The Nitty Gritty: How companies decide on purchasing software

I’ve already written a few blog posts this year on tips and strategies for picking the best software for your company. As I was doing some research this week though, I came across a software-buying process that a software consultant created – giving me a different perspective on how many of you approach purchasing software.

tips for picking softwareIn the software world there are often two extremes of people who purchase software: those with a mile-long list of requirements and features they want the software to include, and those that have no requirements for the software, they just want something that works.

In our most successful relationships with prospective clients, we’ve found that those who fall somewhere in the middle usually find the most success in evaluating and purchasing a product that suits their business needs.

Case in point: Too many companies develop extremely detailed requirements before looking at the different oil and gas accounting software packages available, and then are disappointed as they begin testing the various products as there is no perfect solution that fits the checklist.

So Tip #1: Create a broad list of “must-haves.” Aim for a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 20 attributes you judge the software on. If the package doesn’t have these “must-haves,” then it won’t make the initial cut. This list of “must-haves” isn’t limited to what functionality the software has either. You can come up with a list that includes operating system, cost, time to implement, support or any other requirements that will help you narrow the candidates down.

At this point, you can often start to narrow down your list without even having to contact us, just by checking out all the software companies’ websites.

Tip #2: Before you jump in and purchase a new product, analyze exactly why you want to upgrade/change. Most software switches are driven by the biggest problem you’re experiencing with your current software program. As you compare products, make sure that your favorite options will solve the problem you’re currently experiencing.

Tip #3: When you go to schedule a demo, make sure you drive the agenda of the demo. At SherWare, we have no problem going over the basics of how our software works when you request a demo. But the basics of the software are probably not the driving reason that you’re wanting a new oil and gas accounting product in the first place. Before you begin the demo, make a list of what items you want to see.

Come up with a list of questions/scenarios that you want the new software product to solve better/quicker/easier than your current product. Also, give your demonstrator an idea of who will be viewing the demo and what their role is in the purchasing process.

The more you can help us see how you intend to use our oil and gas software, the better we can assist you in seeing the features and functions you need to make an informed decision. It does you no good to see a demonstration of how the software handles joint-interest billing owners if your company only deals with net owners and takes your portion of expenses owed out of any incoming revenue. By outlining what you’re looking for, we can save you time in the process.

Tip #4: Pull out that mile-long list of functional requirements and check away. After viewing any demonstrations of the packages still in the running, meet with the other decision-makers in this process and decide which 2-4 packages (depending on how many you’re beginning with) are the best fit.

Once you have your best options in front of you, go through them with a fine-tooth comb at this point to see what differentiates the products. Gather input from all sides of the business that will be interacting with the software from accounts receivable to data entry and billing, etc. Rate each functional checklist item from this perspective: exceeds requirements, good fit with requirements, fits with a workaround, can be modified to fit or will not fit requirements.

Give each vendor still in the running time to comment and review your ratings, as they may be able to offer insight into a piece of information you’ve overlooked or didn’t realize was already built into the software.

Tip #5: Give the software vendors the time frame you’re working on to get better service. This may seem like you’re showing your hand too early in a poker game, but by letting your vendors know from the start what you are looking for, who will be making decisions and by when you expect to make a decision, this allows them to plan their conversations around your schedule so that you receive help and guidance when you need it – and not when they need a sale.

As you look into oil and gas accounting software for your business this next year, perhaps these tips will help the process go smoother. Are there any other tips I should add?

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