings in person hours, more rapid times to market, or increased outreach and revenue for sales.
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Have you taken advantage of try-and-buy offers for your organization? Share your experiences and advice with fellow TechRepublic members.
Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry. Mary is a keynote speaker and has more than 1,000 articles, research studies, and technology publications in print.