March 25, 2021
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How to pick the right software platform without getting fired

“No one ever got fired for buying IBM.”

Or HP. Oracle. Salesforce. Right?

Rooted in the shaggy-haired, pocket protector-wearing, proto-digital era of the 1970s, sources indicate this phrase came about when IBM had locked up 60% of the computing market share. Because back then, if you picked anything other than IBM for your computing needs, it was perceived as a huge risk.

Skip forward to today. The Martech 5000 looks less like a structured guide and more like a Rorschach chart and a dirty petri dish had a giant baby. Choosing a new ecommerce, CMS, DXP, or PIM platform for your business is beyond difficult—it’s downright risky.

So just buy IBM, right? To avoid the firing and all.

Well, if you had done that for your ecommerce platform, as 44 of the Internet Retailer top 100 companies had done throughout the 2010s, by 2019 you would have found your platform sold to an overseas conglomerate and your ecommerce business bravely facing an uncertain future. IBM, in fact, had fired you.

But you can’t blame Big Blue for that. The platform landscape moves very quickly, with new players rising, niche players innovating for specific use cases, and acquisitions, acquisitions, acquisitions. (I heard a saying that it three times makes the IPO genie appear somewhere?)

IBM’s dominant ecommerce platform of the 2010s was built for desktop, but it was not agile enough to adapt to mobile or emerging content channels. Its fall now stands as one of the enduring case studies proving that one gigantic, enterprise size will not fit all.

Choosing the wrong platform is easy. And getting fired is bad. These are the facts.

And if you’ve been put in charge of picking a new platform for your organization, it’s most likely not because you spend 40+ hours a week living and breathing platforms. So, it’s logical to search for some outside help in choosing which platform is right for your specific application.

That’s where hiring a partner who does spend the majority of their time working with platforms can really help reduce your risk and speed up your time to making a great decision.

Because we focus heavily on ecommerce, CMS, DXP, and PIM platform evaluations, Ntara’s process differs from that of a generic software consulting partner. We know these platforms well because we use them every day for our clients. In addition to our hands-on implementation experience, we also draw upon over 15 years’ worth of data from our historical consulting and platform selection projects.

If you choose to partner with us to help you choose your next platform, here’s what you can expect.

What we’ll deliver

Our platform evaluation offering is a custom study that centers around your specific use case, in your specific industry, with your specific technology staff and your specific business goals. Through our proven evaluation process, we’ll create a framework to objectively uncover the best platform solution for your business. We’ll also do the heavy lifting with the platform vendors so you can keep your inbox clean and your sanity intact.

Our platform evaluation process

We start our ecommerce, CMS, DXP, and PIM platform evaluations by talking to people throughout your company who will be affected by implementing a new technology. These discussions help us determine exactly what the new platform should do and assign order of priority and intended impact to each feature.

When we talk to your company stakeholders, our goal is to marry the company’s business goals to the relevant criteria required by each software platform, with a time horizon of 12 to 36 months. This approach uncovers the expectations of each executive, and it signals to our team specific features to consider in future platforms.

Technical requirements are considered, such as cloud or on-premises deployment, single-tenant or multi-tenant SaaS, etc. We consider implementation preferences (such as a solutions integrator or agency versus an in-house team versus a hybrid approach) and cost models and preferences.

Different business goals have different platform requirements. If you’re ready to start an all-new ecommerce site, for example, you’ll have different needs than someone already selling thousands of products online. If you sell medical equipment and therefore store personally identifiable information (PII), you’ll have much different data protection requirements than a company that sells clothing. Implementing a PIM system for the first time looks quite different than swapping out a legacy PIM platform.

Our process is designed to help you get past the marketing hype and determine what platform features matter to your business goals. The latest, AI-driven technologies that can predict a B2B buyer’s muffin preferences might be splashed across the front page of Forrester or Gartner, but if it’s not relevant to your business goals, then it’s just a blueberry-scented red herring.

From there, we create a business requirements document (BRD) that lists all stated requirements. And if that’s all we did, it would greatly help you to pick the right platform and not get fired.

But we don’t stop there.

Using a criteria-weighing method, we prioritize each requirement against its relevance to the business outcomes. This creates a weighted scorecard that will act as the framework for our platform evaluation. Because stakeholder interviews rarely capture all needed features, Ntara also includes a baseline set of requirements for your industry, drawn from our 20+ years of experience.

Vendor entrance criteria

Only after your business requirements are detailed and weighted is it time to look at what platforms to include in your evaluation. This scorecard is your source of sanity and what allows you to choose platforms that are relevant to your business—as opposed to ones that have spent the most VC money on marketing this year.

To do this, we will help you to set up “entrance criteria” for up to five platforms for more detailed evaluation. Platform cost, development language, partner model, deployment options, and the like will be considered to get you to a strong short list of options.

In order to slay the hype beast and get you software that works, the platforms we evaluate may or may not be featured by Forrester or Gartner (unless, of course, that’s part of your entrance criteria).

For one, if you’re paying us to help you, it’s because you’re looking for a more specific recommendation than the general ones offered by the two advisory giants. And secondly, there are a myriad of outstanding, market-stable platforms that do not meet the relatively high revenue requirements of major publications.

Our process sifts out what the software can do rather than merely highlighting its market footprint. This means we can evaluate both small, nimble companies and large, established companies to find the right solution for you.

Narrowing down the list

Once we have selected our list of platforms to evaluate, we contact them on your behalf, representing you throughout the selection process. This saves you the time, effort, and headache of fielding all of the inquiries from each platform.

After we brief our shortlist of potential vendors on your project, we have them complete our scorecard. For each requirement, they score their own platforms on a scale from “not available” to “best-in-class,” helping us further narrow down the list.

Each vendor who passes the scorecard round will give your company a demonstration of their platform. This time, it’s your turn to keep score. You’ll grade each vendor on their features and how well you think they match your needs.

Our technical team (including experienced business analysts, senior developers, and seasoned marketers) will then complete a third round of scorecards and do a deeper technical dive into each feature. We keep all scores sequestered until they are completed, which greatly reduces bias and can help expose when a vendor’s software promises are out of line with the reality uncovered by the implementation team.

For example, if a platform scores itself a five out of five on API documentation, that might sound great. However, as part of Ntara’s evaluation our business analysts will actually review the API documentation. If we find the documentation incomplete or lacking, this will be noted and the scores compared.

In our 20+ years of software implementation, it is details such as these that are often to blame for platform selections gone awry (and subsequent firings…well, maybe). If you’re not using a weighted scorecard that is evaluated from multiple angles, selections can often come down to which platform had the best demo, or which salesperson had the most charming delivery. (This is a vaunted and valuable skill but not indicative of a platform’s ultimate success.)

When we reconvene, we’ll present you with the full scorecard, including initial platform pricing, our recommendations, and a SWOT analysis. These recommendations will present our objective assessment of which platforms will best meet your business’s needs.

Proof of concept

If scorecards and recommendations aren’t enough to seal the deal on a decision, we can also create a proof of concept (POC). This gives your company an opportunity to see just what the platform can actually do and how well it meets your needs.

If you’re on the fence between platforms, a POC is a lower-cost, lower-risk approach to ensure the vendor walks the walk and doesn’t just talk the talk. It’s a great option for companies that want to take an additional step to ensure they’re investing in the right platform.

Get in touch

You can spend a lot of time, effort, and money to get the “best” platform. Or you can let us help you find the right platform that makes the most sense for your business. If you’d like to discuss a platform evaluation for your business and stay clear of the firing line contact us.

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