With IT budgets tight, it is typical for organisations to be ‘making do’ with the software systems they have in place even if they are lacking functionality and proving manually-intensive. However, not only are organisations having to cope with unsuitable and flawed software systems, they may also be experiencing poor service from the software provider. It is therefore key for businesses to review their software systems and suppliers on a regular basis. This should include asking the following questions:
- How much time and money are being spent on manually-intensive processes which could be automated using the right software solutions?
- Do customer service levels fall below expectations?
- Are maintenance costs competitive? Could money be saved by switching supplier?
- Does the supplier support legacy products or older versions?
- What ongoing training is offered for end-users?
- Does the supplier listen to the needs of their customers and develop new releases based on user feedback?
The results from the software review may identify that the organisation would benefit from investing in alternative software systems (and suppliers) in order to cut costs, improve efficiencies, receive an improved level of service and access new and innovative user-driven functionality. However, once the decision has been made to move suppliers, how does a business choose between one software supplier and another?
Software solutions, especially mid-market software applications, are not easy to differentiate. Businesses may think – “Surely an accounting system is the same regardless of which company it is purchased from?” This is simply not the case. There are some fundamental differences between both software solutions and suppliers. To aid a business’ decision-making process, they should consider the following:
- Product Investment – Does the supplier have clear, user-driven product road maps? Are they making financial investments and committing manpower in order to continually deliver a leading-edge solution?
- Breadth of Solution – Can the supplier offer ‘best-of-breed’ software solutions across a broad range of areas? Can these solutions be integrated together?
- Financial Stability – Is the supplier in a strong financial position?
- Customer references – Does the supplier have happy customers that can act as reference sites?
- After-sales support – How are customers treated post-implementation? Is there a proven after-sales support process in place?
- Location – Is your chosen supplier based in the UK where you can more easily influence future product developments, or are they simply a UK subsidiary of an overseas company where you will have little access and influence?
- A trusted advisor – It’s important that the chosen software provider is not just a supplier but is able to act as a trusted advisor, providing ongoing advice and recommendations. For instance, does the supplier keep abreast of regulatory changes and advise its customers on the software impacts of these changes?
Organisations that take the decision to remain with flawed software solutions and suppliers rather than investing in more advanced systems from quality suppliers may be thinking that they are saving money. In fact, they’re likely to be operating inefficiently, leaking money, receiving a poor level of customer service and paying over the odds for annual maintenance. It’s therefore important for businesses to review their software solutions every few years and take an honest look at their customer-supplier relationships. Failure to do this is akin to providing competitors with a green light to steal the march.