Over the years, we have found that governmental entities have unique challenges as they go through the software selection process. We have identified a few of them below:
- Multiple Departments – Government entities typically have multiple departments that serve different functions and have disparate goals, needs, and requirements. For example, a city or municipality may have Police, Fire, Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Permitting, Finance, Human Resources, Tax, etc. Building consensus between departments is critical to the success of the project.
- Large Functional Footprint – Because of these many departments, government entities have a very large functional footprint. This makes it challenging to find a solution that can do everything that is required from a single system.
- Unique Requirements – There are some very unique requirements that government entities have. These requirements include licensing, permitting, asset management, fund accounting, complex payroll calculations, and many others.
- Best of Breed – Most government organizations run multiple software systems in a best of breed environment. This means that the IT department has to maintain multiple systems, databases, and security protocols.
- Risk Aversion – Most government entities are very risk averse and are looking for a successful and very functional system. ERP selection requires careful examination by each department to ensure that services to constituents are maintained and minimally disrupted. Also, the cost/benefit must be justifiable and stand up under public scrutiny.
- Procurement Process – Because government entities are open to the public, they have to make sure that the procurement process is fair, open, and equitable. This means that most government entities have to go through the RFP process in order to collect bids and requirements from vendors. This can present challenges in how RFP’s are written to attract the most responses, and invite the proper vendors to bid.
9 Key Government Software Selection Tips
Here are some key tips that will be helpful to you as you embark upon a government software selection project.
Government Software Selection Tip#1 – Project Leadership
Government entities need strong project leadership, preferably from within the organization. The project lead should have good organization and communication skills, plus connections across the entire organization so that things can be consensually decided on and performed quickly and efficiently.
Government Software Selection Tip #2 – Project Team and Buy-In
You should have representatives from each functional area on the project team, providing input into the decision making process. You need to make sure that everyone from executive leadership to the end-user is on board with the project. Involving them in the decision making process will bring the organization together and aid in collaboration between departments.
Government Software Selection Tip #3 – Identify Unique Requirements
There are some very unique functional requirements for government entities that other types of organizations may not need, including such things as: Grant Accounting/Management, CIP/Project Accounting, Work Order Management, Position Budgeting, Revenue (License, Permits, Utility Billing, etc.) and much more. Not all software vendors can handle these requirements so you want to make sure that you identify your most important requirements in the RFP that will bring only the most qualified vendors to the table.
Government Software Selection Tip #4 – Request for Proposal
Most government entities are required to do an RFP process for technology procurement. Make sure that your RFP is a “Request for Proposal” and not a “Request for Punishment.” You do not want an RFP that is too long and arduous for the vendors to respond to. While you can always eliminate inappropriate vendors, we have found that the biggest danger with the RFP process is that the right vendors do not respond to the RFP.
Government Software Selection Tip #5 – Software Vendor Analysis
Because of the unique requirements of government entities, not all software products can handle a government implementation. Therefore, it helps to do some research before you issue the RFP to ensure that you make potential vendors aware of the opportunity to respond. There are basically 2 groups of software vendors that should be considered:
Government ERP Vendors – These vendors have developed software specific to the government industry. These are vendors who, although typically smaller in size, have reasonably deep functionality and a specific footprint for local government. These vendors include: Springbrook, Tyler, New World, ACS, SunGard, Harris, and many others.
General ERP Vendors – These represent many of the mid-to large sized ERP vendors that market and sell to many different industries. They are generally not as functional as the government specific vendors in some areas, but have developed some government functionality for other customers. Some of the general vendors have government add-on software that partners have written to enhance the product, while others are gradually adding government functionality to their systems. These vendors include: SAP, Oracle, Infor/Lawson, Microsoft, and others.
Government Software Selection Tip #6 – Clarify RFP Responses
After you receive the RFP responses, you should conduct detailed follow up calls with the key respondents to make sure that you clearly understand their proposals and fit to your organization before making a short list decision. A discussion of the most important requirements will help you get a better feel for their qualifications beyond mere words on a proposal.
Government Software Selection Tip #7 – Hold Scripted Demos
When you get to a Short List of 3 solutions, bring the finalist vendors in for scripted software demonstrations. Make sure that you create a demo script that will enable all departments to view their most important requirements and enable your team to compare the vendors on an apples to apples basis. (For more information on scripted demos see Software Demo Tips)
Government Software Selection Tip #8 – Due Diligence
Make sure that you conduct proper due diligence on the finalist vendors. Do a user visit/call to similar organizations using a script of questions that represents the key areas to support decision making, i.e. regarding the vendor, the application, and the implementation process. The nice thing about government entities is that they are very open to share information. You will gather valuable information regarding how well the vendor worked for that organization, as well as useful tips that will help you prepare for the implementation. (For more information on due diligence see Final Decision)
Government Software Selection Tip #9 – Negotiate the Contract
All software contracts are negotiable. Make sure that you look not only at price negotiation, but also the protections and clauses in the contract that will mitigate risk so that you can protect your own interests both now and through the lifespan of the software. (For more information on contract negotiation see Software Contract Negotiation)