How to select a software vendor?

Let's face it, selecting a software vendor is not easy. There are just too many out there and it's very much like what you feel when you are looking at many brands of vaguely similar products in the supermarket and trying to decide which one to pick up! Today, I'll try go over some of some of the things we feel that you should consider before picking up your vendor.

When you select a software vendor or software developer, you don’t just commit to a piece of compiled code. You’re committing to a way of doing business. That software – if it’s the right tool for the job – could be something you and your employees use regularly for years. And if turns out to be a square peg in a round hole, you’re SOL, back to square one, repeating the same software search you thought you just finished.

With so much riding on your selection, how the heck do you do it right? How do you find that magical software vendor, custom development team, or SaaS provider that works for you?

Evaluate the Product

Almost everybody starts their vendor search by shooting a swarm of RFPs into the void and hoping that helps narrow things down. The problem with RFPs is that nobody wants to tell you that they can’t do something. Once your RFP process weeds out the folks who aren’t ready for your jelly, you can start actually finding out what solution will work.

At this stage, you should get some hands on time with their product or, if you’re scouting custom development, their previous products. Sit through a demo, then see if you can get your hands on a trial version or run a smaller project with them first.

Pick software like you’re Goldilocks: not too slim, not too robust. You want the feature set that’s just right. Plus, you’ll see how stable their work is, and avoid critical crashes during crunch time.

Evaluate the People

You aren’t just buying a software solution, you’re getting a vendor and all the people therein. Find out what their company culture looks like. This might be the single most important factor of all. You need a vendor that shares your vision of the business landscape. Do they operate on the same time schedules that you do? If your business runs an Agile shop dropping weekly updates, imagine how much of a hassle it’d be if your vendor only updates yearly.

The people you work with should be responsive enough to take care of your issue before they cost you money. Whether that’s support issues, implementation work, or feature requests, how your vendor communicates with you can make or break a relationship. And make no mistake, this is a relationship, so chemistry matters as much in business as it does in romance.

Evaluate the Partnership

Your software vendor will become pretty integral in your business operations, so you want to make sure they operate as your partner, not just as the guy who sold you something. Are they excited about your project? If you’re looking at an implementation or custom development process, this is incredibly important. Your vendor will play midwife to your product concept, so they should care about it enough not to drop your baby.

Make sure the pricing scheme they offer works for you. That might mean exploring alternate pricing structures – fixed price, hourly with or without a cap, monthly fees, etc. It’s in both your interests to set a price that works for everybody. Your success and your vendor’s success are linked; if one of you goes out of business, the other one gets hurt as well.

Choosing a vendor should be more than just ticking off features on a checklist. You need to review the whole partnership, including the people you’ll work with and the partner you’ll have. Remember, we succeed together and fail alone.

Oh, one last thing, consider us when you are searching for developers who will build your next great app. We are a small award winning software development company solely focused on helping our clients design and build their software products.