When planning to make a software investment, it is important to do your own research and find answers to a few questions before buying a software product.
You want a software tool that will cater to your business needs. Finding the right software for your business can be challenging. What’s more, with an influx of such products on the market, it gets even more overwhelming to find the right tool. So how do you go about it when you want to shop around for the right product?
Your focus should be on the following categories when it comes to selecting a software solution, which will help you make an objective comparison between two software vendors so you can make a better decision.
- Business support
- Software benefits & ROI
- Software functionality
- Software implementation
- Software pricing
- Software integration and API
- Software security & backups
- Software training & education
- Vendor customer support
How To Select A Software Product?
When selecting a software tool, make sure you get a deeper insight into the functioning of a particular product. You should also try to analyze the security capabilities of the software and set the right implementation expectations. It all begins with implementation and installation, so you want to make sure the product you choose is user-friendly for end users and easy to install.
But before that, it is equally important to understand your business requirements. What kind of features are you looking for?
You want a product that is easy to customize and highly scalable so that it can grow with your business. Will it enable cross-functionality across the organization? You want to make sure that the product you choose provides value-added services.
It is important to check references and weigh the software solution on the basis of the following:
- Features & Capabilities
- Cost & ROI
- Training and support
- Security & risk
- Backup & redundancy
- Implementation & installation
- Technical support
- Ease of use
- Data storage capabilities
- Customer reviews and testimonials
Ask questions specifically about software installation, integration, server/network preparation, and system configuration. The best software tool should facilitate data conversion, report creation, and customization of forms.
Here is a list of questions to help you get started:
Is the software scalable?
Perhaps your business is growing and will expand in the future. So you would be interested to know if the software is scalable and can grow with you. It’s no use investing in a solution that can be scaled.
How will the software improve the efficiency of our business?
The prime purpose behind investing in software solution is to boost efficiency and growth. Ask the software vendor how their business app would improve the efficiency of your enterprise.
How will the software product help us improve revenue?
Can you generate more revenue with the business app? Does the software vendor guarantee it? Ask them how.
Can your software help us make better business decisions?
When it comes to selecting a software product, you are interested to know if the product will help improve your decision-making. Seek a clear explanation from the software vendor in this regard.
Can the software help us meet our compliance requirements?
Ask the product vendor if the solution is compliant with your regulatory and legal requirements.
Does the software solution speed up workflow processes?
How efficiently can the software product handle your business requirements? Ask the software vendor how their solution can help improve workflow processes for your enterprise.
Can I talk to an existing user of the software product?
When selecting a software solution, you may want to talk to an existing user of the business tool to find out about their experience with the same. This should give you an idea as to whether this is the right product for you.
What is the best way to measure the return on investment that your software promises to provide?
The software vendor should answer how their business software will improve your bottom line and ROI. Most service providers make tall claims, so you want to make sure you get your hands on the best solution.
Can the software work for multiple locations?
Is the software designed to support one location or it can support multiple locations? If you have a business that expands across locations, you want to make sure the software supports all your requirements.
What are the key performance indicators of the business app?
You want to make sure you are in safe hands as far as software investment is concerned. It is in your best interests to enquire about the key performance indicators of the software on offer. This will help you both be on the same page and make software implementation a success.
Can you point toward any tangible benefits that your software product can provide our business with?
When it comes to selecting a software app, it would help to find out about the tangible and intangible benefits the app promises to accrue. The software vendor should be able to answer this clearly.
Are there any specific tasks supported by the software that can be quantifiably measured for higher efficiency?
When you are looking for a software solution, you want to make sure the business app is one that can boost efficiency. So when buying a software product, ask the vendor about any specific tasks that the software supports and whether there is a way to measure the quantifiable results.
What key performance indicators are best to monitor the increase in revenue from improved software functionality?
When your goal is to improve your bottom line, any investment in a software product is done with that in mind. So you should ask the software vendor about the KPIs that should be monitored to track the software functionality and performance of your business.
Does the business software have any specific features that you need?
Some software vendors may not offer systems required by your business to work efficiently. So it is a good idea to compare the product features against your business requirements to determine if it is the right fit.
Does the software product have built-in templates for the type of reports required?
Not every software app may have the type of report templates you are looking for. So ask the vendor if there is any customized report option available with the business app. If the software doesn’t have built-in templates for the type of reports required, is there any tool that can enable the customization of reports? If so, is the custom report builder easy to use?
Can the software tool increase value-added services to customers?
Try to find out if the software is capable of allowing your business to focus on adding value to customers.
