Business Software Buying Guide

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July 9, 2012

Buying business software is a big decision.  Whether you’re self employed, run a small business, or have purchasing power within a large company, the impact that your purchasing decisions can have is huge.  Business software can be incredibly expensive, both in up-front cost, implementation cost, and in terms of its long term impact on the business.  If you make the right decision, you can save your company a fortune.  The wrong decision could drive the company into the ground.

Nobody Ever Got Fired for Buying IBM

For many years, IBM had a marketing slogan “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” – that slogan was incredibly powerful, and shows how cautious people have to be when they’re buying hardware and software.  It didn’t matter that in the 70s and 80s other computer manufacturers were emerging, and those devices may have been more powerful or more flexible than IBM – people wanted, and still do want “safe”.

What does safe mean?  Well, in the world of software it means reliable, easy to deploy, and well supported.  Given the choice between a cheap and cheerful accounts package from a vendor you’ve never heard of, or the latest product from Quicken, what would you choose?  For most people, Quicken would be the obvious choice – you know that the vendor will be around a long time, so it will be easy to get support.  You also know that virtually every accountant out there will know how to use the software, so long term there won’t be any unwelcome surprises.

Trial Runs Are Expensive

The biggest challenge when changing business software is making the deployment process as smooth as possible.  When you’re trying to find the best personal calendar or home finance app, it’s easy enough to install a few free trials and see which one you like.  Doing that on an enterprise scale isn’t practical.  So, instead of rolling out a new app to every single PC in the workplace, why not go and watch other people using them.  You can go to SAP events and see their CRM, accounting, and human resources apps in use. Another benefit of SAP events and other vendor specific events is the networking possibilities – you can speak to other users and vendors and get a feel for what they think of various apps.  You may even find prospective employees or consultants there that could help you deploy the software once you’ve bought it.

Total Cost of Ownership

It’s vital that you think ahead when deploying software.  Consider the total cost of ownership.  Sometimes, software looks expensive upfront, but when you think about deployment, support, and training, the landscape changes.   This is one of the most common barriers to deploying open source software.  The software itself might be free, but if you need to send your employees on a training course to learn how to use it, and then have to pay for support in the long term, the total cost of ownership could end up higher than simply sticking with something that most people in your enterprise already know how to use.

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