As both a buyer and as a consultant, I’ve been involved in software selection for 18 years, helping buyers find the right product for their needs. I’ve seen CIOs make snap decisions with little to no process, and I’ve seen RFPs that go on forever with no decision ever being made.
Fortunately, I’ve seen many organizations get tremendous value from their software platform. But, unfortunately, I’ve also seen organizations spend millions of dollars and never end up using the products they buy.
5 guidelines for selecting enterprise software:
1. Know your sources of information.
2. Be skeptical.
3. Skip the RFP.
4. Evaluate how the vendor sells.
5. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.
#1: Know your sources of information about the vendor and the product it’s selling.
An overwhelming volume of information about software products and the needs they answer is available today. It’s too much information, really. It’s easy to get lost in the dozens or even hundreds of data sources. So the first thing to remember to cut through the noise is to understand the kinds of sources that you can go to for information on software products.
4 sources of information you can use to understand the value of the enterprise software you’re considering:
- The vendors themselves: Take their information with a grain of salt.
- Forrester and Gartner: Good for buying stock, not for selecting software.
- Other analysts and consultants: Those that handle both analysis and delivery will have the most practical advice.
- Your peers: The gold standard.
#2: Be skeptical.
You may believe that software companies are well meaning and try their best to deliver what they promise. Or you may believe that vendors are snake oil salesmen who will say whatever they need to get a deal. Whatever the case, it’s wise to be skeptical of vendor claims.
#3: Skip the RFP.
Let’s just come right out and say it: RFPs are a terrible way to select a vendor of anything, and software is no exception. Here’s why: typically, RFPs are nothing more than a kitchen sink list of features and functionalities. Vendors always will answer “yes” to every item.
But what if you have to use an RFP? There are some strategies you can employ if your company culture or procurement policies require an RFP. We outline those in our guide, How to Select Enterprise Software.
#4: Consider how a vendor goes about the sales process.
There's a saying out there that "how you sell is how you solve." It’s true. How a firm treats you during the sales process is an accurate indicator of how well they will deliver if you hire them. Or put another way, you never will be treated better than when a vendor is trying to sell you.
#5: Don’t let perfect become the enemy of the good.
Anyone who’s been in corporate IT for any length of time will tell you, a “B-minus" software product that’s implemented in an “A-plus” fashion is far better than an “A-plus” software product implemented in a “B-minus" fashion.
Download our guide to learn more.
Every organization is different, and every software decision is unique. But if you follow these best practice recommendations, you'll be well on your way to getting more value from your next purchase. We've covered the main bases in this post, but you can find more detailed information in our guide, How to Select Enterprise Software.
A version of this post appeared originally in CMSWire.