What is the total cost of ownership of the software product?
When it comes to selecting a software tool, you have to consider the direct & indirect costs that the software entails. This includes the software price, hardware & data center cost, upgrade cost, implementation cost, ongoing support and maintenance cost, and end-user licensing.
How long does the software app take to pay back?
When you think of selecting a software product, your ultimate aim is to optimize your income and boost your ROI. Do not hesitate to enquire about the time the product vendor promises that his product will take to pay back. The sooner you recover your initial investment, the better.
How can we do better with the software product?
Software vendors have tremendous exposure to different companies. They offer the same type of software to different industries, so they are better aware of who is doing what with their technological product. This also helps them understand and foresee what’s really working. Allow them to share their observations so that you get an idea about their experience, expertise, and intelligence. This will also be an opportunity to identify the service providers who come up with the most insightful suggestions.
Is the business app customizable?
Each business has different needs. Yours is no different. When it comes to selecting a software solution, you are looking for a tool that can be easily customized and configured to cater to your specific business needs. So you want to understand if the software you want to buy is easy to customize.
Is the software product web-based?
It is the ease of access of cloud apps that make them widely popular today. So before selecting a software solution, you would want to determine if it is web-based.
Does the business app support your mandatory requirements?
When you are selecting a software solution, you want one that should align with your business analysis practice. You should be looking for a solution that fits into your workflow and helps boost your bottom line.
Can you build reports with the software?
The first thing that comes to your mind when selecting a software tool is its reporting capabilities. Does it come with reporting capabilities? Without appropriate reporting, you cannot put your data to the best use.
How long will installation of the software take?
In a business, time is money. So you should be keen to ask the software vendor about the time it will take them to install and implement the business app in your enterprise setting. It’s hard to meet deadlines as there are different factors that can make implementation complicated. Make sure you have realistic expectations. Additionally, the vendor should have a proven track record to meeting the project time frame.
What is the unique selling proposition that makes the vendor different from a competitor selling a similar software product?
You should be interested to know what makes this software company and its services different from its competitors. Ask them why a customer should choose to work with them instead of a competitor offering a similar software product.
Can I get access to a community forum for current users of the software?
Such a community forum is the best way to engage users. Getting access to software forums can help new or proposed users connect with product experts through peer-to-peer discussions.
Is the software the best of the breed?
A best-of-breed software product is designed specifically for the type of business you are in. So if you want such a product, you should enquire about it first. Else, you may want to settle with a fully integrated product that works for all kinds of businesses.
How long does the software take to boot up when launched?
Every single minute counts in business. So you want to make sure that the software solution you plan to buy does not eat up a lot of your time when it is launched. Ask the vendor if there are any specific executable delays during launch.
Are there any currently known bugs in the software?
When you are planning to buy a software application, do not forget to find out about the existing bugs in the app. You should be made aware of the existing bugs and any scheduled updates for fixing them. You can use a software solution more effectively when you know about its pros and cons.
Does the software feature automation?
If your employees repeat the same procedure, then you should look for a solution with automation capabilities. Ask the vendor if their product supports automation.
Can the software product be used standalone?
An understanding of whether the business app can be used standalone or with integrations can save you from investing in a product that was not designed for your type of business. If you want a standalone product, do not forget to make it clear to the software vendor earlier.
What software implementation tasks will you handle?
You want to find out from the software vendor about installation, data conversion, server/network preparation, system configuration, and integration with other information systems. Will the vendor be responsible for security set-up?
Who will handle the implementation process?
Before finalizing a business app, you want to understand that the implementation would be smooth. So you should be interested to find out about the person responsible for handling the implementation process. Do not hesitate to ask about their qualifications.
How smooth will the data migration be?
The software vendor should give you a structured data conversion methodology that will enable smooth migration of your information to the new system.
Which implementation strategy does the software vendor propose?
Try to find out about the vendor’s implementation strategy. There are several software rollout options – all at once or in phases. Since your business has different goals, risks, requirements, budgets, and time frames, make sure the software vendor can adapt to your preferences.
What is the software vendor’s expertise in the implementation?
A good software vendor should be able to show you a positive track record with their implementation strategy. Try to find out if their method is structured. Your purpose should be to look for one that is structured and flexible to adapt to unexpected situations
Does the software vendor provide you with any assistance for the seamless management of internal change?
When you want to reap the best rewards from your new software, all of your employees should be able to adopt the new processes and responsibilities. Transition may be difficult unless the software vendor makes it easy for you and your team to switch over to a new business solution.
What is the project control strategy of the software vendor for scope and budget management?
