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IT and Financial Departments Collaborate on Product Selection

Draft a needs analysis before picking a product to ensure it meets all your de

For executives in any department of a corporation, finding the right products or services can be a daunting task. How do you know who to trust? Are online reviews reliable? Will a vendor be able to deliver on its promises? Getting advice from colleagues and other people in your industry can be a

For executives in any department of a corporation, finding the right products or services can be a daunting task. How do you know who to trust? Are online reviews reliable? Will a vendor be able to deliver on its promises? Getting advice from colleagues and other people in your industry can be a lifeline in this regard - they can share their own experiences and give recommendations and tips as you shop for a solution provider.

Sometimes, the people you need to help navigate all your options are in your own company. That was the situation for Gregg Leach, CFO of Able Engineering, who was able to find a software suite that benefited the business with help from the IT department.

CFOworld reports that Leach already had an appreciation for the important role IT plays in overall business decision making, because his background was in technology. Partnering up with Ken Hughes, the engineering firm's IT manager, the pair was able to select and launch cloud-based accounting software that actually fulfilled all its needs down the line.

"Companies often thrive when the finance and tech functions work in close harmony these days - not just in software roll outs, but in an ever-growing number of areas, including data security and adding a tech focus to controlling costs," the magazine reports.

Hughes admits that it was good he was so close to Leach, because without that representation from the business side of the firm, it would have been difficult to convince the company that a cloud-based solution was a better fit than the kinds of technology they had relied on in the past.

"In my previous experience working with finance, you're filling their spreadsheets, and it's really an arm's-length transaction," Hughes told the news outlet. "Sitting across the table from the bean counters, they don't necessarily understand all the issues. With [Leach] we were able to quickly move through all of them and just get to the point."

Using requests for proposals

As Guy Yasika of Alteva, a unified communications solution provider, writes for CRN, finding the right product vendor can sometimes be dependent on writing a strong, clear request for proposal.

He advises conducting a needs analysis before drafting the RFP, as this will help the company narrow down what it's looking for - such as the goal it hopes to accomplish with the new tool -  and whether it has examined all its employees' requirements. Taking the time to do this assessment before shopping for vendors will ensure the business finds a solution that actually meets the needs of its workers and helps them do their job more efficiently.

RFPs can also be used for soliciting services such as outsourcing. Writing for Entrepreneur, Nancy Mann Jackson points out that to find the right contractors, asking questions of those in your business network is a good place to start. Drafting RFPs and distributing them to professional trade groups or posting them online, she reports.

After whittling down the number of vendors to two or three, turn back to your professional network to vet the candidates. Ask for references and examples of their past work to help make your final decision.

Don't underestimate the value of getting advice from peers. Asking colleagues and others in your network about their experience with a particular vendor, type of product or other service could help inform major decisions that impact your business. Finance, treasury and accounting communities can be an excellent resource.

To learn more about leveraging technology to evolve the strategic role of Finance, Accounting and Treasury, register early for Proformative's upcoming technology conference, ProformaTech 2013.

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