June 25, 2013
How to Choose a Software Vendor: Asking the Right Questions
I was recently on a call with a potential customer, and, as we were wrapping up, my colleague asked if they had any more questions for us. There was a slight pause and then the prospect asked what questions he should he ask us. This was the first time I had heard a prospect pose this question, but the answer is very valuable.
Making the Wrong Choice
In 2012 a Forbes blogger outlined the massive costs of choosing the wrong vendor by referencing some infamous cases, including the $100 million Hershey lost on Halloween 1999 — but you don’t need to read the blog to know that there are big costs associated with a poor vendor choice or botched implementation.
Answering the Question: What questions should I ask?
There are dozens of articles that you can peel through to read about the reasons software implementations fail and what to ask to avoid it. But there are some initial questions you can ask to save your time and energy during this process. The overall idea is to evaluate a software vendor based on critical criteria first by asking the correct questions. These three crucial questions can quickly help you assess your potential vendors and narrow down your options.
- Tip: In an initial engagement be prepared to discuss your current state and desired future state, keep it simple, and directly ask the vendor if they and their software can help. This will keep you from wasting time initially getting into the weeds over details.
- Tip: When we ask ISVs this question, we want references that are not only the same or similar industry, but also the same or similar size as our customer base. Ability to scale can be a problem during implementation, so we need to know what their experience is with companies of different sizes.
- Tip: If it applies, ask the vendor if they use the software they are implementing — this can be a good indicator for how much confidence they have in it. Our specialty is Microsoft Dynamics CRM, so we use Dynamics to manage our customers because we think it’s the best solution and we can do the most with it.