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How to Choose the Right Software Vendor

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff | April 16, 2013
How so you sort through all the choices and find the right software vendor for your business? IT execs with experience offer eight suggestions (along with four bonus tips) about what questions to ask software vendors as well as how to properly vet them and their product offerings.

How do you choose the right software (or app) for your organization? How do you sort through the marketing and sales hype? And how can you tell which vendor will be with you for the long haul and which will disappear after the sale? These are just some of the questions IT executives face when evaluating technology solutions to business problems.

So how do you choose the right software solution--and vendor--for your organization, or your organization's specific challenge? CIO.com asked dozens of IT executives to find some answers. Following are their eight suggestions regarding what questions to ask and how to figure out which vendor and solution best fit your needs.

1. Figure out what it is you really need."Know what you want first," says Steven A. Lowe, the founder/CEO of Innovator LLC, a custom software consulting and development company. "If you know what you want, ideally separated into a must-have list and a nice-to-have list, it will be much easier to figure out if any given solution fits your business--and to resist 'shiny' things."

"The most important to do is to gather accurate, thorough requirements for what's needed in the software," says Andrea Palten, vice president of Marketing and Sales, Enfocus Solutions, a requirements management solutions provider. "The solution must align with the goals of the business and must meet the needs of the stakeholders." Therefore, it's critical to determine the business requirements before you start interviewing software vendors.

2. Check the software provider's credentials and certificates. When evaluating software vendors and technology partners look into their background, says Herb Hogue, senior vice president, Professional Services & Engineering, En Pointe Technologies, an IT solution provider. "How long have they been in business? Are they growing or downsizing?"

It's also important to "look for strong capabilities and credibility," Hogue says. "Do they have partner certifications relevant to the solution(s) you are looking to implement? Do they have an engineering team to focus on product/solution development?"

3. What do other customers have to say? "Ask vendors for references in your industry," says Jennifer Walzer, CEO of BUMI, a provider of managed online backup and recovery solutions. "Happy clients will gladly share their experiences with you."

When speaking or emailing with customers, be sure to ask: "How long have they been a client? How has this provider addressed their specific needs as a company doing business in their specific industry? Is the customer service team responsive and knowledgeable?" In addition, Walzer advises searching the Web for reviews, both positive and negative, of the provider.

4. Can it scale? "CIOs should ask about and understand the level of customization and scalability a software solution offers," states Malcolm Cowley, CEO of the Performance Horizon Group, which provides a global marketing platform. "As companies expand into new markets [or grow], their software should be able to scale accordingly," he says.

 

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