Software is a major capital expenditure and certain considerations should be taken into account before an investment is made. Take a look at this short list of questions to ask before making your software purchase.
What factors into the cost of the software? Is it a licensing fee based on the number of users? Is support included? If customization is available to meet your specific business needs, ask about the costs associated with the customizing service and the impact it will have on your implementation timeline.
What services are included with the software? Hopefully, the software you are considering comes with some sort of training and support. If not, reconsider. Proper training and ongoing support can help streamline the implementation and staff training process, as well as increase your success with the software over time, and provide a higher return on your investment.
What support is available and how does it operate? With any service, if you are in need of assistance and customer support is not readily available, the only option is to stop using the service until you get the help you need. This can result in decreased productivity and lost revenue. Before purchasing your software, find out where the company is located and how their support offering works. If the company offers phone support, ask when calls can be received and how long it will take to get a return call if a message is left. If online support is an option, ask about the turn around on a submitted support ticket and the availability of additional online resources like a troubleshooting knowledgebase. Learning this information early in the discovery process can provide peace of mind when an urgent situation occurs or a quick answer is needed.
How often is the software updated? Some out-of-the-box systems require that you purchase new software whenever an update is released. Other systems automatically update at no cost to you, creating a better end user experience and product loyalty. As long as you are partnering with a reputable software company and they are notifying you of updates and bug fixes in advance, you can maintain your software system without any surprises.
Will the software be able to grow with your business? Are you a growing organization? Are you planning on continued growth in the future? Consider software that can easily grow with your business at minimal cost to you. Think about things like the scalability of a database, product customizations, reporting capability and interfaces. How will these elements be impacted by consistent or sudden growth? No one wants to invest time and money into software that needs to be replaced in a year because it can’t grow with a company. By considering software scalability in advance, you can avoid this pitfall and secure a long term, successful software system.
What is planned for future releases of the software? If you want software that is going to grow with you, ask about any planned feature releases. What is in the works and how far out is the release? Let the software provider know that you plan on making a long-term investment. A company worth partnering with will share their plans and be open to customer input on needed features and functionality. In addition, successful software companies build out their products based on user and industry need rather than trendy bells and whistles that don’t add value. Make sure you and your software provider are moving in the same direction.
Taking the time to ask the right questions before making a software purchase will result in peace of mind knowing you chose the right tool for your business, and confidence in the product you’ve chosen.