In fall of 2004, Zach Tirrell and I developed these steps to lend consistency to the evaluation of products to met the technological needs of our constituents.

In building this, our main concerns were that all potential users and stakeholders were identified and involved before product choices were discussed, that open source and homegrown applications be considered alongside commercial solutions, and that all peripheral costs (support, upgrades, hardware, training) be considered as part of the price of implementation.

Sadly this did not gain widespread adoption in our department. Despite that, some of us have followed these steps and found the process useful.

In the future I may elaborate on these steps; however I consider most of them self-explanatory. Please feel free to post comments if you have any questions about these steps.

10 Steps to a better product choice

The following steps are designed to be used in conjunction with normal project management procedures to ensure due process is given when considering technical solutions.

  1. Determine initial user base and stakeholders
  2. Determine requirements and dependencies (desired features, architecture, budget, etc.)
  3. Re-evaluate user base and stakeholders
  4. Repeat step 2 for new user base and stakeholders if necessary
  5. Identify 3 or more potential solutions. Consideration should be given to what products are used in other similar institutions. Commercial, open source, and homegrown solutions should all be considered
  6. Compare the delivered features of each potential solution against the defined requirements and dependencies and list any additional benefits
  7. Estimate the implementation costs and timeline for each potential solution. Estimate ongoing costs including licensing, server upgrades, IT support, helpdesk, product upgrades, patches, etc.
  8. Compile report including return on investment, costs, requirement/dependency fulfillment, and features
  9. Choose the solution which best fits the requirements and dependencies
  10. Implement the new product

project management, technology, software, software evaluation, product development, management