When your business needs a software solution before it can move forward, you’ll find yourself inundated with options. There will be companies out there clamoring for your business even if they’re not 100% the right fit for you.
And, yes, salespeople will tell you that they are 100% the right fit for you without understanding the faintest thing about your business.
Your job isn’t to find the cheapest solution—it’s to find the best solution. And in order to do that, you’ll need to know what to look for. Here are ten considerations and tips for choosing the right software solution provider from the outset:
- A clear understanding of the desired results. The fastest way to get “taken in” by a salesperson is to let them dictate the terms. But your company has specific goals, so don’t lose sight of what’s important to you. Eschew costly add-ons and long-term deals where they try to dress up a more expensive offering as a bargain. Any time you can pin your vendor down on deliverables, you’re far more likely to have success with your software solution.
- Introducing a new software solution into your preexisting infrastructure is a little risky. Sure, it might go off without a hitch. But what if it doesn’t? You need to know—usually by contacting other people who have worked with this software provider before—that the customer support will be there for you. A good software service experience can be ruined by poor support, and a poor software offering can be majorly upgraded with higher-quality support.
- Avoid “uni-taskers.” Ever watch “Good Eats”? Chef Alton Brown tells home cooks to avoid uni-tasker tools whenever possible to save on kitchen space. Why should it be any different when it comes to your software infrastructure? The more you can get out of one provider, the simpler and more cost effective your systems will ultimately be.
- Ultimately, any business’s goal is to grow. You want to grow more customers, more revenue, more profit. Your software needs to have the ability to grow with you. If it can’t support your growth, then your options are essentially limited to the same old business you’re doing now. That might be good for the short-term, but what happens when you secure a major deal and your
software solution isn’t ready to handle it?
- Hidden fees. There are few things worse in the business world than signing a long-term contract and finding out about all sorts of hidden expenses you never knew were there. Not only does it harm your long-term prospects for growth, but it’s a sign that you can’t even trust your software solution provider. Make sure you thoroughly review the contracts before signing them. It can be a bit tedious, but your bottom line will thank you.
- Pay by milestone. At the very least, you should think about agreeing to milestones and KIP before committing to a long-term contract. This prevents you from spending too much on a software solution that offers way more scalability than you’ll ever need. And when new milestones are reached, you can always re-evaluate the software’s performance and see if you want to make any changes.
- Visit them. If you’re spending more than $50,000, you’re going to want to get a feel of their authentic, day-to-day experience with clients like you.
- Look for partners, not solution providers. We’ve mentioned solution providers a lot here, but the truth is, if you’re going to spend a lot of money, you want a partner.
- Start out small. You might lump this in with paying on a milestone basis, but it deserves its own section because it’s such a great way to start out a new business relationship. Start out small, establish trust, and then branch out from there.
- Exit strategy. What if you need to “divorce” this partner? How will you get your data? Software vendors are good—maybe too good—at locking you into long-term relationships. You’ll want to know how to reclaim or migrate data before a divorce ever happens.
Once you know what to look for in a software solution partner, your job gets a lot easier. And if a provider can’t check off all of the major points you read here—maybe it’s best to move on to the next candidate.