Most Enterprise Software projects require a specialized tool at some stage of the development process; using the right software tool can play a big role in the success of the project. But finalizing such a tool can be challenging for the large Enterprise, specifically when many projects are running in parallel (each of which might be using similar tools), or when a previous project utilized the tool. In such scenarios, approval to use the tool has generally already been established, however, the tool may not be the best fit for the project at hand.
Consider one recent project which called for the PDF generation tool. But any tool we selected had to be approved by the client’s Enterprise Software approval team. So it was easier for us to start with a tool already used by other projects, so approval from the team would not be needed.
Summary of the overall process:
Critical feature list
Listing critical features will help determine the best-suited tool—specifically the feature that can best determine the success of the project. Even better, create a Critical Feature Comparison Table, with features listed on the left and tool names as column headers.
OS/Software Requirements and Team Skills
In most cases, the required tool should support those Operating Systems targeted for the project. For example, the backend could be Linux or Windows-Server based. The tool should support the right Operating System. Additionally, team skills can be a constraint. You may not want to require another skill of your team, if a tool only supports it (e.g. .Net if a team is Java-based, and vice-versa).
Verify In-House Use
Start by checking other projects that use a similar tool that covers most of the critical features. The best place to start is with the client’s Software Approval Team. In most cases they will have a list of tools approved for certain functions. If the organization doesn’t have such a team, posting in a common company blog might help.
A quick internet search provides all relevant tool info, however, each tool must be researched individually for the critical features. The list of available tools can be overwhelming, but a deeper search will reveal major players. Select the top 3-5 results for deeper research, including critical-feature comparison, pricing and licensing types.
Licensing can be tricky—especially when it comes to open-source tools. Most organizations want to protect their intellectual property, so may be unwilling to offer an Open Source License. Selected tools should already be filtered based on this criteria—otherwise, approval should be sought from the Organization’s Software Approval Authority.
Typically, most products with a similar feature range should fall in the same price range. However, some products may be much more feature-rich than your projects actually need. This may make the price much higher than other tools. In this case, one option is to go with a cheaper option or work with the vendor to inquire if pricing can be based on just the modules you need.
Proof of concept
Once pricing is set and a preliminary go-ahead is secured from the organization’s Software Approval Authority, the next step is to do a quick Proof of Concept which focuses on basic features of the selected tool and includes testing scalability and tool performance. If everything goes well, the selected tool can be taken for the required approvals.
All this information should be used as input for gaining approval from the client’s Software Approval Authority.
Note: we followed this process when selecting a Java-based PDF generation tool for a project. The following tools were evaluated:
- EvoPDF – PDF generator is Windows Server based – requires Windows Server installation
- HiQPDF – PDF generator is Windows Server based – requires Windows Server installation
- PDFBox – Didn’t have required feature support
- Adobe LifeCycle – Didn’t have required feature support
- PDF Sharp – No Java support
- iText 7 – Selected for a POC
Finally, if you still have any questions around the value or effectiveness of any Project Software Tool, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’d love to help you get started.