Evaluating software is not a math problem, please don’t count the number of features and award the deal to the highest score. Print software must solve your challenges, in the order of importance to your business.
Have you ever looked for a piece of print software, found one and said, “this does everything we need.” I didn’t think so.
There is this myth that I would very much like to end because it causes so much damage to our businesses. The number of features in a software product does not make it better, does not equate to more value, and will not assure more success with the product. How many features does Google have? Exactly (1) – really fast search! I only say that because the number or breadth of features does not always equate to value provided.
You are looking to invest in print software to solve a problem. If one vendor can solve that problem with a single feature, implemented in a way that does not require you to have an instruction manual and a decoder ring then that product is more valuable than the one that solves the same challenge with 14 features and it takes a week to learn how to do it.
Comparing features is typically done with a checklist, right there is a huge problem. A feature isn’t binary. Imagine something as complex and important as estimating in a Print MIS system; check (yes) this product does estimating. Are you kidding me? You can’t make a decision about estimating from a checkbox. The issue here isn’t the checkbox it’s the question. Do you do estimating is not a very good question because the answer to it will not tell you whether this product will work for your company or not.
The best way to approach a software investment is for you to prepare before you start shopping. Too many businesses skip the preparation part and start shopping. As soon as you start shopping you are under the influence of the sales process – drive very carefully. By preparing I mean that you have simply sat down with your team and prioritized what challenges you need this software to solve. Do not describe features or potential solutions – define the challenges.
For example, if you’ve outrun your Print MIS solution (it’s not working for your current business) then you should sit down and describe the challenges.
- Challenge #1: Its takes us way too long to generate quotes for small digital jobs.
- Challenge #2: We would like to price about 20% of our business off a price list rather than requiring a full estimate for “standard jobs”
- Challenge #3: We need more and easier access to the data stored in our Print MIS without having to call the vendor to write custom reports.
- Challenge #4: We need our order entry solutions (web-to-print) to automatically create jobs in our Print MIS, our current Print MIS can’t integrate with anything
- Challenge #5: Our customers want to send us jobs programmatically, we need our Print MIS to be able to accept jobs directly from our customer’s ERP systems.
This is just an example of possible challenges you might be facing when looking at a new Print MIS solution. It is VERY important to describe challenges and not start thinking about how to solve them. The best possible attitude for shopping is an open mind for all solutions. If you start defining solutions now, you will have a closed mind for alternative solutions that get you to the same place in a different way.
In 2017, good software products and companies are operating a “moving train” – their software cannot be sitting still because the entire technology ecosystem is moving. You are not buying a specific version of the software, you are buying a ticket on their train. That train is traveling down a specific path (on rails), at a specific speed (their development speed), for a specific group of paying customers (their target market). You want to understand where they are going, how fast they are traveling, and if you belong with the other passengers on the train (this is very important).
If you buy a ticket on a train (purchase a specific software product) and you are trying to solve challenges that nobody else on the train is trying to solve – guess what? You are going to be an unhappy passenger because this train is going to travel towards the solutions that match most of the passengers. Diverting from the main track is expensive and causes a major distraction for the vendor.
- Where is the software vendor going with this product?
- How fast are they traveling?
- Who are the other passengers?
These three questions are far more important than any feature list. If you prepare by documenting and prioritizing the challenges you need to solve, then you pick a vendor who is going to where you want to go with other passengers like you – there is a far greater chance of success.
One last thing. You can blow all of this up by making the most common mistake made with software implementations. You get the software and you insist it needs to work for your business as it runs today. Don’t do that. Get the software and change your business processes in a way that gets the most benefit out of the software. Yes, learn how the software works and change your processes to fit it, you will spend less money, implement faster, and your blood pressure will be lower.