6 Things to Look for in a Software Company (and How to Make the Right Choice)

6 Things to Look for in a Software Company (and How to Make the Right Choice)

Finding the right business process automation (BPA) software partner is like hiring a new employee.

When well-matched, both parties feel their time and talents are recognized, communication is smooth, and work is performed efficiently, successfully and autonomously. Even more importantly, the two of you happily work together across the years, delivering a return on investment unrivaled by short-term contracts with generic, off-the-shelf software. 

Looking for ways to integrate your business processes into software or applications to make office workflows easier? Use this guide to shop around for the right partner software company to package that perfect BPA solution — while staying sane and on-budget throughout the procurement process.

Why Choosing the Right Software Company Matters

Why Choosing the Right Software Company Matters

Taking your time to research and vet software companies is pivotal to choosing automation software with tangible business benefits.

These benefits make the office run smoother by streamlining those perfunctory or recurring tasks employees previously handled manually. Need a synthesized human resources program for employee training and compliance sessions? An integrated social media management platform for all company accounts? A centralized project management portal? Something entirely customized? That’s where a BPA software company comes in.

You don’t want just any BPA software company, though. Because your automation software will execute significant tasks and functions that underpin core business operations, BPA software companies must meet a list of criteria, which you will use to evaluate companies during the vetting process. 

  • Results-driven: The right company must deliver on their service promises. These deliverables are quantifiable and evident, improving the speed, ease and visibility of office tasks.
  • Stable: Switching software providers every few years disrupts operations and leads to application fatigue amongst users. While business process automation software should evolve — tweaked, patched, redeployed, scaled and improved over time — businesses should prioritize a long-term partnership with a stable provider who seamlessly and professionally manages application evolution.
  • Technical and business savvy: The right software company understands the product you need for the business type you are (B2C, B2B, ecommerce, SaaS, mobile, etc.). They manage the technical side of the equation yet ensure software features line up with your enterprise needs and priorities by asking pertinent business-case questions, then advising on technical software designs and details. 

6 Tips That’ll Help You Find the Perfect Software Agency for Your Business

6 Tips That’ll Help You Find the Perfect Software Agency for Your Business

Software automation benefits unfold when you know what you should look for in a potential partner.

Prioritize these six characteristics, and you’ll be on your way to finding a business automation software company suited for the long haul. 

1. Communication Should Be a Key Selling Point

The right software company will emphasize communication — and rightfully so. 
Communication, though, can be a broad criterion. What does it mean for a partner software vendor to communicate well? 
  • Clear, dynamic expectations: The best business automation software vendors mold proper product expectations by asking the right questions during initial meetings. More acutely, they know how to describe their development and deployment processes in layman’s terms, plus articulate what’s expected on your side of the partnership to make cohesive end-to-end BPA workflows. 
  • Committed developers: Inquire if a company assigns dedicated developers to work on your software product or project, plus how many will initially be assigned and what future team scalability will look like. Anywhere from one to five developers will be the norm, depending on your software servicing needs. Some organizations have the capacity for this, while others balance multiple client products simultaneously. If possible, opt for dedicated teams who truly understand your expectations and business software case and can invest sufficient time and energy into serving it. 
  • Preemptive and proactive meetings: Seek companies that initiate early meetups before and during the developmental process, as well as retroactive ones reviewing software functionality, actual use cases and future phases. These meetings should continually review your expectations around business goals as well as technical software dimensions. 
  • Direct contacts: Communicating with a vendor is far easier when you have a go-to touchpoint to relay questions and concerns with as well as set up general developmental check-ins. It’s also important to ask how you’ll be communicating with these assigned company contacts. An ideal method is through instant communication systems or apps allowing organic yet documentable messages. 
  • Free demonstrations: It is important to get a sense of how the software works before moving forward in the sales process. Look for companies that offer free demonstrations to see it in action and ask their experts questions.
  • General ease of interactions: Early and ongoing communications alike should be relatively smooth, direct and positive, without significant response delays or continual excuses preventing real-time collaboration. 
  • Honesty above all else: Vendors that say yes to everything and question nothing about your business needs should make you and your team hit pause. This attitude may quickly reveal a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none dynamic, producing a product that falls short of meeting your needs. Instead, prioritize vendors that are clear in their work and transparent in their application-build methods — even if that means vendors setting forthright parameters. For example, a vendor should tell you if they only utilize JavaScript, not Python, C# or other languages necessary to deliver the software with the tools you truly need.

2. They May Not Be the Cheapest Option

Several variables go into the cost of working with a business process automation software provider, including project scope, the number of dedicated developers, general service fees and much, much more. 
Small and medium-sized businesses new to BPA software may be tempted by developers offering the lowest prices. To cut business costs or beat out estimated budgets, enterprises enter into such contracts with the cheapest up-front service quotes. 
Ironically, this cost-cutting strategy ends up costing organizations more in the long run when the following issues strike — which they do:
  • Poor product testing: Less expensive vendors court risks like generic or poorly written code, plus a lack of testing and ongoing deployments as the software lives and operates in your office.
  • Source code ownership: Cheaper vendors may not include source code ownership in the cost of your contract. Yes, you paid for your BPA software product to be developed, but you do not actually own that program — meaning it could be copied, bundled or repackaged. What’s more, without source ownership, you cannot truly know what kind of end product you’ve received or the dedicated attention that went into it despite paying for custom quality.
  • Asynchronous communication: You may have challenges setting up meetings or getting questions answered about the development process, experience a lack of process documentation or other general transparency and communication issues.
  • Need to re-write the entire program yourself: This is a problem you sought to avoid by hiring an external software agency in the first place. 
This same logic spills over into programming language fluency, too. Some applications require multiple coding languages. For example, sites like Facebook run off numerous frameworks, including PHP, Javascript, CSS and more. That means developers employed at an agency must be fluent in these coding languages to write appropriate code and built your automated toolkit.

