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Computer software consists of sets of instructions written in computer language to address particular tasks. In all sectors, software is used to address specific needs. For example, a Banking application handles banking operations and functions, while Human Resources software treats payroll, personnel and other employee issues.

Choosing a Software package is a common task embarked upon by most computer users. Some get it right. Others are not so lucky. What happens in practice? Very often, irrelevant factors are used to acquire Software. Ridiculous factors such as the mood of the MD, the vendors relationship with Admin staff, Systems purchaser's opinion of the face of the marketing staff, and of course the good old "job for the boys". Careless decisions are very costly in terms of wasted funds, time and opportunities.

To avoid the "Failed Automation project" syndrome, proper Software evaluation must be done before acquisition. Software acquisition must be directed to meeting functional needs. Quite often, software is acquired before business or functional requirements are considered. This is an anomaly.

Functionality is of critical importance. The functions required from a banking software by Bank A may not be the same required by Bank B. Don't just copy company A and acquire the software they use because you are in the same line of business. What are the issues the software should address for YOU? What are the problems that require attention? What is critically lacking in your present system? Is the application addressing issues that have to do with your Operations, Strategy, Management or Planning? You must be clear on this issue. Otherwise, in no time you become frustrated and become one of the "Computers Cause Confusion" Complainers.

Cost is a critical business issue that must be addressed. Can the proposed investment be justified by expected benefits? What is the cost range of products that can give the functionality you are looking for? Similar products often have different costs. But what matters most is that what you choose must be affordable and cost-effective. Cost is an important issue, but it shouldn't be a sole determining factor. Closely related to cost are the payment terms and warranties.

Portability (the ease of transferring the software between systems) is an issue. How critical is the portability of the Software to your operations and contingency requirements? The combination of Programming language and Database system used to develop the software is equally of strategic importance. Just as hardware capabilities have grown tremendously, there is powerful software now, which improve programmer productivity and software output. But beware! There is a lot of hype in the Software market. Simply because there is a lot of jargon flying about a new "super" program - a Visual "DOALL" does not make it the most suitable for you.

Some Programming languages, which were extensively used over the years, are now more suited to education and research. You should be put on alert if your proposed package in uses such software. This can create a danger with respect to support and flexibility. Support for such programs is already poor, and may be totally absent in future. Modern software tools with new and advanced techniques, invariably add the invaluable element of flexibility.

In this light, it becomes necessary to evaluate the nature and flexibility of Query and Reporting facilities. Are the query facilities comprehensive or flexible enough to meet your needs? Never forget that the ability to provide fast, easy and accurate Information storage and retrireview is one the reasons why computer technology has buried all other forms of Information Management.

Ease of use is important. How easy is the Software to use? This is essentially related to the User Interface. Is it too complicated, or straightforward for the operators? Is it based on Graphical user Interface (GUI)? With the advent, dominance and influence of Windows, GUI is the trend nowadays.
The performance of the Software also needs to be evaluated. What is the response time to queries, updates, report requests, etc.? What is the data speed like, especially in a network? What is its Volume capacity? Related to performance are the resource requirements. What combination of resources is required to make the software perform optimally? Resources to consider include: memory, disk capacity, processor, backup medium, printers, network configuration.

Your investment in Information Technology can be rendered valueless in minutes without adequate risk control measures. Acquiring a system without adequate Backup and Recovery procedures is a waste of valuable resources. Practice safe computing by making sure your software has effective Backup and Recovery procedures.

Security management is a vital aspect of risk control. Are you comfortable with the validation routines, as well as the level of access control and authorization? Are the audit trails comprehensive enough for your control requirements?
Furthermore, your peculiar Customization demands must be considered. These are issues such as modifications, updates, conversion, interface to other systems. How easily can the system be customized to your satisfaction? In this respect, what are your documentation requirements? Documentation may be provided on-line and on hard copy. What are your needs? Be clear about your needs.

Training is an issue that is often overlooked. Training must be practical and functional. Training and other similar issues make it obvious that vendor support is critical. How much vendor support does the software need? And how often does it need support? A software that needs constant vendor support is clearly not well tested or developed. Do an independent check on the vendor. What is the vendor's post implementation support like? Software must address your future. Are future business requirements considered? How does it and how will it fare with growing convergence of computer and communications technologies? Don't choose software that will "lock you in".

What is the vendor's attitude towards modifications and enhancements?
The "right" software is a tool that will not only enhance your efficiency and performance, but will also enable you to meet challenges and create opportunities through the use of Information and Communications Technology. The "wrong" program can lead to waste, or even disaster. The choice is yours. Look well before you leap.


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