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Questions to ask when selecting a software vendor

Questions to ask when selecting a software vendor

With continuous improvement being the key to maintaining a competitive advantage, many companies are turning to software solutions to help streamline their business processes.

But as much as software can help to reduce costs and improve productivity, selecting the wrong software vendor can have quite the opposite effect.

Here are 7 questions we suggest you ask during your vendor selection process:

1. What are your credentials?
It’s important to do a bit of background research on each vendor you’re considering. You want to be sure that the vendor is well-established with solid plans for future growth and development. New start-ups introduce a lot more risk, so be sure that’s something you’re willing to accept before proceeding. Also ensure that the vendor has all the necessary credentials and certifications relevant to the type of solution you are looking at implementing. If they are not able to provide these, back away immediately.

2. What do others have to say?
Reference checks are an absolute must, just be sure that you’re getting a true reflection. Customer references from companies within the same industry are key. Also be sure to ask how long they’ve been a customer as new customers may not have hit any real issues just yet. Casting a wider net to online reviews, published articles and industry expert opinions can also be very telling.

3. What after-sales support do I get?
Sales teams are notorious for telling you exactly what you want to hear in order to seal the deal. This is why a carefully considered project & post implementation Service Level Agreement (SLA) becomes crucial. You want to ensure that any issues or defects are dealt with timeously and with minimal impact to your business, and that the vendor’s maintenance & support teams are available exactly when & where you need them.

4. To what extent is the solution scalable/customisable?
Predicting the future is a challenging task. This is exactly why the software you choose needs to have the ability to grow and adapt along with your business. You do not want to find yourself in a position where you have to change your software solution a couple of years down the line because it can no longer support your business needs.

5. Are there any hidden surprises?
Be sure that you have the full picture when it comes to fees payable. Vendors do have a tendency to be less forthcoming about extra fees relating to items such as software modules that may carry an additional cost, onsite training or support costs, ongoing maintenance fees, etc. The rule of thumb is: When in doubt, ask more questions.

6. What is the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)?
You have to consider all of the direct & indirect costs related to the software you’re purchasing. This includes not only the actual software cost but also the associated hardware & data centre costs, the implementation cost, end-user licencing, patch / enhancement / upgrade costs, as well as ongoing support & maintenance costs.

7. What if things don’t work out?
Two things you have to be clear about up front are: 1) Who owns what? and 2) What are the costs & criteria related to cancelling the agreement? By getting these items out of the way early you can avoid lengthy & costly arguments later on.

As one of the more niche management consulting firms in South Africa, we pride ourselves on solving complex business challenges powerfully and efficiently with our tried and proven partnered approach and methodologies.

Is your business embarking on a Request For Proposal (RFP) process? We can assist with vendor selection and critical assessment. Contact Cathy at Analyze on 021 447 5696 or email her on to find out more.


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