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A Beginner’s Guide to Buying Software

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The software market is changing. The days of expensive, slow and IT led installations are over. There is a new generation of SaaS (Software as a Service) companies in town – offering easy to implement, fast to roll out and constantly updated software that only needs a little input from IT teams.

This means that, increasingly, software buying decisions are being made by people who have never done it before.

While you might be sure that you’ve found the tool to make your life easier, you’ll still need to present a carefully considered and convincing case to the rest of your team. And if you’ve not bought software before, you might be wondering how best to do it. But don’t worry, the StorIQ team are on hand to help!

We’ve compiled a list of questions to help you get all the information you need about your new platform, so you can put together a solid business case and get your new software up and running as smoothly as possible.

1. What is the pricing structure?

Whether it’s a yearly or monthly subscription, it’s important to understand exactly what you are paying for. Are you charged per device the software is installed on, per user or per store?

If you’re a rapidly growing company and you’ve invested in a yearly subscription that’s based on the number of users, you might end up paying a lot more than you thought by this time next year!

Don’t forget to ask if you will be charged a setup fee. Does this charge only cover the technical setup or does it also include training? Check for ‘hidden’ charges; you don’t want to be surprised by extra fees for storage, updates or support.

2. Is it scalable?

Will the system be able to handle the growing needs of your business? Can it accommodate more stores, more users and more usage? Can it support multiple languages, multiple time zones, and a global organisational structure?

3. Do we need bespoke development?

It’s usually faster and easier to use a SaaS product ‘out of the box’, but sometimes you might need some extra capability.  The best SaaS companies will work with you, and if you’ve identified a requirement that would improve the platform, they should consider building it into the platform at no extra cost to you.  However, sometimes bespoke development is needed to accommodate specific business requirements, and if this is the case, make sure you understand exactly what development you are paying for, how it will be tested and when it will be delivered.

4. How easy will it be to implement?

When thinking about implementing something new, there are 3 key things to consider:

TECHNOLOGY: How will it function in your current tech environment? Will you need to buy new hardware? Don’t invest in an Android product when you have iPads in store!   If you’re buying a web based product, check your devices have modern browsers, and make sure that there’s internet connectivity everywhere you need it – you’d be surprised how often wi-fi fails to reach the stock room…    If you think your users might not be able to rely on their internet connection (e.g. in shopping centres, or while they’re travelling), ask about offline capabilities.

PEOPLE: Is the tech intuitive to use or will your team require training?  Will you have user guides, or access to online help? How much support will your IT team need to provide and how much time and effort will be needed to create a buzz around the launch and embed it in every day processes?

BUSINESS PROCESS: Think about the other software your teams are using – outlook, intranet, reporting and scheduling tools. How will the new product sit alongside them, and who will own it? You might need to redefine some processes, and you should consider appointing a project manager to make sure the launch goes smoothly.

5. What support is included?

It’s crucial that you know you’re going to receive the right level of support. Find out what your support hours are, whether you have phone or email support and how quickly you can expect a response.  Do you have a dedicated Customer Success Manager? Will new starters receive user guides and will they have access to a knowledge base for day to day queries?

7. How often is the software updated?

One of the great things about SaaS is that new features and benefits can be added to the platform at any time, without slow, time consuming updates. Make sure you know how often it’s updated and whether updates are automatic or must be installed. Are new updates released monthly, quarterly or on an ad hoc basis?

Will you be sent an email to notify you of an update or are you notified when using the software? Are all users informed of updates or is it up to the main users to cascade this information?

8. Will we be able to contribute to the Roadmap?

SaaS products are constantly developing and improving, and as a customer you should be able to influence the direction of these changes. Find out whether customers can contribute to the roadmap, and how you can communicate these ideas to the provider. A great SaaS company will include their customers in the development process, to help create a product that they love to use and works seamlessly within their business.

9. What’s the ROI?

Any new investment needs a strong financial ROI – short for Return on Investment.  Think about whether your new software will help drive a sales uplift, or a cost saving – or both – and try and estimate what these might be worth.   It doesn’t have to be exact – an educated guess is often enough – and remember that many small improvements can often add up to a compelling case.

We hope this information is helpful, do get in touch if you would like to find out more about StorIQ, or if you would like any help in building your business case.

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