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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.

"The last thing CIOs and other technology decision-makers want to be faced with is the need to re-evaluate and invest in a new solution two or three years down the road, when the existing system can't handle the company's emerging needs," Cowley says.

5. Check for hidden or additional fees. "Look for hidden costs in the contract, such as additional fees for in-person training, document management services, setup or annual maintenance fees in addition to the monthly support costs," advises Kirk Treasure, vice president of sales, Meditab , the creator and developer of intelligent medical software.

6. Who gets custody of your data in the case of divorce? "It's a fact of life that even if you love your vendor, someday you may need to leave them," says Jon Lincoln, who specializes in business development at etfile, a provider of custom integrated electronic document imaging, filing and retrieval systems.

"Some vendors try shady tactics by holding your data hostage (as if they own it!) or charge an exorbitant amount to sway you from leaving," Lincoln says. So before you license any software, "ask the vendor what happens if you leave and how you would get your data back. Expect to pay something, especially if the data was encrypted, but it shouldn't break the bank."

7. Take a test drive. "Before committing to a new software solution, be sure to kick the tires," says Catherine Brown, vice president of marketing, Mavenlink, a provider of project management software. "Most SaaS companies offer a free trial to test features, benefits and usability," she says.

Then, during the trial, make sure the software contains the features you need, as well as the functionality. And don't be afraid to ask the vendor questions. "You'll want to make sure it's a perfect fit for your company over the long haul," Brown says.

8. Agree to key performance indicators (KPIs) before signing a contract. "Work with your potential software providers to create key performance indicators (KPIs) prior to signing any contracts," advises Anket Naik, vice president, Cloud Operations and Integrations at Coupa, a developer of procurement software.

"By putting KPIs in place upfront, both parties will know what needs to transpire to make the software implementation a success. A successful implementation will lead to a trusted partnership between the CIO and software provider that can last a lifetime," says Naik.

 

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