Electronic Commerce Solutions - Selection Process and Suppliers' Honest Answers to Your Tough Questions

Author(s):

Russ Boyd
Russ Boyd, Supply Contracts Manager, Perot Systems Corporation, 1201 West 15th Street, Plano, Texas 75075, 972-461-3305 (ph) 972-461-3523 (fax), russ.boyd@ps.net (email)

84th Annual International Conference Proceedings - 1999 

Abstract. What is E-Commerce? Is your definition the same as someone else's? Is yours correct? Is EDI E-Commerce? Who are the emerging E-Commerce suppliers? What are their technologies? These are all definite key questions that need to be answered prior to selection and implementation of an E-Commerce solution. One of the key aspects to this selection process is defining the minimum system and functional requirements of the E-Commerce solution, and then incorporating those requirements into a Request For Proposal document. The following is a guideline of the types of requirements to consider when developing a requirements document. To develop this document, it is important to form a cross functional team of all areas of the corporation that will be impacted by the chosen system, and get their input as to their requirements.

Minimum Requirements For E-Commerce Procurement System

PROCUREMENT REQUIREMENTS

  1. Centralized catalog of part numbers and prices that are accurate and easy to search
  2. Web based order form with quick response time
  3. Automated approval routing with email notification
  4. Ability to check approval status on line
  5. Limited user training on application
  6. Ability to check status of the order (ie: ship date, tracking#)
  7. Ability to click on catalog item and procurement request is populated automatically
  8. Ability to "copy" a previously made request
  9. Reporting ability for requestors
  10. Ability to save the request form if requestor is not ready to submit the order
  11. Ability for remote users to access the form with little "wait" time
  12. Provides real time interface with ERP applications
  13. Ability to print requisitions
  14. Provides on-line help function
  15. SECURITY REQUIREMENTS

  16. Provides interface with current security
  17. Provides application log-on security
  18. Provides guard against data corruption
  19. Provides guard against unauthorized disclosure of data
  20. Provides audit trail
  21. GENERATION OF CONTRACT FORMS

  22. Provides the ability to maintain standard contract forms
  23. INTERNATIONAL AVAILABILITY

  24. Provides the ability to use the software at Perot Systems sites around the world
  25. Supports multiple languages and currencies
  26. Software support is available internationally
  27. PORTABILITY/PLATFORM REQUIREMENT

  28. What are the hardware and software platforms the product will run on?
  29. Does the data need to be converted between platforms?
  30. Are all functions supported on all platforms?
  31. Are there mainframe and PC components?
  32. Is Client/Server technology exploited?
  33. Is the product portable across platforms?
  34. Is the product dependent on a particular release level of hardware or operating system?
  35. INTEROPERABILITY/COMPATIBILITY

  36. Are there any products (hardware or software) that will restrict the use of the product?
  37. Will other products need to be modified in order to run with the product?
  38. Are there compatibility problems with other products?
  39. RESOURCES REQUIRED

  40. What will be the required in terms of facilities?
  41. What will be required in terms of a development environment?
  42. How many employees, and what type, will we need to dedicate to the implementation and testing teams?
  43. What skills will be required of the employees that will be used on the implementation and test teams?
  44. TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS

  45. Require a trial evaluation period
  46. Works with Windows NT authentication
  47. Does the web software run as a background service?
  48. Prefer HTML versus JAVA application
  49. What is the application/transaction size?
  50. What operating systems does your software run on?
  51. Does it support WAN and dial-up users?
  52. Thin client versus fat client
  53. How are new versions/maintenance applied?
  54. How does the cataloging process work? Real-time? Downloaded each time?
  55. What are the minimum hardware and software requirements for the client?
  56. Describe your installation process. GUI based? Script driven?
  57. What levels of expertise are required by Perot Systems to install and support your product?
  58. Is the software Year 2000 compliant?
  59. Can we contact your current customers?

Next, it is important to properly evaluate the solutions and the prospective suppliers of those solutions. The following is a guideline of the process to follow in evaluating the solutions and suppliers.

Software Evaluation Checklist

  1. Introduction
    • Who is participating in the evaluation? (organizations)
    • What business functions will this product support?
    • How are the functions currently being supported?
    • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current method?
    • What comparable products are available?
    • What is known and the expected demand for this type of product?


  2. Financial AnalysisPrice

    • What is the stated retail price?
    • What is the price of maintenance?
    • Is there any additional maintenance discount for central site support?
    • Is there any additional cost for manuals?
    • Is this a replacement for software currently being used?
    • If yes, what is the price of the current product?
    • How many licenses for the current product do we hold?
    • Will this new product save us money over the current product?
    • What is the financial impact of implementation?
    • What is the expected cost pay back period for licensing, if applicable?

    Licensing

    • What are the vendors licensing structure?
    • Is the product available for purchase, lease, or both?
    • What are the time parameters of $0 trial licenses?
    • Is central site support a possibility?
    • Is reproduction of manuals allowed?
    • Is a multi-license discount available?
    • Is the vendor willing to extend contractual terms and conditions internationally, subject to local laws?
    • Is the vendor willing to extend contracts over periods of time longer than one year?

    Vendor Business

    • Can the vendor support PSC?
    • Do we have any other products from this vendor?
    • What is the vendor's reputation with us? Within the industry?
    • Do we have a strategic alliance with this vendor?
    • Does this product fit within that alliance?
    • Can the vendor of this product work with other vendors?
    • Can PSC influence product direction?

