Find out who the provider’s customers are, what products or services they use and how long they have used the software for. If the provider has a high customer retention rate then they are doing something right! Ask to speak with or visit some of their customers to get a feel for the relationship that they have with the provider.
Investment in research and development
The relationship you have with your new software provider is likely to be a long one, so it is important to choose a provider that is evolving its product in a direction that will suit you. Find out when their last software release was and what new functionality was included, find out what they have planned for future developments and get a feel for the level importance that that they place on R and D.
Investment in usability
It is likely that you/your staff will be using the provider’s software for long periods of time in order to achieve an important business task. Therefore the system not only needs to be easy to use but easy to look at without giving you headaches or eye strain. Ask the provider how much focus they place on usability and find out about the investment they make into user wellbeing.
It might be difficult to find this out, but the employee turnover will tell you what the provider is really like as a company. If you know that their employee turnover is quite low then this is a good indication that the provider is a genuine and reliable company. It also indicates that they employ people who know what they are doing!
Whether you run a small business that is likely to grow, or a large company that is expanding again, you need to be sure that both the software and the provider can grow with you and meet your ever increasing requirements. Find out how scalable the software is and get an idea of any potential future costs that growth might incur.
Access to information
Find out when the software can be accessed and where from; there is little point you only being able to access the system from the office if you regularly work away or from home. It is also important to work out what information you will need regular access to and find out how easily the software can get you this information.
If you’re thinking of giving a software provider a lot of your hard earned cash to become one of their customers, you will naturally want to feel supported and included. Find out how easily you can contact them should you need to and what their stance is on customer development requests. Is there any opportunity for you to influence future developments or to have a say on the way things are done?
Find out where the focus of the company lies and work out if this matches your aims and objectives? For example, is the software provider heavily focussed on research and development and matching their product to their customer’s needs, or is it more focussed on sales and meeting targets? This may be difficult to find out but often you can determine this from the first impressions or gut instinct.