Evaluating and Selecting CM Tools - A Perspective

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the CM Tool vendor.  

Tool selection criteria must flow from a clear understanding of the required CM process capabilities.  Enabling poor processes with automated tools does not equate to success. Enabling effective and efficient CM process with the right automated tool does.

Evaluating Tools
Create a Tool Requirements Spec
Once organizational CM requirements are defined, documented, and agreed upon we can then begin the process of tool evaluation.  Only then can optimal CM Tool requirements be captured and documented. Output will be a CM Tool Requirements Specification to be used in evaluating and selecting appropriate CM tools for your organization. This spec includes CM process as well as detailed IT functional/Interface requirements. Don’t fall into the trap where the IT department chooses the CM tool for the organization. This often results in disaster (more on this in another article). IT, CM, and the organization will need to work in mutual cooperation on the final tool selection.

What we will look for
There are many great automated tools to choose from depending on your requirements. Examples of CM Tool functionality are (in no particular order, and not all-inclusive):

Integration compatibility with company architecture, IT requirements
Change management workflow- request through implementation
On-line forms/ templates
Automatic number/date generation
Change tracking
Multi-user comment and updates during impact analysis
Electronic change boards
Change action item tracking
Change implementation feedback
Escalation functionality
Custom notifications
Ability to link information and establish relationships between data elements
Ability to create and maintain baselines
Proper product structuring capabilities- documents and parts
“Where used” capability
Baselines flagged with change activity and effectivities
Ability to create different baseline views depending on user
Change management and baseline interface
Problem Reporting functionality
Version Control
Provide libraries (development, master, archive)
Requirements management
Ability to manage full life cycle from Development through O&M
The ability to automate process execution through work flow
The ability to customize work flow
The ability to customize forms & incorporate rules
The ability to customize field names, attributes, data views, etc.
Automatic metric generation
Online help
Multi-Language as needed
Control/Access/Security rules
Customer/Supplier access and compatibility
Browse access, by a variety of users, nationwide/worldwide
Security for update and browse
Incorporate ITAR, EAR, and other Security restrictions
Archive and backup
Can manage administrative as well as technical information
and more.

Begin Shopping and Eliminating Candidates
Typically we begin researching vendor offerings and/or send the tool vendor a list of our requirements to see if they can meet them. First, there are overall system architecture requirements.  Then there are environment specific requirements.  If our environment is software development, we may be eliminating certain vendors right from the start (and vice versa) due to functionality requirements specific to many software tools. Likewise, if you are in manufacturing and need to be able to “bridge” to ERP systems this requirement will also be eliminating certain vendors.

We will also look at features, price, license fees, etc., and another round of elimination occurs. Finally we are left with fewer choices that now require more detailed evaluation.

Schedule Onsite Demonstrations
Tool vendors will come and do demos of their product. Once the demos are over you can then narrow down the playing field even further. Look at the way the tool behaves, the way it is structured, and ease of use.

Schedule a Live Demonstration
Gather real information, real scenarios, real process, and real workflow information for the vendor to actually incorporate into a working demo of the tool. Go through the demo with your requirements checklist. Select a vendor.

Before Signing a Contract
Make sure you know what the vendor and your organization will need

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