You should always look for a software provider who has a track record of successful rollouts so that they can give you an accurate estimate of time and budget. You should be looking at their entire project control strategy, from the requirement gathering to deployment.
Can the software tool integrate with other apps?
The solution should provide easy integration with existing apps as well as any third-party applications that can come in handy for your business.
Does the software provider provide an API for integrating 3rd party apps?
A growing business is always in need of expansion and integration with third-party apps is a part of the growth model. When it comes to choosing software, make sure the business app provides an application programming interface for easy integration.
How easy it is to import and export data to and from the software?
Ask the software product vendor if the tool will allow you to export data to an external file or import data from external sources.
What is included in the software price?
Of course, nobody wants to pay hidden fees. So you want to make sure you get your hands on a tool that is offered for a transparent price
Is the software product subscription-based or a traditional license?
When it comes to buying a software app, you want to know whether the software is available for subscription or a one-time license fee. You may also be interested to find out if there are any benefits associated with one payment model compared to the other.
Are there any consulting hours available as part of the software package?
Ask the software vendor if the software package includes consulting hours. Do not hesitate to ask if there are any hidden charges involved.
Does the software vendor require any support contract on your part?
Some software companies require customers to sign a support contract that mandates the latter to keep the system for a specific period of time, for example, 6 months. This means you have no other option than to continue with the software product even if you do not find it to be the right fit after practice working with it.
What will it cost if the software vendor sends a technician on-site to solve a problem concerning our business?
You do not want to be caught unawares when a software vendor sends a technician to resolve an issue that may crop up due to varied reasons. You want to make sure the charges are reasonable. Better still, you should be aware of what needs to be paid to the technician sent by the vendor to fix a problem.
What are the minimum hardware requirements to install, implement, and run the software program on the server?
You do not want to fall in love with the front end unless you are 100% sure that the software is compatible with your existing system. Ask the software vendor if you need any specific hardware to install the software. Will the business application run on your existing workstations? How much space will the software take on the disk drive? Is there a need for a RAM upgrade to successfully run the software for optimum performance?
Does my existing infrastructure meet the minimum operating system requirements for the server?
When you are selecting a business software product, you want to make sure your existing infrastructure supports the minimum OS requirements. You do not want to invest in a software solution that requires further investments in your existing infrastructure to make it compatible with the software.
Does the software vendor charge per location or per terminal?
You should enquire about the cost of having more than one terminal in your store. While some software vendors charge on the basis of the number of store locations, others charge per terminal.
How much does the hardware for your software cost?
Ask the vendor about the cost of the hardware required for installing the software, if any. But you do not have to order the hardware from them if you find a better deal elsewhere. Make sure you are already aware of the type of hardware required for the software installation.
Is there any startup or maintenance fee involved?
When you are looking for a software solution, make sure you know if the vendor charges any fee to get you started. You should also be interested to know if there are any software maintenance charges for you to pay.
Is there a fee to participate in the software product training?
What type of training is provided along with the software to make the learning curve easier for you? Does the software vendor provide training for everyone in your organization or is it for a handful of employees? Is the training available live, so that you can ask questions about any specific issues?
What is the cost of canceling the agreement?
When buying a software product, you want to get a clear picture of termination clauses and contract term commitments.
What are the security protocols for keeping data secure outside of the network?
Security is one of the most crucial factors in selecting a software program. It should be on top of your mind when it comes to finalizing a product.
How does the software vendor guarantee data backup?
Data loss can prove extremely risky for any business. So you should always ask the vendor about their backup policy. How often is data backed up and what is the cost for the same?
Does the software come with manual backup options?
Ask the software service provider about their strategy to deal with the interruption of computer services. Is there any option for manual data backup available?
Does the software vendor provide free disaster recovery support in the event of a catastrophic hardware failure?
What is the software vendor’s policy on disaster recovery? Are any charges involved for disaster recovery support if a catastrophic hardware failure affects your system?
Does the software vendor meet critical security and compliance requirements?
Your business is accountable to customers, regulators, employees, and partners. So you should look for one software vendor who has adopted a comprehensive, technically sound security and compliance program. Does the vendor map your needs for security controls?
Does the software service provider provide manuals?
When it comes to selecting software, you want to make sure manuals are available, so it is easier to use the solution. It’s of no use buying a tool that does not come with manuals.
Is the business software easy to use?
How easy is the software to work on? Is it user-friendly for your end users? Does it involve any complexities that are difficult to understand for the team? Even a feature-rich solution is of no use if end users find it difficult to use.
