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Tuesday Tech Tip,September 10, 2013 Print E-mail
Wednesday, 11 September 2013 12:14

Crafting the Dashboard Needs - Start with the Software

I really liked this article about selecting a solution for your company.  It’s a little dated, written by Kishau Rogers in November 2011, but everything he wrote is still true and still informative.  The solution you select based on this process should use some sort of visual information dashboard to allow you to see into your entire business.   

10 Criteria for Selecting Business Software

Selecting business software can be a daunting task. The good news is that there are plenty of applications available for supporting most critical business functions. However, at some point you may become overwhelmed with the number of options, features and pricing models. Organizations generally seek technology as a method to increase productivity, solve issues and save money.  Not having a well-defined strategy for purchasing software could result in the purchase of varied software products and services that actually cost you more money in the long term, due to long-term maintenance costs, lack of use or the use of similar systems to fill in the “feature gaps”. You may find that purchasing a more expensive and stable software product will replace several inexpensive and less effective products, which could in turn reduce the time spent maintaining and integrating many ineffective software products. To ensure that you select cost effective software solutions that meet a specific business need, use the following criteria in evaluating software.

1. Why do you need this software application?

The purchase should be closely aligned to an actual business need. Example: We need a centralized tool that would allow a team of up to 50 researchers to collect, validate and report their research data.

2. Identify your priorities.

Your priorities are important in evaluating and comparing the capabilities of various products.  Be specific.  For example, “It is important that the tool be installed in a central location and available for researchers to enter data ‘in the field’. Also, it is important that we can export data for other uses or to integrate with other reporting tools.”  You may find software packages that offer many features, but do not provide a solution to your primary issues.  However, you should not allow a plethora of less important features (“shiny objects”) to distract you from your solving your more important issues.  Identifying your priorities will help you choose a package that fulfills your most critical need; other less important features should be “icing on the cake.”

3. Mission Critical vs. Business Critical.

Is this a mission or business critical application? A mission critical application is critical to the proper operation of your business. If the application fails or is unavailable for any length of time, it could be detrimental to your business (ex: financial/banking services). A business critical application is essential for your employees to perform their duties and responsibilities. While it is important that these applications do not fail, a few hours of downtime may not put you out of business. This is important to note as you evaluate vendor credibility, product reliability and support offerings.

4. Vendor Credibility & Longevity.

For obvious reasons, you will want to learn how long the software vendor has been in business. It is also important to evaluate their current customer satisfaction rates. NOTE: This is not to suggest that you should not use software developed by start-ups. However, you should understand the risk to your business if for some reason the vendor does not stay in business. There may be other factors that will make you comfortable with selecting the product, such as extended reference checks and high customer satisfaction rates.

5. Software Reliability.

How often is the software unavailable or offline due to technical issues? On average, how quickly are technical issues resolved? To find this information, you may ask the vendor, browse their support forums or simply contact their existing (and former) customers directly. If this is a mission critical application, you will definitely want to speak with a few of their existing customers.

6. Operations Integration.

How does this product integrate with your current operations? Does it replace a manual process? Who will use it? Where? When? How?  Develop a plan for integrating the software into your current operations.   Be specific regarding who will use the system and how they should use it.  This will help you in determining if the software capabilities will meet your existing business need.  For example, if you need staff to access the package while away from the office, you will need to select a package that allows remote  access.

7. Support Model.

If you or your employees experience an issue using the product, how will you receive technical support? Does the vendor provide phone support or support via email only? What is the standard response-time for responding to technical issues? Is there sufficient documentation and knowledge bases available for self-service? Do you have to pay extra for support?

8. Scalability for Growth.

Does this product remain useful as your business grows? How does the pricing increase as your business grows?   You want to avoid “sticker stock” if it’s necessary for you to add new users and/or features.  Some products offer reasonably priced “lite” or starter versions, however the pricing may increase exponentially if the full/enterprise version is needed.

9. Pricing.

Review pricing once you’ve evaluated the vendor, product capabilities and determined if this is a mission-critical application. The pricing should support the capabilities, scalability, and level of support offered. Also, if it’s a mission or business critical application, you don’t want to trust your entire business in the hands of a start-up offering a free product. Not that free products are bad or useless, but as the old saying goes “you get what you pay for.”

10. How Will You Measure the Return on your Investment?

Does this improve a business process or reduce long-term costs? Before signing any contracts or making a purchase, define how you will measure the return on your investment. Does this product replace another, more expensive, business tool? Does this product improve the speed of a critical business process, thus reducing operational costs? Does this product improve the quality of work or the quality of your product or service offerings?

Tuesday Tech Tip,September 3, 2013 Print E-mail
Tuesday, 03 September 2013 22:00


Hi Everyone,

I hope you a wonderful Labor day weekend.

Did you hear?  Google’s Self Driving Car has been cruising through Blacksburg, Virginia.  Speculation suggests the Virginia Tech Smart Road may facilitate testing of this futuristic machine.  Congressman Bob Goodlatte took a closer look at the vehicle and Google gauged his reactions and that of the Blacksburg populace to that driver-less car.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping to see this innovation I have been following years.

And what better way to introduce the importance of a dashboard then the car that requires input over steering?

The dashboard or console of your business works much like this amazing car; it totally relies on where you want to go.  The goal you select gives you the latitude and longitude of your destination. Like the car, you will need to run the analysis of the path to that goal.  Let’s use Pronets as example.  We decide our goal is to reduce ticket time on our repairs.  Now we figure out how to get there, and design the map to guide us.  We want to make sure all of our staff is well trained and develop standardized questions to ask and quickly ascertain the client’s problem.  Google’s Self Driving Car uses lasers and cameras in addition to the GPS map builder to judge its surroundings and react properly to its immediate stimuli.  Your dashboard needs to be able to do that for your goals.  In this instance, I would want to see current ticket time closures.  I would want to analyze how many of my staff has certifications.  I would want to judge how many times my standardized questions successfully drilled down to the correct problem.  All of these graphs should be readily available to me in a dashboard.  I can then make better informed decisions, like selecting certifications that everyone MUST have or adding additional questions to help properly identify a user’s issue.

Business Intelligence helps guide a business to its goals.  The dashboard is your means to get there.  This week think about what your true business goal.  Remember this activates the guidance process!

Want to see how a driverless car works according to Google:

Want to see how business intelligence works:;list=PLWeRrYyP6wqe1XWOTpq_4bsqT0o7Ndu60


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