A few false steps can be disastrous when choosing a new computer system. Follow this simple guide to keep your selection process on the right path.

1.    Set up a team that includes representatives from all areas of the company. Make sure everyone can feel they have input in the selection process.

2.    Let the team set all primary and intermediary target dates. Communicate the goals and objectives while providing leadership, but avoid dictating to the group. If the team has sufficient input in the process, they’ll generally do everything possible to meet realistic targets.

3.    Provide top-management support to clear roadblocks. There will always be conflicts due to limited resources and different priorities in an organization. Hard decisions will have to be made in a timely manner. Eliminate obstacles as quickly as possible.

4.    Top management must stay involved and committed. Call and attend steering committee meetings and show interest in the process.

5.    Manage expectations. Keep your staff informed and up-to-date. Tell your vendors and customers what you’re doing and warn them when any stage of the process may affect them.

6.    Take advantage of this opportunity to build and improve on the relationships with all of your business partners. This is the perfect opportunity for both your sales force and purchasing departments to forge closer ties with customers and suppliers.

7.    When negotiating with the selected vendors, do not set up an adversarial relationship. This company will be very important to your project’s success and must become a long-term partner for the dealership.

8.    While cost is an important part of the decision, it should not be a deciding factor. Find the right solution — functions, features, capabilities — first. The objective is to find the best software for you, not the least expensive. If you don’t believe this, ask any company that bought new software more than once in the last 5 years.