One of the first steps in buying business software, after you’ve articulated your goals and requirements for it, is to identify all of your software options. Creating this “long list” is critical to ensuring you don’t miss any solutions that are potential good fits for your business. Doing so will also better prepare you for the tasks of buying and implementing the software. These benefits, and the ones included below, show why considering all your software options is so important.
1. It will help you to discover lesser-known products that may be cheaper or better.
Because there are so many different solutions out there, failing to use every resource to catalog them means you may miss some which would best fulfill your requirements. For example, a list based solely on the popularity of certain software programs would miss out entirely on solutions that may not be “big names” but were developed specifically for your vertical industry. You might also miss out on strong foreign software packages that have entered your market, newer startups with innovative solutions or even older companies who have reinvented their products. Additionally, overlooking an ideal software solution by not being thorough in your initial list can generate huge opportunity costs. The cost to replace or modify underperforming software is magnified by the additional time and resources required for activities that are not revenue-generating. Better to create an exhaustive list in the first place and delay a new software upgrade as long as possible than have to replace a program that was less than a perfect fit within the first year or two.
2. It will help you to think of additional features you should consider as requirements.
When at a restaurant, seeing the menu is essential before choosing what to order. It helps to know what is on offer before deciding what to eat. Ordering foie gras at a fast food chain won’t get you anywhere. Conversely, you may see something on the menu that you weren’t thinking about before that “sounds good” and induces you to order it. Considering your software options is a similar situation. If you aren’t aware of the features and options provided by the multitude of software products on the market, you may pick software requirements which are impossible (or expensive) to fulfill or, more likely, you may miss out on useful features you never knew existed. Taking time to look into a variety of options available will help you avoid this mistake.
3. It will help you defend your decision.
Given that many of your users or other stakeholders often become aware of other options, being able to defend your decision requires you to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of competing offerings. A comprehensive consideration of all your options is the best way to arrive at this knowledge.
4. It will help you learn about the software you end up buying.
Learning from a vendor about how wonderfully their software performs is not hard, but getting them to point out the flaws in their product is more of a challenge. This is why researching all the software options out there is key. Competitors will often highlight the weaknesses of the software product you are reviewing, so considering other options and what they say about the competition is a great way to learn about the solution you are looking to purchase.
5. It will help you negotiate with the vendor and prepare for the software implementation.
Spending time researching the multitude of software options available to you will give you valuable knowledge about the market and industry. That industry knowledge will better position you to negotiate with the vendor once you decide on a system to purchase. By researching the offers and services of competing vendors you will equip yourself with ammunition about other options when entering a negotiation. It will be harder for a vendor to sell you something at a steep price if you know their competitor offers it for less. Knowing the industry also prepares you for the tough process of implementing the software once it’s purchased. For example, understanding the total cost of ownership of the software product saves you from unpleasant financial surprises. Seeing, through industry research, what challenges (like data conversion, training, end user adoption and change management) other customers are facing in the implementation will allow you to better prepare for them yourself. There are many reasons to take a comprehensive look at your business software options, and there are many ways to craft a comprehensive list of potential software packages. One is to look for online software directories which list products within your vertical industry or according to the functions they perform. Other methods include looking through trade journals and publications for lists and reviews of software packages, getting suggestions from peers and coworkers, looking at the software other firms use, examining online forums dedicated to the type of software you are seeking and attending business software trade shows and events in your area.
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