An organization which is unable to identify software to meet its requirements to may get assistance of suppliers. The user and suppliers both can set out the specification for the required system, explaining how it is to be used and setting out the timescale for implementation. It will set the performance criteria required of the new system, particularly transaction volumes, processing speed, response times, and output types. A target prices will also be stated.
After assessing your requirements you may invite tenders from range of suppliers. If they require further information before submitting their tenders, they will also be able to to contact the organization to obtain further details. Response to an invitation to tender may vary from the sending of standard brochures and price lists, not tailored in any way to the organization's needs, to offer to visit the organization's site and provide a free demonstration of software and its capabilities. This may make a direct comparison of different tenders difficult.
Once vendor proposals have been obtained, they must be evaluated. Evaluation becomes very complicated if there is any doubt about systems performance, as this may necessitate a test of the system. The vendor will usually try to match the customer's profile with that of an existing customer to demonstrate that the system can handle such a workload. However, if the application is usually or new, this will not be possible, and so a formal evaluation using benchmarking may be appropriate.
a. Benchmark Tests: (Performance Evaluation Tools)
Since there are many factors involved in measuring the performance of a system, it is not a easy job to compare one against another. One way of comparing power is to conduct benchmark tests. These tests how long it takes a machine to run through a particular set of programs. There is some concern that some benchmark tests created by manufacturers are designed to give the most favorable results to their product. Also. it may be hard to say that one system performs better than another, as it may depend on the application used.
Benchmark tests are cried out to compare the performance of a piece of hardware or software against pre-set criteria. Typical criteria which may be used as benchmark include:
- Speed or performance of a particular operation
- Acceptable volumes
- General user-friendliness of software
Benchmarks do not have to be objective, though clearly with subjective tests, such as user-friendliness, it may be harder to reach to a definite conclusion. An organization should always carry out its own benchmark tests rather than rely on those provided by suppliers.
Cost is obviously an important factor. By shopping around, a customer might be able to negotiate quite a large discount on the price from a supplier.
c. Software Support:
In a similar way to hardware maintenance, a software supplier should be prepared to offer software support to the customer, in case the customer runs into difficulties (e.g. accidentally wipes out the contents of an important file). The supplier should give the customer a "hot-line" to telephone in case of difficulty, and if necessary, send out a specialist to the customers premises to help to resolve the problem. Software support, like hardware maintenance support, might be "free" for a short time, and then be provided at a cost.
An other element in the purchase deal could be training of the customers staff. there might be an agreement by the supplier to provide training for a specified number of the customers employees probably on the suppliers own premises for a specified period of time.
- How many will be trained?
- How long will they be trained for?
e. Tailor Made Amendments to Software Packages:
The customer might be able to persuade a software house or supplier to write some tailor-made amendments to an off-the-shelf package, to make the package suit the customers requirements better. The customer might be able to persuade the supplier to write the amendments (and test them) free.
f. Keeping the Package up-to-date:
New improved versions of popular software packages are frequently brought on to the market. Occasionally, errors in existing packages are discovered and corrected. The purchase deal for a software package should specify what arrangements there will be, if any, for the software supplier to provide the customer with any amendments or enhancements to the software as they occur.
There is a long checklist of points to consider when choosing a suitable package:
- Does the package fit the users particular requirements? This should cover such matters as report production, anticipated volume of data, data validation routines and any omissions which the user might compromise on.
- Does the package come with useful "add-on" facilities? for example, on purchase of financial accounting package you will get payroll management software free.
- Is the processing time fast? If response times to enquires are fairly slow, the user might consider the package unacceptable because of the time wastage.
- Is there full and clear documentation for the user? The user manuals shouldn't be full of jargon (technical terms) and hard for a non-technical persons.
- Can the supplier/dealer demonstrate the packages?
- Is the package easy to use?
- Is the software user friendly with menus and clear on-screen prompts for the keyboard operator?
- What controls are included in the package (e.g. passwords, data validation checks, spelling checks, standard accounting controls and reconciliations, an audit trail facility etc.)?
- What if a fault is discovered in the program by the software manufacturer?