Does the software vendor provide training in the business app?
Do you want to find out if software training is included in the total cost? Or there are extra charges for the same. Will your organization have to bear all the cost of training your staff to develop skills to use the software?
How much training is required in the software to get your team up to speed?
The software provider should clearly mention whether the solution is complex or simple to use. If it is not an easy-to-use software solution, then do they provide training? What is the level of training your team requires to make the most of the solution?
Is documentation included with software upgrades?
When selecting a software product, you do not want to land in a tool that is extremely difficult to understand and does not come with any documentation. The same applies to any system upgrades that will be carried out in the future. Unless there is detailed documentation to back up any changes or upgrades, you cannot understand the system.
Does the software provider provide explanations of error messages in the documentation?
When you buy a software product, you are bound to come across errors. In that case, the documentation citing such error messages can come in handy. So you should enquire from the vendor whether the documentation leads you to solutions to common errors.
How often is the software updated?
You will be interested to know about the software updates. When is it updated? Does the service provider notify customers when the upgrades are scheduled? Does the software work when the upgrades are underway? How long does the process take?
Does the software vendor provide on-site service?
When you are choosing software, you would like to know the cost for an on-site visit of a technician.
Does the software vendor provide remote service?
Of course, you would be interested to find if the software vendor provides remote support. This would save you time and money if the service provider offers online support for his software solution, making things easier for you.
Who will answer our calls when there is an issue with the software’s performance?
You should be interested to enquire about how an issue is handled at the side of the software vendor. Do not hesitate to question who will respond to your emergency calls. What is their experience in the software industry?
Do you provide 24/7 tech support for software issues?
The software vendor should be willing to answer all of your queries at any time. So you should go with a software vendor who provides 24/7 technical support so that your system remains up and running for your customers.
What are the support policies of the software vendor?
If the software company offers support, make sure there are no hidden charges related to it. Everything should be clear in black and white. They may charge a monthly or yearly fee or offer free support for 30 days and then begin support charges. Make sure you understand what you should be expecting from the vendor. Nothing should come as an unpleasant surprise.
Does the software vendor offer weekend support hours?
What about holidays? When selecting a software product, you want to get your hands on one solution that has 24/7 support available. This includes on weekends and during the holidays, because not every problem will happen from 9 am to 5 pm or during the weekdays. Are there any extra charges for support during these days?
Does the software vendor offer email support alone?
Is phone support available?
You want to make sure that the software provider offers both email and phone support. You cannot rely on email support alone because, in the event of an emergency, it may not get you a quick turnaround time.
What is the average response time for a support request?
How long does the customer support staff take to respond to a query? Your business cannot depend on a customer support team that takes hours to reach out to your requests. You want a quick response time.
Will the software company fix any bugs that may arise later?
Every software has bugs. What are the software provider’s procedures for dealing with bugs? Bugs can ruin your system, so you want to have a clear understanding of the software vendor’s policy and plan of approach in dealing with bugs. The software provider should be willing to address the problems unique to your business related to the use of their software product.
What after-sales support can I expect from the software vendor?
You want to make sure that any issues or defects with the software are dealt with by the software vendor on time and with minimal impact on your business. Ask the vendor after their support criteria.
Where is the support team of the software vendor located?
When using a software product, any glitch in the product can make things difficult for you, so you should try to find out about the vendor’s support team. Ask them about the location of the support infrastructure and team.
Does the software vendor provide product demonstration?
Before investing in the software, you would want to make sure it is worth putting your money in. So it would help to ask for a product demonstration so that you understand clearly how the software solution works and why you should be investing in it.
What is the software vendor’s preparedness in dealing with a business interruption?
Operational disruption is common in a business. It can temporarily affect your bottom line. With proper planning, you can ensure that there is not much disruption in business operations. Additionally, the vendor should have a contingency plan to help you deal with any interruptions.
How well does the service provider handle schedule upsets?
You want to work with a software vendor who focuses on flexibility and commitment because it will decide how they handle any sudden changes to requirements and schedule upsets.
What are the project management, data conversion, and implementation services that the software vendor will provide to get your organization lives using their software products?
Ask thorough answers to these questions from the service provider. If they do not explain it clearly, move on to the other business app vendor.
How long has the software vendor been in business?
Of course, you do not want to experiment with a vendor who has just stepped into the software industry. You want to get your hands on a tried-n-tested product that adds value to your business. So the experience of the software vendor matters here.
How vast is the software vendor’s client base?
If the software vendor is widely popular, chances are that they have a good product. So always check their client base to measure their product’s competence in the market.
