The new year is a time of reflection and renewal. For many businesses, it’s also when they set their sights on additional software investments. In the search for a new CRM, marketing automation, ERP, or ecommerce software, there are some key factors to consider. For many organizations, this ain’t their first rodeo, but even if that’s the case, there are some considerations to keep top-of-mind when purchasing software—and they go beyond pricing and features. Here are the top things you must keep in mind when buying new software.
#1 Compatibility with Existing Software
You may not be integrating today, or even tomorrow, but somewhere down the line you will come to a point where it makes sense to connect your data. When that time comes, you don’t want to be stuck with an incompatible software.
Some software providers anticipate integration and try to make it easier by offering a suite of compatible products. For example, SugarCRM, Creatio CRM, and HubSpot all offer solutions suites for sales, marketing, and customer service, so as you add-on, you know the new software is supported. However, that isn’t always the case, and when you start mixing software you must make your choices carefully.
Sure, incompatible solutions can always be tied together somehow. We do it all the time for customers.
But the catch is in the cost.
Solutions that snap easily together are cheaper to integrate and less buggy when it comes time to upgrade. The more differentiated the solutions are, the more upfront work an integrator must do to create connections that make sense, and that can cost you big time.
So, start your buying journey by narrowing down software solutions that you know fit well with what you already have (as long as you intend to keep those systems!) and you’ll position yourself for smoother scalability in the future.
#2 Identify True Cost of Ownership
Speaking of additional costs, another top consideration when purchasing new software is the total cost of ownership. Beyond the upfront price of the software, it’s critical to find out if there are any other fees or investments to obtain, implement, and maintain it. How much are extensions? What does the service contract entail? Will teams need training on this solution? How much will that cost? Establish a maximum price you’re willing to spend and ask the vendors to explain all associated costs so you can factor that into your budget.
#3 Plan Your Phases
Depending on the size of the software implementation and your goals, you may need to phase your project. Hard and fast roll-outs are a recipe for disaster. The more complex the implementation, the more risk you incur trying to do it all at once. Uncertain use cases, unexpected software performance issues, employee turnover during the transition, internal procedures that don’t match with the new software, and other factors can greatly impact the success rate of your project. Gauge your risk upfront by considering how complex this project will truly be.
If it’s a major software investment like a customized CRM or custom coded integration, it is best to break the project apart into logical chunks. Each section of the project can therefore be tested and completed to build off the next and launch the new solution with organization, timing, and budget-consciousness.
#4 Customization Options
Out-of-the-box software solutions rarely fulfill all the criteria of the company looking to implement them. Imagine, for example, that you’re adopting DocuSign for e-signature and integrating it with a compatible CRM. Seems easy enough. But, is it? What if you have a custom CRM field where you want those e-signatures to sync? What if your admins want specific notes attached? Customizations are still necessary to match your processes. That takes time and additional investment. Prepare for both and understand your options.
#5 Check the SLA
The Service Level Agreement (SLA) explains the exact services your new software vendor will deliver. Make sure you understand the security and privacy afforded to you and how your licenses are defined. If you build a special function, do you have ownership of that, or does someone else? What do you risk losing if you break the relationship with the vendor later on?
#6 Identify a Strong Product Roadmap
The process of buying software can be slow, arduous, and annoying. You don’t want to have to repeat the process often. Vet your narrowed solutions not only based on price, but on their product roadmap. Is it clearly defined? Is it based on SaaS best practices? To make this partnership last, you’ll need a solution that is stable, secure, and incrementally evolving. You’ll also want to get an idea of what upgrades are like and how often they happen with each release. Keep the product roadmap in your purview as you explore your options.
One of the best tips I can offer is to recommend working with a consulting partner who knows the ins and outs of the marketplace and can help you narrow your best fitting options. Someone who knows the right questions to ask can guide your software purchase and better ensure success long term. When it’s time to integrate with your other solutions, you know where to find us..