Shopping for enterprise software today can be complicated with the number of vendors and wide range of offerings. A good practice before you go looking at solutions is a quick introspection into exactly what you’d like to gain from this purchase. A lot of companies go with a “due-diligence” checklist that covers everything from general information to financial records, security certifications to product and service capabilities, and even customer feedback.
Getting feedback from previous customers is an invaluable practice that needs to be on everyone’s checklist. The CEB or Corporate Executive Board Company (now Gartner) has an extensive due diligence checklist that’s generally more applicable to larger companies (fortune 500) and states customer referrals are key. It also states that about 60% of the time the decision is already made even before the vendor comes in to demo, due to customer referrals or previous familiarity with the tool.
Before you spend loads of time vetting a company and finding out about about their customers, a good idea would be to take a close look at the solution and ask yourself a few questions:
1. Is it compatible with my current setup?
2. Does it do everything I need it to do?
3. Is it better than my current solution?
Then, be sure to assess each of the following 7 important factors for evaluating enterprise technology.
Integration and compatibility are key and Anthony Chen, Director of Special Projects at Flexport, advises that factoring in “integrations and future-proofing is especially helpful for us as we want to experiment with the best ways to pass data around our database / partners.” If a solution doesn’t play nice with your current setup, it’s probably not worth your time.
Does it work? An important subtext to this question should be “does it work without disrupting my current workflow?” The sole purpose of software and automation is to free up our manpower to focus on things that require more creativity and involve less drudgery. If the solution need a lot of engineering time to setup and build features, a closer look needs to be taken on whether the invested extra time is going to be worth the benefits.
Vendors that offer pilot programs should be a first choice here as pilot programs are a great way to check just how feasible a certain solution is. A pilot program is like a test-run and involves running the program on a small scale to better understand the large scale implications.
The next and arguably most important factor is the price. How much a solution costs is just part of the picture, how much it costs in comparison to your current solution will tell you whether it’s going to be saving you money or not. A lot of people on a strict budget might want to look at price before anything else since if something’s outside the budget, there’s no point wasting time with it. In contrast, people with a more flexible budget feel price isn’t the most important factor.
If respectable companies are already using the solutions you’re about to buy, that’s a major positive sign for you. It’s also good to look at companies similar to yours that the vendor has worked with in the past, this could be a good indicator of whether the solution will be good for you or not.
5. User Friendliness
If everything has checked out so far, it’s time to get your hands on the software or get your engineer’s hands on the software to figure out just how easy it is to use. Greg Bybee, Vice President at NovoEd, emphasizes that“life is too short to work with difficult software.” If a particular tool is too hard to use or requires your engineers to develop additional skills just to use it, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.
Agility is next on our list and agility comes from innovation. Selecting a vendor is like selecting a partner and you want someone who’s willing to change and innovate in order to stay relevant. Look for a company’s latest updates, see what servers they use, check if they’re using the latest technology like containers or AI and look for how flexible they are with regards to change and innovation.
7. Exit Strategy
Last but not least, it’s probably a good idea to always have a clear exit strategy in case you outgrow a certain solution. Vendor lock-in is something to be avoided and SnapChat’s reliance on Google’s PaaS is a good example of why an exit strategy is important.
Though we’ve lined up the top considerations, the order may vary based on preference. In Part 2 of our “how to choose enterprise solutions” series, we’ll look a bit deeper into developing an effective vendor sourcing strategy for your organization.