Can it handle my process problem?
Not all process improvement tools are the same, they each have particular strengths. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security with an overview or a canned demo. The vendor is going to show you things that they can do easily which may or may not match with your needs. You will need to make a list the major types of problems you want to include and have the vendor show you how that particular problem will be addressed
How easy is it to learn and use?
You’re already busy or you wouldn’t have a job in process improvement! Ask specifically what capabilities have been developed to help you learn the software and become productive quickly. It isn’t more features that make it easy-to-use but the features designed to solve the problems.
Does it require training?
Training is seldom needed to perform the basics in any system. Online tutorials and
comprehensive manuals make getting started a snap. The problem is that real processes are generally complex, requiring the use of combinations of features to model the process accurately. The real answer is to put your people in front of a mentor with extensive process improvement experience. Training is a minor expense in comparison with the potential benefit you will realize.
What will it cost for ongoing maintenance and support?
There are three major types of support: Pay per incident; yearly fee; and free. Customers have reported support fees exceeding the original cost of the software. It is likely that you will want to speak to knowledgeable people that know how the software works. Understand the real costs before you buy.
How will I be supported after the sale?
Some companies outsource their tech support to foreign countries. Others hire college students’ part time to answer questions by learning on the job! Talk with the actual people that will be helping you answer your questions post sale. Get a feel for the level of expertise and willingness to assist. Find our how far they will go in helping you to solve problems.
Can it be deployed quickly?
Does the product reside on the server or can it be deployed at the PC level? PC installs require less internal evaluation, approval time, IT intervention and installation time.
Will it show performance of planned systems?
Many tools will show what is happening now in the real system, but fall painfully short when predicting what will happen with the proposed system. Complexities, interdependence and randomness of real systems make them difficult (if not impossible to predict accurately without simulation.
Will it optimize the process?
A study of 250 processes revealed a shocking.7%1 potential was left undiscovered because people ran out of time at the analysis stage of the project. That number equates to hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost savings. It wasn’t that they didn’t have a good model but just that they didn’t take the time to explore all of the possible changes to the model. This is understandable because if you tried to explore all the possible permutations of even a medium sized model it could take hundreds of thousands of experiments. Optimization will actually modify the model dynamically and hunt for the best combinations. Optimization can find things that you may never think to look at. This saves you hundreds of hours and finds hidden dollars.
Will it reduce the time to communicate complex issues?
This complex world we live in is difficult to describe to others. The tool must help you to explain these complexities and yet not over burden the user. Simple animations foster understanding. It has been said that a “picture is worth a thousand words” A simple animation is worth tens of thousands of words. Look for something that will help you communicate for understanding and sell your ideas.
Is there education to match the tool?
It is a good practice to look at the training materials to determine the expected level of support after the purchase. Professional, clear materials show that the after purchase support is matched with the flashy sales presentation that helped you to develop interest in the product.
How will the tool mesh with other methodologies
Some tools require a special methodology. If you are not familiar with the methodology then additional training is required.
Average number representing a wide range of variation. Some models exhibited greater than 15% improvement.