Does the software vendor have a website that can be visited for troubleshooting tips or lessons? Is online chat support available?
Online help can come in handy when troubleshooting a system. When working with a new product, you are bound to face some minor issues. It is where troubleshooting tips can come in handy. Ask the vendor if they provide online troubleshooting tips or lessons.
How does the software vendor perform tests and validation?
Testing is crucial to ensuring that the software runs as promised. So you should try to find out if the vendor offers any free trial runs or try before you buy the product. By testing the concept first, it gets easier to understand the software product’s functionality and allay fears before signing a contract.
What are the concepts that ensure a safe software product delivery?
When a project goes live, many things can go wrong, so it’s important that you are prepared to deal with whatever transpired. It’s a good idea to ask the vendor if resources are required onsite before and after launch. What about a contingency plan? Does the business product vendor provide you with one?
Who develops the software product on behalf of the vendor?
Perhaps you want the best business product in your hand. So when it comes to selecting a software solution, do not forget to ask the vendor a thing or two about the software development process. Does the software vendor develop the product? Or do they outsource it? Or a contractor is responsible for the same?
Does the software vendor provide a service level agreement (SLA)?
SLAs are a great way to create alignment between the two sides, that is the customer and the service provider. It serves as a crucial backstop. So it is important to get your SLA right.
What is the software vendor’s transparency policy?
You should look for a software vendor that has a clear transparency policy. You do not want services that are a black box because, in the event of an issue, it will get difficult to determine the actual source of the problem. The problem may appear manifold in integrated systems.
You should have clear visibility into operational management, problem management, change management, performance management, and service-level management. The service provider should be willing to offer complete visibility into these services.
What is the software vendor’s domain expertise?
Knowing a thing or two about product development is one thing and expertise is another. You should be looking for a software vendor who has broad domain expertise. Their knowledge and experience in the domain will translate into product designs that your company can leverage to improve the bottom line.
What is the software vendor’s annual turnover for the last year?
You should be interested to find out about the revenue or turnover from the software. Is the revenue trend growing, stable, or falling? What does the vendor’s balance sheet indicate?
What is the strength of the software vendor’s company?
Try to find out about the software provider’s staff numbers. Is the number increasing or falling? You should also be interested to learn about employee skills, qualifications, and experience. Do not forget to enquire about the sales and support staff employed in your location.
Who are the software vendor’s main customers?
This should give you an idea about the software vendor’s expertise in the industry. What industries are their customers in? Does the vendor have any customers in your industry? If so, what is their number?
What is the software provider’s reputation?
You want to work with a trusted, reputable software partner. So give priority to checking it all about the software vendor’s reputation as a service provider. What is being said about him on social networks?
What are the software provider’s quality standards and accreditations?
You should be interested to find out if the software provider has achieved any specific accreditations. Of course, you should also try to find out if they have any software awards to their name.
What are the software provider’s strengths and weaknesses?
When it comes to comparing software vendors, you want to work with the best. So it is a good idea to learn about their strengths and weaknesses so that you know who you are working with and what you can expect.
Where is the software vendor heading?
When you want to work with the best, your priority should be to look for a software provider who has a stable business. You do not want to invest in the product of a service provider whose business is failing. So it is a good idea to find out where their business is heading and whether it is in line with your expectations.
What was the most complicated installation or implementation that the software vendor has experienced thus far?
Get a feel of how the software vendor will manage onboarding, implementation, or installation. Learn about their most difficult implementation projects to date.
Does the software vendor have done similar integrations earlier?
Onboarding will get easier if the service provider has an experience with similar integrations earlier.
How is the software vendor’s relationship with the developer?
Sometimes vendors are not developers. So it may help to know about the relationship a software product developer shares with the vendor. This can have an impact on the type of product as well as the pricing.
What is the quality of their formal partnerships?
When you are selecting a software vendor, you are looking for one who shares a good formal relationship with partners. If a software service provider shares a weak relationship with partners, see if they have an informal network to depend on to provide additional services in times of need.
Unless you are a technical founder, you may not be able to identify opportunities to utilize technology for the betterment of your business. A software product must meet your operational needs. If it does not, it is a mere waste of time and money. You will want to invest in a product that adds value to your investment.
It is a good idea to explore where the technology is needed the most in your organization. Do the product capabilities serve your purpose? Does the product promise to improve user experience? Are there any hidden charges? Explore all available options and find answers to all these questions before buying a software product.
At ITQLick, get in touch with our experts to understand the entire software buying process.