- Can the package be modified by the user - e.g. allowing the user to insert amendments to the format of reports or screen displays etc? Or will the software supplier agree to write a few tailor-made amendments to the software user?
- How many other users have bough the package, and how long has it been on the market?
- Will the package run on the user's computer?
- Will additional peripheral equipment have to be bought?
- What support and maintenance service will the software supplier provide, in the event that the user has difficulty with packages?
|How to Buy Software
- Getting ready to buy:
Whether shopping for system software or applications software, you need to be clear on a few things before you buy.
- Do you know your needs?
Before talking to anyone about software you should have a clear idea of what you want your computer to do for you. Are you mainly waiting research papers? Keeping track of performance of employees reporting to you? Projecting sales figures? Building a mailing list? Launching a fund-raising campaign? Publishing a newsletter? Teaching children about computer? Or worry about CCPT (computer course practical training, 90hours course for ICAP foundation level students)? you want to machine to serve you, not voice versa. Do you need to share documents that you create with other users? If so, what programs are they using?
- Do you know what software you want?
The safest course is to pick software used successfully by people you know. Or look for rating in the leading computer magazines. Brands that consistently get high ratings in magazine reviews are generally likely to be reliable.
- Do you the latest version & releases?
If you know the name of the software you want to use, or at least inquire about, is much better. If you have a particular brand and type in mind, make sure it's the most recent version and release. A new version of a software packages resembles a model change on a car. It adds all kinds of new features, generally making the software more powerful and versatile. Version are usually numbered in ascending order like MS Windows 3.1, Windows 3.11, Windows 95, 97, 98, & 2000.
A release number identifies a specific version of program. A program labeled 5.2, for example, is the third release of the fifth version. (the first and second releases were 5.0 and 5.1.). New releases generally incorporate routine enhancements and correct the irritating errors called software bugs. Experienced users have a horror of using the very fast version, version 1.0, of anything because the software generally still contains numerous bugs. Most software manufacturers are continually upgrading their products. Often the upgrades are made available usually online, over the Internet at considerably less expense to purchasers of earlier versions.
- Do you know if an upgrade is coming out?
Find out if a new version of the software you're interested in is just around the corner. You may want to hold off buying until it's available. Up grades are to software as new models are to the auto industry. Every year or so, software manufacturers bring out a new version or release featuring incremental improvements, just like the car makers do.
- Will the salespeople speak your language?
Selling ice cream does not require a lot of product knowledge. Selling software does. Some salespeople know their wares but talk down to newcomers to try to impress them with their knowledge. Others have only the scan test familiarity with their products, although they may be patient with beginner questions. You want someone who is both knowledgeable and helpful. That may require a little investigation on you part.
- Software sellers: The rang of outlets:
The types of software sellers are as follows:
a. small hardware and software retail stores
b. small retail stores for software-only
c. Computer superstores
d. Electronics office
e. Mail-order companies and direct mail
f. Software manufacturers (vendors) via their web sites
- Sensible software shopping (some tips):
In software shopping, you're concerned not only with getting a good price but also protecting yourself if things go wrong. Here are few tips.
a. Ask what follow-up help is available:
it's worth asking what kind of follow-up help the software sellers offers. Actually, most retailers doesn't provide any such assistance, although they may provide classes for an extra charge. Many software packages come with some sort of tutorial to help you get started. The tutorial, an instructional book, videotape, or floppy disk, will lead you through a prescribed sequence of steps to learn the product. the software manufacturer through a telephone a number generally offers technical support. Some manufacturers provide toll-free numbers some do not.
b. Confirm the price:
Catalogs and ads are frequently revised. Sometimes there are hidden extra free such as shipping charges, restocking charges, if you return merchandise, or extra fee for credit card purchases.
c. Ask about money back guarantees:
If you open a software package, try it out, and find you don't like it, you return it? Be sure to ask. Some sellers will make refund, others will accept only unopened software, some will make money back guarantees only for 14-30 days after purchase, some nave no time limit on software return. In many event, save your receipts and be sure to try it out the purchase within the allotted time.
d. Pay buy credit card:
Weather buying in a store or over the phone buy mail order, use a credit card, which gives you some control to cancel the sale.