There should be a software program specifically designed to help enterprises buy content management systems and all other types of enterprise software.
Not only would such a tool save executives of user companies a lot of time, money and energy; it would also help software developers make billions of dollars.
Investing in the right business software is one of the most important decisions any organization can make. You’re looking for a strong and lasting business impact. You want great performance at a reasonable price. You want applications that will live up to the promise of getting better over time.
Yet many enterprises don’t come close to optimizing the software buying process, especially with business-critical programs like content management systems. Buying has to follow a methodology, and that methodology is as basic as this:
- Be clear on your criteria.
- Research what you need and who provides it.
- Know what your budget is (and make sure you have a budget in the first place).
- Seek alternatives to consider.
Of course, beyond that basic list of steps, the process of making a significant investment in a product that you expect to have a long shelf life also requires expertise and experience. It’s also likely to involve making mistakes and recovering from them. Here are six ideas and strategies that I’d advise every enterprise to remember when purchasing software.
1. RFP Exercises Are (Mostly) a Waste of Time
Many buyers will initiate requests for proposals (RFP) and, in a healthy attempt to remove bias, ask vendors for input to help shape the RFP. But many software executives mistakenly believe that if they weren’t first invited to do that, then it would be a waste of their time to participate in it. To mollify possible vendor concerns, make sure to reach out individually to every vendor so they know that every proposal will be carefully considered.
Related Article: 10 Steps to Making Better Technology Choices
2. Accelerate the Buying Process
Typical buyer behavior operates in a sequence with roughly two to three weeks in between each stage: First you hold an initial meeting, then there’s a demo, a product evaluation and the price negotiation — and then you bring in the legal team. That’s a six-month sales cycle right there, but the world is moving fast and you need to deploy the solution now. Ideally, you should be able to process those stages in parallel and gather multiple stakeholders in fewer meetings so that the signoff occurs more quickly. You never want to make a decision in haste, but you don’t want to wait months and months while your competitors pass you by, either.
This reminds me of a real-world horror story: One of our customers assigned 15 people to conduct a proof-of-concept exercise with us, and their tech people spent untold hours working on the software to get it in a presentable, workable state. Then, out of the blue, we were informed that they didn’t have the business sponsorship or the budget to follow through on the project. What a waste of time — for us and for them.
We would rather have our partners tell us they’re not ready than burn hundreds of hours pretending that they are. That reinforces my main point: Too many people assigned to buy software simply don’t know how, and everybody’s valuable time gets wasted.
3. ‘A Players’ Hire ‘A Players’
Software businesses are fundamentally people businesses. If you don’t perceive the people behind the venture as being “A players,” then the software and the people you’re dealing with will likely be subpar. Experienced, quality founders and executives build high-quality organizations and technologies. If the senior team disappoints you, stay away.
4. Know How Your Organization Buys, and Share That Information
Are you tired of salespeople constantly calling or sending emails asking for updates? The fact is, that’s their job; they need to provide their managers with progress reports. If you treat them as true partners by informing them who the key constituents are, how decisions are made and when they will occur, then they will be more likely to act like partners with set expectations and proceed to work with you as opposed to working at you.
5. Be Demanding
Push your software partners to deliver at a high level. Even the best partners struggle with meeting expectations. Our customers sometimes report challenging implementations, usability issues or struggles with a team member. Escalating those challenges can help ensure you get the attention you deserve.
Related Article: Everything You Know About Selecting Enterprise Software Is Wrong
6. Trade the Things You Care About for the Things They Care About
Most software businesses care about recurring revenue. Software companies, especially in growth stages, are often eager to go the extra mile. For example, if a company can win a multiyear deal, a commitment to complete the deal quickly or even cash up front in exchange for strong marketing support and multiyear terms, that’s a textbook example of a strong, functional negotiation. As the saying goes, you have to give if you want to get.
Do Unto Others . . .
Software investments shouldn’t all be about process. In fact, this is actually my first bit of advice — a suggestion that, surprisingly, doesn’t seem to be well-understood: Don’t be a jerk to your vendors.
You should treat your vendors and their representatives as you would treat valued employees. They want your business. You want people who will go to bat for you. So scratch each other’s backs.
Think about it this way: Do you get the best out of your employees if you beat up on them? Of course not. Just because the people who work for vendors aren’t internal employees doesn’t mean they’re not human beings.
Software partners want you to succeed, but buyers get the software they deserve. Great buyers get great software that delivers for them in the short term and the long term. If only there were a software program that could automate that process for them.