5 questions you may not have thought to ask software providers

Whether it’s customer relationship management software or rota optimising software, there are a number of questions you should be putting forward to the provider to help you understand whether it’s the right solution for your organisation.

_mg_0125You want to make sure you understand whether the software will meet your requirements and, ultimately, offer the results you want – whether that’s in saving your team valuable time or enhancing the way a business function works.

The software decision-making process

Whether you’re purchasing software from scratch, upgrading your current provision or switching suppliers, it is still a high-investment decision to make.

Undoubtedly you’ll look to meet with a few suppliers at different price points in the market or offering slightly different solutions, to give you an idea of how their options sit with your budget and meet your requirements.

It’s always good practice to ask for a demonstration from a few suppliers – yet make sure you’re asking the right questions too. There is some good advice here on the standard questions to ask when buying software. Yet there are some more decisive questions you must ask to get into the ‘nitty-gritty’ of whether the software is right for you.

Beyond understanding the pricing levels and whether the solution meets your immediate needs, make sure you ask: 

1. What developments do you have in the pipeline?

Look for a software provider that is constantly developing. This will save you time, and potentially money, as you won’t need to switch to another solution if your current software provider has failed to keep apace with changes.

For example, here at Webroster we invest heavily to develop new ways to support our customer’s rostering and workforce management needs. Take our Optimisation module for example, which is coming soon to Webroster.net: we invested into a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the University of Nottingham, a four year project that has brought Webroster Ltd to the forefront of the market. The result is a new module, soon to be available for Webroster.net, which automatically optimises rotas – reducing reliance on costly agency staff to plug gaps.

The nature of software means there are always new directions it could be taking. Customers will make requests for new features to be added and developments in the market will mean organisations require their software to do different things. You want to opt for a software provider that can provide evidence of the developments they’ve recently made and the ones they have planned for the future.

2. What has the performance of your software been to date?

You receive a snapshot of how software performs when you either trial the platform or receive a demonstration. In that time, the performance of the software may not show any flaws – and it is easy to assume that will always be the case.

It can be hugely frustrating when the software you invest in initially performs as expected but is then ridden with issues such as extended ‘down-time’ rendering the software unusable.

Ask your software provider: “how has the platform performed over the last twelve months? What steps do you take to ensure there are no periods of extended down-time when I may not be able to use the software?”

At Webroster Ltd we recently invested heavily in de-risking our service to our customers. As a result, we’re able to say our uptime has improved to practically 100%.

Ask the software provider if they meet any industry standards. At Webroster Ltd, for instance, our web service resilience meets the standards for an ISO27001 environment.

3. Will your software work for my organisation?

This is particularly important. Every organisation is different and as a result every solution for that organisation needs to be different too. Whether it’s as simple as different terminology used by your staff or the levels of access you require for different team members, it’s important that you’re able to fit the software into your organisation – and not make your organisation fit the software.

Ask your potential software provider about the level of flexibility with regards to their platform. How can you mould it to your organisation?

Have a read of our case study with Wymondley Nursing and Residential Care Home to understand how Webroster Ltd fitted into their payroll processes and worked to ensure there was no disruption to their staff.

4. How do you keep your software up to date?

It is important that you ask this question. Many software developments are ‘behind the scenes’ – ones that may not be talked about as a new product launch or new functionality available to the user, but instead developments that improve and strengthen the current provision.

For instance, at Webroster Ltd, in ten months we developed five new releases of Webroster.net, along with five for our Bee app for Android and five for our Bee app for iOS – which in total meant introducing five new features but also 44 new enhancements and 52 bug fixes! All of that ‘behind the scenes’ work is critical to ensuring software continues to stay up to date and perform at the level expected from its users.

5. Will I receive a sufficient level of customer support?

Last but not least, you need to think about the ongoing support you will receive from your chosen software provider. There will always be moments when you have an extra question to ask or the need to introduce a new user to the system, and as a result you will need to get in touch with the customer service support – and you want that to be an easy and straightforward process.

Ask the software provider what provision they have in place for ongoing support and the percentage of issues they resolve on the first call. This will give you an understanding of how well you can expect them to support you going forward.

As already mentioned, when you purchase new software, you want to get it right. You want the solution to work for your organisation and each individual who uses it. Invest time into choosing the right solution and make sure you ask the above questions to get a full picture of how the software will work for your organisation.

To find out how Webroster.net could work for your organisation and your workforce management needs, get in touch with us today.