Around the globe, IT spending is down. Gartner reported in April it is expected to continue to dip in 2016 by 0.5% from last year, as companies of all sizes look for efficiencies and savings across the board.
The analyst house has suggested this shift has been prompted by not only fluctuations in currency, but by a need to tighten the purse strings while continuing to invest in digital business.
While economic uncertainty becomes a day-to-day reality for businesses, searching for the right software vendor and doing more with less is a problem faced by many.
Many CIOs still reel from the memory of IT projects in the nineties and noughties running over-time, over-budget and under-performing, particularly in the case of business critical applications.
With all the expectations of the new millennium age – coupled with a robust economy – investments were made with little guarantee that it would deliver on its objectives.
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Fast forward to the present day, and it’s still a concern for many, although the flexibility and ease of use of solutions have increased.
Whilst finding a vendor who can deliver immediate value through hassle-free implementation is top of many businesses’ lists, there are a number of other key considerations to look for when selecting software vendors.
Thankfully, with the right planning and a detailed roadmap of the company’s software requirements, what has historically been a difficult place to navigate can be done so with methodical precision to ensure all boxes are ticked.
For businesses who are treading on new terrain, there are seven key features any software vendor should be clear on providing information of and delivering.
1. Check out the vendor’s stability
However a company is purchasing a piece of software, whether directly or from a reseller, it’s important to check how long the manufacturer has been in business, the number of employees they have, and their install base.
Businesses who have been around longer are more likely to last the test of time and be around to offer support and upgrades in the years to come.
2. Ask for references
When businesses take on a new employee, references are crucial to confirming they can do what they say they can and are reliable. The same is true when looking to take on a software vendor and/or reseller.
When approaching a vendor, IT pros are entitled to be put in touch with customers who offer a similar service or require the same platform, and will be able to provide testimonials.
3. Find out the frequency of software upgrades and version releases
Technology is continually and rapidly changing. As such, ensuring a potential vendor both keeps up to date with the latest technological advances and that they upgrade their software accordingly is vital.
IT pros should ask the vendor/reseller how it handles bug reports and feature requests, how often new versions are released, and if there is any additional charge for these.
To summarise, asking the vendor about update frequency, policy and costs is of paramount importance.
4. What are their maintenance and support services?
To ensure software is able to keep doing what the business requires, it will need to be updated regularly. While having up to date software is great, the actual updating can cause headaches.
Seeking clear details on the maintenance and support the vendor or supplier offers is key. This includes service level agreements for support and response times, as well as how this is provided.
It is also worth considering whether progress can be checked online remotely to highlight any potential issues.
5. An implementation plan is essential
A software solution is exactly that: a solution that solves a problem or meets a need that an organisation has. This issue will be unique to each business, so it is important that a vendor or reseller takes the time to understand this, along with how the business works, for them to supply precisely what is needed.
Following on from this, whoever is supplying the software then needs to provide an action plan of how they are going to get it up and running and working effectively.
This includes business/system analysis, set up reports/business rules, project management, installation, customisation, and data conversion/migration to the new system.
6. Training is a right, not a privilege
There is no point having a piece of software that has all the bells and whistles if nobody knows how to use it effectively.
A vendor should provide a training plan with clear goals for different teams with different options available depending on the level of use and how it is going to be used.
7. Ask for a working demo
It’s all too easy to get caught up in what sales people are saying and how their product will change the business for the best. The only way to check this out for certain is to not just take the rep’s word for it, but to try the solution.
There might be the offer of a demo environment or an example of how certain aspects of a piece of software works, but that will not give the complete picture.
Instead, IT pros should flag specific needs and insist to be shown some, if not all, of the functionality of the application.
Understandably, there is a lot to consider when looking for a new software vendor. Yet these checks need to be done and done thoroughly.
As companies go digital, they want a digital age solution immediately – instead of an old-fashioned product with some superficial improvements. Smart vendors design for new customers as well as their existing base.
With a little time and effort it is possible to start up an effective and successful partnership with a software vendor that will truly benefit the organisation.
Sourced from Andres Richter, CEO, Priority Software