Confession is Good for the Soul
This is the continuation of my last blog where I shared my painful lessons learned about the difference between a “technology solution” and a “business solution”. If I’d known this ahead of time, I could have literally saved my company millions of dollars.
- Lesson 6: Ask for references who have successfully used the same tool for several years.
When asking for references, you need to ask for customers that have used the solution for a longer period. Often when you ask for references, the vendor will provide you with customers that are implementing or just have implemented and they are, by default, excited. But ask for some mature customer references and ask about the whole journey from purchasing to implementing to running and upgrading the solution. Get the full picture.
- Lesson 7: Check out the total cost of ownership.
Many vendors sell the software to you at a low price knowing that they will make bucket-loads of money on implementation services. Before making your solution investment, try to get a good overview of the total cost of ownership. The total cost of ownership consists of Software price + hardware cost (if applicable) + customization + implementation + upgrades + ongoing updates, as well as adaptation to future changes in your business model. What appears, at first glance, to be the cheapest vendor might not give you the lowest total cost of ownership over time.
- Lesson 8: How much customization is really needed – ask for proof via references.
Ask for the most advanced customer reference the vendor has. This will give you a feel for what might be waiting for you in terms of customization costs. Most software solutions come with a big expense for customization.
- Lesson 9: Who owns the solution and who updates/ changes the solution?
It is important that business is in control and can build, change and implement the solution without the help of expensive consultants every time you need to make a change. Challenge the vendors to show you under the hood of how things are built and configured. You will easily see the complexity involved in some tools.
- Lesson 10: Can the vendor do a quick Proof-of-Concept?
This often gives you an indication of how easy or difficult it is to establish a business solution. Very often you can see a big difference here in the attitude from vendors and they will try to limit the POC to deliver what they are best at (or to use a demo they have already built) instead of being willing to develop a custom POC quickly. So, ask for a POC that touches both the qualitative aspects as well as the quantitative aspects of a solution.The end of the story: I used these hard-earned lessons when I founded Corporater 18 years ago. As a result, Corporater has a 95% customer retention rate and we have not had to perform ANY customization at our clients over the past 18 years. Why? Because we have an agile, functionality-rich Business Management Platform that supports configuring your business solutions, out of the box. See more about how to build a business solution here.