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Best Practices for Midmarket Software Solutions

21 Mar 2016 by Grant Fjermedal

Whenever an organization shops for new software, a world of opportunity opens — as well as some potential pitfalls.

Midmarket organizations require a substantial IT infrastructure — whether on-premises, in the cloud or a combination of the two. Business as we know it can’t operate without an IT foundation, which means that whenever the window opens for a software refresh, your organization should perform a robust discovery process to reassess your needs, and then seek the best solution to match those needs.

A gathering of minds

With so much riding on finding the best software solutions, you’ll want to begin your discovery phase with a gathering of minds by creating a cross-functional team. A cross-functional team provides a wealth of perspectives on what each part of the business needs. Of course you’ll want to have IT on the team, as they can provide you with insight into what is currently deployed as well as integration considerations for new deployments.

Security will need to be involved, as well as representatives from legal, finance, and governance and compliance. You’ll also want a cross section from the different business units, which might include sales, marketing, customer service, HR, procurement, development and distribution. While you don’t want your team to be so large it becomes unwieldy, you do need diverse voices to help ensure all needs are represented during the discovery process.

Another mind to bring into the discovery process is that of an independent advisor. In the same way that your cross-functional team brings together a powerful pool of knowledge from within your organization, you also benefit from the acquired knowledge of independent advisors specializing in the type of software you are seeking. Bringing in the right partner can provide you with a wealth of real-world experience from the advisor’s work with other organizations.

Evaluating cloud vs. on-premises

With just about every midmarket software purchase, the question is (or should be) shall we deploy in the cloud or on-premises? As your cross-functional team deals with such questions, here are some points to consider:

  • On-premises: Necessary expense or competitive advantage?
  • What’s your cloud strategy?
  • What are deployment and operational costs?
  • Will a hybrid deployment better meet your diverse needs?

Organizations that have invested in developing IT-based intellectual property — perhaps driven by analytics, proprietary data mining or other algorithm-driven competitive advantages — may see on-premises deployment as mission critical. For other organizations, pursuit of core competencies doesn’t require owning their own infrastructure. One option is to use a hybrid approach in which some applications and services are cloud-based, while others are deployed and managed as part of your on-premises infrastructure.

Remember: Security first

Security must always be at the top of your list when considering deploying new software — whether on-premises or in the cloud. Exact security needs will vary from one organization to another and will be dependent upon the type of software being deployed, how it will be used, and the degree of integration required with back-end and cloud-based infrastructure.

If considering a cloud-based resource, ask the cloud provider about their security program. This will vary among providers, though. Generally speaking, they shouldhave in place a state-of-the-art security team and defensive infrastructure. If considering an on-premises deployment, ask the same questions of your IT and security teams. How do they handle operating system and application security updates? What proactive threat detection do they provide? What is their threat response plan and capability?

Try before you buy

Purchasing software can be a big expense, and the decisions your team makes can be with you for years to come. This is why a proof of concept (PoC) test can be so valuable. You get to see how it works when deployed within your own environment, handling your own real-world workloads and challenges. A successful PoC ideally serves as the beginning of a long-term relation with the vendor, as you work together to deploy, maintain and enhance the solution. The relationship developed during a good faith, win-win PoC can also result in long-term better cost per seat and lower cost of maintenance, because the vendor doesn’t perceive you as a loss leader, but as a long-term partner.

Learn more

To learn more about midmarket software discovery — including best practices for discovery and pitfalls to avoid, download our Insight whitepaper, “8 Best Practices for Discovery Software Solutions.”