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7 things to look for in a software vendor

The software vendor marketplace is a crowded and competitive one, with many companies offering similar products. So, how do you go about choosing the right one for you? After all this is likely to be a long-term relationship that could affect the performance of your business in the months and years to come.

As such it is best to be as certain as you can be that you have made the right choice before signing on the dotted line.

The key is effective planning and doing the required legwork. By methodically researching a few simple steps you can be sure of partnering with a reliable software vendor. These steps are: vendor stability, software updates and version release, maintenance and support, a working demo, references, implementation, and training.

1. Vendor stability

Everyone likes to know that if they are entering a long-term relationship that the concerned parties are in it for the long haul and not going to suddenly disappear leaving the other holding the baby. The same is true when trusting a software vendor. To reassure yourself that a vendor is going to be around for as long as you want them to check out how long the manufacturer has been in business, the number of employees they have and their install base.

2. Software updates and version release

To remain relevant, productive and fit for purpose, the piece of software you have invested in will need to be updated on every so often. Be sure to ask the vendor/reseller how it handles bug reports and feature requests, how frequently new versions are released and if there is any cost to you.

3. Maintenance and support

Having the latest version of an application offers a great many benefits, including better interoperability, increased protection from cyberattacks, and, often, improved features and performance. However, the process of updating can result in costly delays. Therefore, check with the vendor or supplier about the maintenance and support they offer, in particular look at service level agreements.

4. Working demo

Like the sound of a particular piece of kit? Then try it out for yourself. Not just in a demo environment or a particular element, but the whole thing in a setting of your choosing.

5. References

Don’t just take the vendor’s word for it. Ask for references from their customers who are similar to you and find out how the software is working out for them.

6. Implementation

As a business, you will have your own set of unique issues you want to resolve and that means the roll out of a software package should be specific to your business. As such, a vendor or reseller must understand your business and what it wants to achieve. It then needs to give you an action plan of how the software is going to be implemented to ensure it is up and running effectively and in good time. An action plan should include: business/system analysis, set up reports/business rules, project management, installation, customisation, and data conversion/migration to new system.

7. Training

Lastly, to be most effective a new piece of software needs staff who know how to use it properly. It should be down to the vendor to provide a training plan for your team to ensure everyone is up to scratch, whatever level they need to be at.

Following these steps might seem like a lot of work and trouble, but it is less so than being tied into a long-term agreement with a software vendor that is not fit for purpose.

Andres Richter, CEO, Priority Software