Oftentimes, when shopping for software, a team member will present a possible solution. They may have seen it at a trade show. They may have received a cold call from a sales person. Perhaps they know someone at another organization that uses it.
That is a great start. But, when sitting down and evaluating that technology, can your team members identify how that software will fit into your organization? Who will use it? How will it improve the work lives of those who use it? What problems will it not solve? What are its weaknesses? There are too many times I have seen “cool” be a reason to justify a technology purchase.
Approach a technology vendor like you would a marriage. Business software purchases are difficult and don’t change often. This is a long-term relationship.
It is important to understand the vendor’s goals for their products. Do they heavily customize their product for each customer at an increased cost? Are they focused on a singular set of dynamic products but with limited customization? Do they provide a base product with consulting built on top?
Consider their relationship to the industry. How well do they know and understand your business? What is their reputation with their current customers? How long have they been active in your profession? What do other vendors think of them?
Consider future growth between your organization and your vendor’s organization. What does their product investment look like? Are they growing or scaling back? Do their products and expertise give new opportunities to leverage technology in ways you hadn’t considered? How does their support work? How available is their support? Do they provide training?
These are but a few of hundreds of questions that you might ask. Think about what is most important to you as the buyer. As you buy, ask specific questions and get a straight answer. If you don’t get an immediate straight answer to an important question, make sure you get one in follow-up. Do your homework!
Last of all – even the best technology is not for every business. Do not try to force a fit where one doesn’t exist. Major kudos to any vendor who recognizes this during the sales process. If that does happen, this is not a bad thing – in fact it’s quite the opposite! If this happens, ask that vendor who they might recommend. I have seen surprising relationships form from this exact scenario.