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So much software, so little time. A long software search process can be frustrating, and it may seem like a drain on resources to spend hours searching for the perfect solution. And, of course, time is not the only important consideration-money is another.
The flipside is that with all the software available today, there is a good solution for everyone. Though it may take a while to find it, after the software is in place, it should save both time and money. Read on to learn about the options available, and keep in mind that time invested in the beginning may save dividends at the end.
The Best SolutionGiven the many gage management software solutions available in the marketplace, how does one choose the best solution for a company?
When evaluating software, it is important to be well versed with the applicable internal and external requirements and processes, such as ISO, QS or FDA, as well as specific industry requirements and customers’ requirements.
Mid-to-high range software packages will generally provide a solution focused on continuous adherence to common industry standards such as ISO, QS or FDA, as well as scalability and reliable product support and services. Some low-end packages will provide compliance with current industry standards, but typically the companies providing these solutions do not have the capital resources to keep current with new technologies or changing standards. Generally, low-end solutions provide a quick fix and are not a worthwhile investment for companies seeking a long-term or large-scale deployment of a calibration management solution.
ConsiderationsLook for an established software provider with long-standing industry expertise and one that offers a calibration software solution as their main product offering. These companies are typically selling solutions, not just software. They will have more knowledge about the industry and are usually interested in customers’ continued success with their product. Therefore, look for the company that asks a lot of questions about the business; these companies are genuinely interested in a good fit and a long-term relationship.
Choose a stable company with a good reputation for product, support, services and experience. While evaluating their software, look at the day-to-day service they provide. How well did staff answer questions? Were they professional? Did they provide information in a timely manner?
Solutions-minded software companies also will offer continued support and training for their products; support and training help to ensure successful implementation and use. Always ask about support services and training availability-these areas are critical to the success of any software implementation. Find out if the vendor charges a fee for support and if it is an annual fee, or per-incident. Check which methods of support and training are available, whether it is on-site, telephone, e-mail or Web-based. And ask how long older versions are supported after a new version is released.
Software EvaluationDuring the evaluation process, be sure to look into these other areas as well:
- Ease of Use. Look for software that is easy to learn and use. It should use industry-standard terminology and operate in similar fashion to mainstream packages, such as spreadsheet or word processing programs. Those who cannot find the perfect package right away should keep looking. Well-designed software that is easy to learn and use is out there. Remember, if it is not user-friendly, it is not likely to get used or may take more time away from critical areas.
- Features. Determine which features the company really needs. Having all of the bells and whistles is great, but make sure they do not get in the way and that the company is not paying for items they may never use. At the same time, make sure the package offers all of the basics that a company needs. Do not be shortchanged.
- Stability. Be sure to obtain a trial copy-often free-of a software package to test it, on the actual equipment, before purchasing it. A trial will allow the operator to test the software for any bugs that may delay day-to-day operations or affect other programs already installed on the equipment.
- Documentation. Choose software that is well documented. Without good documentation, software can be frustrating to learn and use. Good package documentation will help operators learn to use the product efficiently and allow them to refer to materials to answer questions as they learn to use the software.
- Scalability. Look for a software package that meets both current and anticipated future needs. If the company is growing, they may need software that can handle more records than currently in use. Make sure that the package will handle extra volume without excessive slowing. Scalability speaks to the future usefulness of the software as well as how it meets the company’s immediate needs.
- Upgrades. Because software is relatively easy to change, update and upgrade, it is really a work in progress as new versions are periodically released. It is important to find out about the manufacturer’s upgrade policy when researching a package. Are upgrades free? Is there a time limit or additional charge? What about later upgrades? How often have they upgraded in the past? What are the charges as compared to the standard prices?
- Client References. Many established software/solution developers will have a pool of clients who are willing to discuss their experience with the software and support from that organization. When possible, look for references in the same industry.
- Price. Look for a good value in the choice of software package. Check both single and multi-user license prices. Some companies may offer discounts on multi-user licenses even though the single-user price may initially seem higher. The value of the software will be found in how it helps the company, not necessarily its price.
Software SelectionIn the hunt for the right calibration management software solution, start by answering these basic questions:
- What benefits do you need the solution to provide your company in addition to the requirements demanded by customers or industry standards?
- Does the software need to integrate with existing company software systems? Can it be a stand-alone software solution?
- Does the software need to meet specific technology requirements set by your IT department?
- While competing software packages provide some common features, which solutions meet your company’s technology needs?
- Does the solution provide options for live product support and training?
- Will the solution allow for data import from the current system?
- What is the product development path/timetable of the software?