While every vendor claims to offer the best services, we all know that judging a book by the cover can land you in unprecedented trouble. You need a vendor who won’t disappear after the service, but will be there for the long haul. The question then arises, how do you choose the right software vendor for your firm? Here are a few factors to keep in mind.
1. Know Your Needs
Depending on the type of business you run, your software needs will vary from that of the next business enterprise. Factors that will play a key role when determining your needs include your monthly sales volume, number of employees, the amount of your inventory, and the technical complexity of your business.
Know what you want, ideally separated into two sections i.e. features that are “must-have” and those that would be “nice to have”. This will make it easier for you to figure out if any solutions fit your business while resisting ‘shiny’ things that only increase the costs.
It’s also important to list accurate, thorough requirements for what’s needed in the software. Having more detailed information like this will ensure that the pricing is as close to the actual as possible.
2. Check Their Experience And Reputation
Look into the background of the company when evaluating your software vendors and technology partners. How long has the company been in business? Are they growing or downsizing? What about their credibility and capabilities? How strong are they? All these are questions you need answered.
Customer reviews provide a great deal of information so be sure to check them on forums or review sites. Also talk to other businesses that have procured similar services. The idea is to determine vendor stability, as it is the key to ensuring that the vendor will be around in future.
3. Determine Software Scalability And Customization
It is important that you ask about, and understand the level of software scalability, as well as any customization options offered by a solution. As companies grow and expand to new markets, their software should be able to scale accordingly. No business owner wants to be faced with the need to invest in a new solution every few years when existing software can’t handle the emerging needs.
4. Make Sure There Are No Hidden Fees
Go through the contract with a fine toothcomb and ensure that there are no hidden costs like additional fees for setup, annual maintenance, document management services or in-person training.
You should also be on the lookout for clauses in the contract that allow a vendor to increase the fees in the duration of the contract. See if there are provisions that allow you to get out of the contract in case the system doesn’t work for you in six or twelve months.
5. Don’t Forget About Implementation And Employee Training
One of the most important aspects of choosing the right software is the support you will receive post-sale. More often than not, the ability of a vendor to support you makes all the difference between successful implementation.
Try a vendor’s support out before choosing them. You want a support team that not only knows the product, but also understands your product and the market. Ask if the support team is made up of knowledgeable full-time employees or if it’s provided by contracted, offshore resources that are less conversant. Call or email them to see how quickly they respond.
6. Evaluate Their Cooperation And Communication
The thing with cloud-based software is that you purchase the current as well as the future versions. This necessitates the need to evaluate not just the tool itself, but also the company and people behind it. You want to ensure that they will grow with you and address your needs as they change to avoid the same daunting task of searching for a software vendor in a few years.
The organization should also be able to act as your educator, consultant, coach and advisor. You want a vendor who isn’t afraid to tell you ‘No’ when they don’t know about a particular functionality you need. Organizations that evaluate software should be able to explain business models in detail and ensure that their tools support core processes.
In conclusion, selecting the right software vendor for your business is tricky and requires time to get it right. Keeping an open mind and focusing more on the business results rather than a list of “shiny” features will enable you to find the right vendor who will grow alongside your business, adapting as per the market’s needs.
Guest article written by: Josh McAllister is a freelance tech writer and business consultant based in New York. In his free time, he enjoys all things geeky and gadgetry, the outdoors, and spending time with his family. You can reach him on Twitter @josh8mcallister
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