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How to gauge a software vendor’s agility

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Thabo Ndlela, non-executive Director, IFS South Africa.
Thabo Ndlela, non-executive Director, IFS South Africa.

We’re seeing companies scramble to provide customers with fully integrated solutions instead of products (also somewhat clumsily known as “servitisation”) and service organisations come under pressure to better design, produce, and deliver their service offerings (i.e. “productisation”).

As a result of this trend, software agility is becoming more important than ever. As such, your service management software must not only be created using agile development processes, but it must also enable business process agility. Most RFPs don’t significantly address agility and they certainly don’t ask the vendor to demonstrate it.

With that in mind, here are a few ideas on how to gauge a software vendor’s agility:

Ask for a live demo

  • Scheduling optimisation is a key feature in service management software. Ask vendors for live demos to test the scheduling optimisation engine:
  • Give one week of historical scheduling data to each vendor (like 10 techs and 200 jobs in a specific area) and have them schedule it for you. Evaluate the engine’s speed (stopwatch) and the optimised schedule’s travel time, jobs per tech per day, etc.
  • Ask them to change one tech’s labour rate and re-run the simulation.
  • Have one tech call in sick and re-run.
  • Have one tech finish a job early and see what the engine does (and how quickly it reacts) based on this change. You can also see how the scheduler reacts to changes in real-time if you cancel a job.

Mobile Agility
A great mobile app is critical to your success, and user experience is one of the most important selection criteria. You should expect vendors to demo on an iPhone, Android phone, iPad and Windows Laptop. Then ask them to change the mobile user interface (UI) for you, something basic like adding a new field, changing the workflow or colour scheme, on the fly.

Insight to Action
Business Intelligence (BI) dashboards and analytics are important, but all vendors have something to show and will happily demonstrate the bells-and-whistles to you. Stir things up by asking vendors to show you how to create a new chart, key performance indicator (KPI), or summary table, right then and there. Next, have them prove it is role-specific by asking them to log into the app as a different user.

Internet of Things Ready
While it may be premature to expect vendors to demo an IoT scenario end-to-end during the selection process, you should still ask. At a minimum, vendors should be able to clearly articulate their Internet of Things (IoT) strategy, explain the process and basic components, and highlight some successful customer projects. Now that Microsoft (Azure) and Amazon (AWS) have built massive infrastructures to support the next wave of IoT standardisation, beware of proprietary IoT frameworks.

Although you may get some push-back, good vendors won’t shy away. Evaluating vendor agility upfront will help uncover which software best supports your continuously evolving service business.


By Thabo Ndlela

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