In order to successfully evaluate and select a software application you must first clearly identify the functionality that you are looking for in the product. What do expect the software to do for your organization? A software requirements document specifically identifies the overall business purpose for the software, includes a more detailed listing of the functional modules, and the general and technology requirements for the software. To create this document you will need to collect, prioritize, and organize the data in a format that will be useable by your internal team as well as understandable by the software vendors so they can assess if their software is a fit for your organization.
Software Requirements Tip #1 – Differentiating Criteria
If there is one tip we can give you for your requirements document, it is to focus on your key Differentiating Criteria. This means that you limit your initial requirements to not more than 2-5 pages of the most important requirements. If your requirements document is too long, the vendors will be less inclined to respond and you will have difficulty making a decision with information overload. Focus on the most important requirements to quickly evaluate your options.
Software Requirements Tip #2 – Business Objectives
Start out your requirements document with a statement that defines the business reasons you are evaluating software at this time. From this statement the vendor should be able to understand how the new software will support you with your business needs.
Software Requirements Tip #3 – Functional Requirements
Your requirements document should define the functional modules that will be evaluated as part of this project. This may require you to translate your business terminology for your processes to modules that are offered by the software vendors. Financial (General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, etc.) Human Resources (Time Entry, Payroll, Benefits Administration, Position Management). Manufacturing (Shop Floor Control, Quality Control, Bill of Materials, Inventory). Within each module, list the specific functionality or requirements for that module. It is not necessary to list every single item, but your list should include enough functionality that will allow you to compare and contrast the different software solutions available to you.
Software Requirements Tip #4 – Technology Requirements
Define specifications your organization has for the technology of the software. These requirements include: cloud vs. on-premises, database preferences, operating system preferences, programming language, hardware specifications, interface or integration requirements to other applications, and IT support staff.
Software Requirements Tip #5 – Vendor Qualifications
Include a request for information about the company supplying the software and/or the implementation services for the software: vendor size, annual revenue, employee count, target user, customer profile data, certifications or partnerships with supporting technology vendors.
Make sure that you:
- Keep the wording of the requirements unambiguous and with a consistent level of detail; be concise and direct. Avoid vague requirements and word redundancies or paragraphs of information that contain multiple requirements. Use terms and acronyms consistently and define them in a glossary. Avoid the use of and/or.
- Have realistic requirements in terms of functionality a software application can provide. If the requirements are too extreme your only choice may be customization of applications that can be costly and not recommended by most software vendors.
- Develop a rating system so that the document clearly defines what requirements are most critical to your final decision. A suggested ranking system may be Required, Important, or Nice to Have.