Get to Know the Company behind the Software
Typically, when companies need to make a major software investment, they begin the process by sending software vendors an RFI (request for information). The purpose of the RFI is to match the organization’s needs with the applications’ capabilities using a written, structured process. This process enables the organization to evaluate different applications’ strengths and weaknesses in a side-by-side comparison.
This is a great way to vet out the right software solution, but if it’s the only focus of your vetting process, you are leaving a gaping hole. Company’s evaluating software also need to have in-depth conversations with the technology providers. Evaluating the software will help you determine if it’s the right solution for your business, but it’s the discussions with the technology providers that will indicate whether there’s a good fit on an organizational level.
In today’s competitive marketplace it’s critical for businesses to understand the part their technology provider plays in supporting their goals. When you purchase a software solution, you’re typically buying the current and future versions. That’s why it’s also important to evaluate the company and the people behind it.
Conversations, Not Checklists
Unlike evaluating software, getting to know your software provider is more about conversations than checklists. As part of these conversations there are several topics that should be covered:
When was the business founded? Has it grown organically, or through mergers or acquisitions? Is it an independent company or part of a larger group? When investing in software, the vendor’s stability is important. You want to make sure they are around to support you and to continue evolving their solution to meet your changing business needs and security requirements.
Keeping with the stability topic, you should make sure the vendor is financially secure. For example: does their balance sheet indicate excessive borrowing or cash flow issues? What do the trends and financial ratios from the annual accounts tell you? It’s important to determine if the vendor business is financially sound and stable, or if it’s struggling?
How many people are in the organization and how many are working in support, research & development versus sales, marketing, and administration? Does the company talk about employee qualifications, skills, experience, or training?
A vendor’s client base will also tell you a lot about the vendor. For example, their size, their average customer size, the average amount of users per customer, etc.
Other important questions to consider:
- How many new customers did they gain over the last year?
- What software modules are most popular?
- How many customers are on the latest version?
- How many customers are upgrading?
- Does the company hold an annual users’ conference?
- Do they have case studies and reference-able accounts?
It’s important to make sure the vendor’s product roadmap and methodology align with your strategic business goals. It’s also important to understand how the vendor decided on what product enhancements to implement and how they prioritize the development of these new features.
A Partnership Approach
Finally, you need to look for a vendor that understands your business and is willing to work with you to meet your needs. They should be as eager to learn about your business as you are to explain it. Finding a vendor that cares about their client’s success and are more interested in building a partnership than making a sale is paramount in selecting the right vendor for your business.