Having more types of code is not always better, though. In fact, cheaper software developers often say they specialize in many languages for front-end and back-end development. Unless their organization employs a substantial number of developers, it’s difficult to master every coding framework and language out there.

Remember, “cheap” and “cost-effective” are two entirely different things. Smart business leaders understand that sometimes you have to pay more to get more. Inexpensive firms are cutting corners somewhere. It will show in the end deliverables. 

3. They Bring Business Expertise to the Table

They Bring Business Expertise to the Table

It’s business automation software, after all. Vendors should, therefore, have competency around the business tasks and functions you want automated, as well as the programming languages, testing regimens and other programming details necessary to execute those functions.
Even better, look for an automation software provider that can translate the technical jargon into everyday language anyone in the office can understand. You shouldn’t have to hold an advanced degree in computer systems to sit in on vendor meetings.
Consider asking your potential vendor the following to assess their business and technical expertise:
  • Have you worked with organizations in our industry, field or niche before? 
  • Can you explain your general programming process or approach?
  • How can we measure if your software product matches our actual business and market needs? 
  • What does your own company’s organizational structure look like? Will we be communicating directly with programmers/developers, or do you offer dedicated project or account managers alongside the development crew? 
All the technical understanding in the world can’t save a functionally shallow piece of software. Companies must know how to communicate and align your core stated needs and software goals alongside the actual programming side of the equation to deliver a piece of BPA software with real value. In short, you need software built by business people for business people. 

4. Satisfied Clients Are Plentiful

Another one of the best methods for selecting a BPA software partner is also one of the most intuitive — getting feedback from an agency’s past clients.

More specifically, perform due diligence on past and current customers’ satisfaction working with the vendor. There are several approaches to investigating the real reputation of your potential vendor, adding qualitative and quantitative assurance to your final decision. 

Consider asking all prospective BPA software development teams for:

  • A direct client referrals list: Transparent software vendors will be more than happy to connect you with past clients. Happy customers are profitable brand advocates, corroborating the vendor’s promised deliverables and assuring they’re the best, most capable choice for your business process solutions.
  • The size and scale of typical clients: Past work with similarly sized organizations means greater familiarity with your business process norms, as well as the tools and software features needed to automate those typical tasks. Vendors with customer resumes matching your organization are a good sign you’ll see results matching your precise business case.
  • Industry or specialty of past clients: Again, the more a vendor’s past work history aligns with the needs and business cases in your industry, the better. Note that it isn’t always mandatory to select a BPA software vendor specializing in your industry or business type. Industry alignments, like company size, simply make your needs more familiar and the communication about responsibilities and product expectations that much easier.
  • Size of the vendor company themselves: Vendors at organizations sized similarly to your own present a Goldilocks opportunity for customer service as well as end-product deliverables. For example, a large software vendor may have standardized procurement and programming workflows that don’t leave as much room to feel like a valued customer. Smaller programming vendors, though, may not have the experience or expertise you’re looking for or be able to scale with you across the years. 

5. They’re Willing to Meet Your Needs

From the speed of answering messages to the project proposals submitted for review before you make your decision, a best-fit vendor makes you feel like you’re their one and only client.

These companies understand not one software product or code source works for everyone — even customers in the same industry or with overlapping business process needs. They take collaboration seriously, communicate workflows and project stages effectively, offer tailored solutions and follow through on software deliverables in schedules and methodologies aligned with your interests.

BPA software providers walk the walk while they talk the talk, too, meaning they possess:

  • A cross-functional business approach: Best-fit vendors advise you, wielding their subject matter expertise to propose the best software approach for your organization. They don’t take a technical backseat and just write you some code, then call it a day. 
  • Platform agnosticism: Companies with platform-agnostic product offerings or capabilities have a natural service advantage. This means you don’t need to restructure your business’s current applications or operating systems, even if they run in different environments.
  • Flexibility and adaptivity: Vendors understand your business isn’t static. They present a willingness to creatively problem-solve as your employees’ needs change, products or services expand, or your office IT ecosystem advances.
  • No language barriers: Non-native English-speaking programmers, coders or product developers may present communication challenges that make it difficult to feel heard. What’s more, without fluid communication, you risk being left in the dark on your software development’s stage, tests and overall execution. 

6. They’re Frequently Developing and Advancing With the Industry

Software never stops evolving — just like the workflows taking place at your business. 

It’s crucial to find a company that strives to work and better itself, namely through its own outputs as well as staying on top of the newest programming and development trends and technological innovations.

Prioritize business automation software providers that: 

  • Clearly communicate sprints/software changes: Sprints or similar methodologies aimed at increasing your software’s quality are performed with your full knowledge and consent. Your vendor keeps you updated on the latest sprint goals and developments. 
  • Perform frequent demos: Vendors should perform demos of product changes or developments following their most recent sprint, proving its value.
  • Request mockups or additional information: Vendors elicit information and use cases from you in order to make improvements to your product, increase the speed of delivery behind those improvements and transcend customer-service expectations. 
  • Incremental overall advancements: The software provider performs ongoing tweaks and adaptations to your product, not because of bugs, glitches or even your prodding, but because they maintain high customer service and product quality standards motivating them to go above and beyond. 

Hire a Business Automation Software Company

Hire a Business Automation Software Company

When you partner with Vanguard Systems, you’ll get business automation software that’s made by business people for business people — and always will be.

Vanguard Systems’ workflow automation software delivers the same full-scale functionalities as all the big, brand-name developers but at fair, approachable prices. Plus, we’re system agnostic, ensuring our BPA software delivers a true enterprise solution, not another IT headache. 

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