I am going to suggest that training your staff is the new software purchasing best practice for avoiding those lemons and buyers remorse. The idea would be that before you buy that data warehouse and reporting package for your SIS or ERP, or that new LMS, IDM integration, project management software, or CRM SaaS software you would send your key staff to vendor training. You might even send end users like departmental report writers or faculty.
Software Purchasing Best Practice
I imagine we could quickly agree on what is software purchasing best practice. For many organizations, best practice has been formalized in the purchasing policies or vendor management program. For others, best practice is less formal or even fluid based on the type of software being purchased and its intended use.
Among the tried and true software purchasing best practice would be developing a requirements document, seeing live demos, conducting vendor bake-offs, and maybe a proof-of-concept. Best practice would also include conducting an RFP or seeking competitive bids and following them up with customer reference checks including site visits or at least a webinar.
At that point best practice shifts to the vendor management controls for assessing the vendor health and negotiating the terms and conditions of the sale and any implementation services and software maintenance contracts.
Software Buyers Remorse
How many of us have been involved in a software selection process which followed all or most of the best practices cited above only to realize during the vendor training that we just bought a real pig of a solution? I have, and it sure stings to learn there was a hole in your due diligence and software selection process.
You convince yourself it was unavoidable and the vendor references you spoke to were just shills fulfilling a discount obligation or maybe just not savvy enough to see what you see. But you know none of that matters and you are now the proud owner of a colossal mess (aka POS) to support and use.
If any of this sounds familiar to you then you probably also know that getting software buyers remorse isn’t limited to business application software. IT infrastructure software as well as IT operations and management software purchasing has more than its share of bad software selections and shelfware.
Training – The New Best Practice
What if after the RFP’s or bids are scored, when you have your preliminary software selection done, you were to send a small team to vendor training before signing the contract instead of waiting to go through vendor training during implementation? Would that help you sharpen your decision?
You could make your software selection contingent on the vendor training experience. You might even add it as the final element in the RFP or bid criteria. You could pay for it yourself as part of your risk management strategy since it might be cheaper than making a bad software selection decision. And, you could also have the cost of training applied to the software purchasing cost if you go through with the deal.
What do you think?
Would sending a team to vendor training have changed any software purchasing decisions you’ve made recently? How well would this work for major system purchases?