It’s October, and Halloween is almost upon us. As we celebrate with candy, costumes and caramel apples, we all try to ignore the things that terrify us. Ghosts, ghouls and goblins are running amuck. Vampires are feasting on blood, rather than teenage angst. And those of us in business — at least, those who are looking to improve our business processes — are faced with the greatest horror of all: software selection (cue dramatic music).
As you probably know, software is a significant investment for any business, and the selection process isn’t always easy. There are stumbling blocks all around you; ones that can compromise your productivity, customer service and the ability to grow your business. As anyone who’s seen a horror movie can attest, when you trip and fall, you’re a goner. So just as the kids at Camp Crystal Lake needed to find out more about Jason, you need to know more about how to navigate the software selection process. Below are some of the biggest and most common software selection mistakes you should avoid:
Failing to Properly Equip Yourself
You know what happens when people walk unprepared into the scary house at the end of the road, right? They’re the first to go. The same is true for you if you’re unprepared to start a selection process. You should always assess your needs before getting too deep. This often starts by documenting every feature that you need, so you have a physical list that you and your fellow software selectors can look back on.
Entering Dracula’s castle? Better write down a cross, a wooden stake and a bunch of garlic. Looking for new marketing automation software? Write down that you’ll need email automation, segmentation and CRM integration. After you get a complete list of your needs, you’ll have a starting point for vendor evaluation.
Thinking You Already Know It All
There’s always that one letter-jacket-wearing jock who thinks he knows everything. He’s completely unafraid, so he confidently walks wherever he wants. At least, he does until he runs into a Ghostface or a Michael Myers.
When it comes to software selection, you’re almost certain to choose a bad system if you don’t do your research. After gathering your list of needs, it’s time to look at vendors. Find some that fill all of your most important needs, as well as most or all of your other needs. Then you need to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each system.
If you try to wrestle Frankenstein, you’re going to have a bad time. But if you use fire against him, you just might have a fighting chance. What we’re trying to say is, you should know what you’re getting yourself into before you get there. After assessing each vendor’s strengths and weaknesses, you’ll know which ones are easy to use, which are more difficult to integrate, etc. This creates a pros/cons list for each vendor, which makes comparing them easier.
Not Seeking Outside Help
If there’s one thing that horror movies have taught us, it’s that you have a better chance of surviving with the help of others. Trying to solve the mystery on your own leaves you vulnerable to the likes of Freddy Krueger. But if you seek help from someone who’s been in your position before, you can use their knowledge to find a solution.
This is why software reviews are so helpful; they give you the perspectives of current and former users of the vendors you’re looking at. After reading through reviews, you can get a good sense of how each vendor might work for you. Additionally, there’s a good chance you’ll find a review written by someone in your industry and/or from a similarly-sized company, which could make or break your decision on that particular vendor.
Just as you should be wary of a weird clown hanging out in a sewer, tread cautiously around reviews; they might be trying to lure you into that stinky sewer of unproductivity. Yes, as we just said above, reviews can be extremely helpful. But there are plenty of reviews out there that are untrustworthy. Ignore most anonymous reviews, as there’s a high likelihood that they’re written either by someone working for the vendor, or by someone who doesn’t really know what they’re talking about.
Similarly, look out for reviews that have subtle bias. For example, an expert review that gives significantly more time to one vendor than it does the rest. And when visiting a crowd-sourced review site, keep an eye out for reviews with similar wording — these are also likely to be written by someone working for the vendor.
In addition, be wary of the vendors themselves. Even if a vendor’s sales rep genuinely wants to help you, at the end of the day, they’re always keeping their commission and the company’s profits in mind. This could lead them to suggest a more costly product or package that you don’t need. In this case, the more wary you are when talking to vendors, the more likely you’ll choose the correct system.
Ignoring the Possibility of Growth
You want to know why the zombies in Resident Evil took over the world? Because nobody thought it’d be problem. “It’s just a few zombies,” they said. “It’s just one little outbreak,” they said. But alas, they ignored the possibility that growth could occur. So once it did, they lost control.
If you ignore the fact that your business might grow, you could easily outgrow a new system before you get the chance to take full advantage of it. As you evaluate your shortlist of vendors, make sure that each of them can scale along with your business. The last thing you want is to adopt a great system that helps you grow, only to outgrow it in six months. At that point, you’d have to start the selection process over again, way too soon. No matter how bright and shiny a vendor’s features may appear, if it can’t scale, it’s not worth your money.
Not Asking Questions
Unless you recently watched a creepy video on VHS, you’re not going to hear someone creepily murmur “Seven days” the next time you pick up your phone. So stop worrying, and call your shortlisted vendors if you have any questions. Ask every and any question you have about their system, their support or even their company’s history. The more you know, the more informed your decision will be.
Don’t Be Afraid of the
Dark Selection Process
Stepping into the software selection process shouldn’t feel like stepping into a haunted house. Sure, it can be daunting; but when done right, the result is more than worth it. As long as you do your due diligence, you’ll find your best-fit software. And if you’re able to avoid these mistakes along the way, you just might find that software selection isn’t so scary after all.