    International Availability

    • Can the product be used at sites around the world (customer and PSC locations)
    • Can the product be legally exported?
    • Are multiple languages supported?
    • Is the product supported internationally?


  3. Technical Analysis Documentation
    • Is documentation clear, concise, and thorough?
    • Does the vendor provide soft and hard copy documentation?
    • Is on-line help available?

    Installation

    • Does the product require customization? Is customization allowed?
    • What are the storage requirements?
    • What level of expertise is required to install the product?
    • How many man-hours were required for the installation?
    • Was the product installed correctly the first time the installation was attempted given the vendor's documentation?
    • Did the vendor provide an installation verification procedure?

    Functionality

    • Does the product function as the vendor claims without error?
    • Are the critical requirements met?
    • Are the highly desirable requirements met?
    • Are there additional features? Are the additional features of value to us or our customers?
    • Is the vendor receptive to change requests?

    Interoperability/Compatibility

    • Are there any products (hardware or software) that will restrict the use of the product?
    • Is customization necessary in order to run with other products?
    • Will other products need to be modified in order to run with the product being evaluated?
    • Does the product being evaluated enhance the abilities of other products?
    • Are there compatibility problems with other products?
    • Is the product self-contained or does it require additional products?

    Portability/Platform

    • What hardware/software platforms will the product run on?
    • Does data need to be converted between platforms?
    • Are there other versions of this product that run on different platforms?
    • Are all functions supported on all platforms?
    • Are there mainframe and PC components?
    • Is Client/Server technology exploited?
    • Is the product portable across platforms?
    • Is the product dependent on a particular release level of hardware or operating system?

    Architecture and Standards Security

    • Is the product compatible with our security standards?
    • Is internal security provided?
    • Does the product guard against data corruption, either intentional or inadvertently?
    • Does the product guard against unauthorized disclosure of data?
    • Does the product guard against misuse of system resources?
    • Does the product provide an audit trail?

    Communication

    • If the product has communication facilities, does it use standard communication interfaces and protocols?

    Data Management

    • If the product stores and retrieves data, does it use standard file, character, and data formats?

    Audit and Billing

    • Are audit requirements met?
    • Can the product be billed out?

    Systems Management

    • Does the product support system management functions?
    • Is the product part of an open or proprietary architecture?
    • Does the product provide a software control interface?
    • Does the product generate errors through the control interface?
    • Can the product be changed/reconfigured through the control interface?
    • Does the product support our client/server architecture?
    • Does the product use open APIs?
    • Does the product use object oriented technology?
    • Does the product support migration to open systems?

    Standards Compliance

    • Is the product currently compliant with industry and international standards? List the standards it complies with.
    • Which standards will future releases of this product be compliant with?

    Technology Currency

    • Is the product state-of-art or at the end of the development cycle?
    • Is the product stable enough for our environment?
    • What is the vendor's stated response time to changes in corequisite and prerequisite products?

    Migration

    • Is it necessary to modify application programs?
    • Is it necessary to recompile application programs?
    • Will data files need conversion?
    • Will using the product increase productivity?
    • Will using the product improve quality of service

    Performance

    • What is the cost in resource consumption of running the product?
    • How is resource consumption monitored?
    • Does the vendor document a performance impact on other products?
    • Can the product exploit all the features of the platform it is running on?
    • Is performance measured internally (by the product), externally, or both?
    • Can internal performance reporting be turned on and off?
    • Does the product report its own performance using the standard method for the platform?
    • What tests were run and what was the purpose?
    • What requirements did the performance test address?
    • What was the test environment including, hardware, software, etc. (if significant)?
    • Can the product be reconfigured to change resource consumption usage?
    • What is the overhead for generating performance information?
    • How do the performance test results compare with vendor claims and with evaluation results from comparable products? Are there any significant variances?
    • Does the product meet customer defined performance requirements?

    Usability (training, user interface)

    • Is training required?
    • How much training is required?
    • Is training available from multiple sources, or must the vendor be used?
    • How frequently is training available?
    • Where is the training available?
    • Is the cost of training included in the license?
    • Is an on-line tutorial available?
    • Is the tutorial comprehensive?
    • Can the user choose specific topics in the tutorial or must it be done in a specific order?
    • Is there separate documentation for the tutorial?
    • Are there separate tutorials for different user levels?
    • Are the tutorials accurate?
    • What are the prerequisites to learning this product?
    • What level of expertise is required by users?
    • Will the product decrease the need for expertise in its area?
    • Are the screens clear and well designed?
    • What is the subjective user opinion of the product?
    • Is on-line help provided?
    • Is on-line help context sensitive?
    • Is the help accurate?
    • Does the on-line help point the user to sources for more detailed information for clarification?
    • Does the on-line help instruct the users on more advanced or efficient ways of accomplishing the task or function?
    • Can the user browse the help information?
    • Is the on-line help information consistent with the documentation?

    Support/Maintenance

    • Does the vendor provide maintenance on a regular basis?
    • How are fixes applied?
    • What is the format for fixes or updates?
    • How quickly does the vendor respond to technical questions?
    • How many levels of support are provided?
    • What is the apparent level of competence of the support staff?
    • What are the hours that support are available?
    • If errors were identified, were these errors quickly identified, diagnosed, and solved?
    • How often does the vendor distribute a new release?


  4. Recommendation
    • What is the evaluator's recommendation for this product?

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