Evaluating Software with Microsoft’s Catalyst Framework

In this article, Leah Sweeney highlights how Microsoft’s Catalyst Framework can assist you in software evaluation. 

Picture of Leah Sweeney

Leah Sweeney

Introduction to Microsoft's Catalyst Framework

As more businesses embark on or advance in their digital transformation journey, we see an increase in available software solutions. Today, there are more products than ever to choose from, and as a principal decider in your company, you might not know where to start. Before committing to any software, you should take the time to evaluate and adequately scope all facets of the proposed product. Below are some of the main reasons why evaluation is necessary for any software implementation.

  1. Market State: As previously mentioned, the technology market is being flooded with new products every day and updates to current systems that increase functionality and change the user experience. You will want to make sure you select a company that not only meets your current needs but offers products that grow with your business.
  2. Ensure Best fit (Does it meet our needs?): One of the biggest components of software evaluation is the product itself. Engaging in extensive scoping and evaluation will ensure you select the proper software that fits your needs. Software solutions can be complex when it comes to their core functionality, cross-functionality, integrations, licensing structure, and implementation process. Understanding all components will ensure its viability as a solution for your business needs.
  3. Understand Software to Understand Implementation: As mentioned above, evaluation is important to not only understand the software but what the implementation process entails. Implementing a new software system often requires extensive planning, which can only be properly accounted for if the software capabilities and business process application are fully understood.
  4. Risk Mitigation – avoid costly changes from the wrong selection: One thing no business executor wants is to experience the costly effects of choosing and implementing the wrong software system. If the solution does not fit your business needs, there can be costly issues that arise during the implementation phase and have systemic negative effects on the project. You might even find that the software capabilities do not fully meet your needs, leading you to seek additional or alternative solutions and leaving your business without a proper solution in the meantime.

As you can see, completing your due diligence upfront to properly evaluate software is critical. However, you might still ask, what does the evaluation process look like? How do I know I am covering all the components? Luckily, Microsoft has designed an innovative framework to help walk businesses through each step of the evaluation process. With the help of a trained Microsoft Partner, you can embark on the journey through the Microsoft Catalyst Framework and have confidence you are selecting the right software solution. 

Business and Solution Evaluation

Avantiico will help you transition from envisioning to executing.

Benefits of Catalyst Framework for Software Evaluation

The Microsoft Catalyst Framework is a unique and creative approach to the methodology of evaluating software. With so many areas to consider, whether it be the product side, business/client-side, or partner/implementor side, there must be an end-to-end approach that addresses all contributing factors. Microsoft’s solution to this was Catalyst – a framework that assists in the evaluation and selection process of their products.

The Catalyst methodology is built on the foundation of the “I.D.E.A.” framework. I.D.E.A. stands for: Inspire, Design, Empower, Achieve. Throughout your Catalyst journey, a Microsoft Partner will take you through all phases of the I.D.E.A. framework, each of which has a unique focus and scope. You will also engage in a variety of workshops and partner-led sessions that assist in requirements gathering, goal setting, and implementation process mapping.

Catalyst IDEA Framework Image

Below Are a Few Core Workshops in Catalyst Framework:

Envisioning Workshop

The envisioning workshop, which takes place in the Inspire phase, is designed to help potential clients outline their current state. You will be asked to identify current challenges, product or process gaps, and areas for improvement. Once these are identified, you can begin to “envision” what a future state looks like if these problems, gaps, and limitations could be met with solutions. You will be encouraged to think strategically and outside the current process and mindset. By doing this, you can envision how innovation and digital transformation can truly impact your business and start to plan for that future state.

Benefits of the Envisioning Workshop:

  • Focuses on both the micro and macro business process activities, as well as the associated challenges and limitations
  • Engages multiple stakeholders in the company – increased perspectives
  • Helps pinpoint success and create a shared vision. Aligns the stakeholders

BVA: Business Value Assessment

The Business Value Assessment, or BVA, is another important exercise, as it helps further outline the project scope and quantifying/qualifying it with a lens of value recognition. Understanding and recognizing the value you are getting from software can help you make those important business decisions. If the perceived value of the product is unknown or unclear, you will have a difficult time deciding on whether to select the product or not. It will also be challenging to get people on board and gain stakeholder and user adoption. If the perceived value is minimal or even non-existent, the decision is quite clear and can save you precious time. However, if you can truly qualify and quantify the value and present it in a way that all stakeholders can understand and appreciate, your decision becomes much easier.

Benefits of the Business Value Assessment:

  • Links options to value – all options are considered and evaluated
  • Links action to value – all actions are considered and evaluated
  • Identifies potential outcomes of inaction
  • Strong focus on ROI – and quantifying your investment
  • Presents a visual roadmap with a comprehensive project view

As you can see, during the Inspire and Design phase, there is a strong focus on identifying and outlining customer needs while helping them envision a future state. During the BVA process, you will also begin to associate the perceived value of the potential solutions as they are incorporated into your business.

Solutions Assessment and Microsoft Product Demos

This brings us to the last two phases of the I.D.E.A. framework. During the last two phases, you will be thoroughly guided through solutions assessments and demos to demonstrate precisely how the specific product software meets your needs and provides value to your organization. These demos follow closely on the customer journey that has already been developed in the first two phases. It is a continuation of the story versus a standard product demo. Microsoft has developed the Catalyst Framework to be very customer-centric versus product-centric. For the product assessment/demo phase, this translates into injecting various product solutions into the story and highlighting how the software can help the customer achieve their ideal/envisioned state.

Final Recommendations From the Microsoft Partner

The final stage of the Catalyst framework will bring everything together and help determine if Microsoft and the selected partner can take part in the next steps of the customer journey. Making the final decision can be challenging and stressful. Luckily, by this time, each customer on the Catalyst journey will have amassed a large collection of information and resources. With this information and final guidance in the Achieve stage, the hope is that each customer feels empowered and equipped with everything to make a well-informed decision.

IDEA Framework Outlining how it can help with software evaluation.


In today’s world, it is more important than ever to make informed decisions based on data and reasoning. Microsoft has created the Catalyst Framework as a tool for partners to use in the selection and evaluation process to ensure clients are getting exactly what they need. Not only is it important to make informed decisions, but to feel good about those decisions and be supported throughout the process. The Catalyst Framework helps build a strong foundation for your software project while supporting and encouraging a meaningful relationship with your partner.

Business and Solution Assessment

Complimentary Workshops Using I.D.E.A. Framework

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