Purchasing IT - checklist

Purchasing IT - checklistNo-one wants to waste money buying an IT solution that fails to meet requirements, is unintuitive for users or does not work with existing systems. Here's what to think about before you buy.

  • Appoint a project manager and decide how you will involve users in the project.
  • Clarify what business benefits you are trying to achieve. Focus on these first, rather than looking at specific technologies.
  • Prepare a functional specification saying what the system must do to deliver those benefits.
  • Identify any existing systems the new IT must work with. For instance, if you are purchasing a customer relationship management (CRM) system, it may need to link to your existing customer database.
  • Look for reputable suppliers with experience of similar projects. Ask contacts for recommendations. It's usually a good idea to find a supplier based in your area.
  • Ask shortlisted suppliers to recommend solutions. You may want them to prepare proposals in some detail, especially for significant projects.
  • Identify the most appropriate way of acquiring hardware. For example, is it best to purchase outright, lease or rent?
  • Check what software you require and take advice on the best way to purchase it. Software is increasingly available on a subscription basis, where you pay by the month. It may also be appropriate to use cloud computing services.
  • Confirm who will own the intellectual property in any bespoke software or designs. Make sure you either own the rights or have an appropriate licence.
  • Identify what assistance you will need to set up the system. For example, you may need a supplier to install cabling or set up a new server.
  • Decide what routine and emergency maintenance services you require. These should include backup facilities for important data. Make sure the details are clear in your contract.
  • Identify any training or other support requirements. If an external supplier will be providing ongoing support, make sure you have agreed acceptable response times with a service level agreement (SLA).
  • Break complex projects into small, achievable stages. Set interim milestones and deadlines and hold regular reviews so you're confident things are on track.
  • Get a proper written contract and have it reviewed by a legal expert. If possible, include explicit measures of performance.
  • Plan to accommodate change and unexpected problems. Create a contingency fund and make sure your contract has provisions for change control and dispute resolution.
  • Plan how you will test the system prior to full implementation. Include functional testing (to make sure the system does what it's meant to) and user acceptance testing (to make sure your staff can actually use it effectively).
  • Press for any shortcomings to be put right, preferably before paying. If necessary, take legal action.
  • Review the process of purchasing, implementation and usage. What lessons can be learned? Have you achieved everything you set out to achieve? Is any additional training required to ensure you get the maximum benefit from the system.

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