Cost, true value and company culture

(Part two of a three-part series)

In part one of this series, I discussed how to go about conducting a gap analysis to fully understand the current state of your ATS and if shopping around for a new vendor is really what’s needed. Having a good grasp on your current business needs in addition to future needs is one of the first considerations.

Further, I shared some pitfalls to avoid when conducting your business analysis and described some areas where people can misinterpret what resources are needed, and why considering the functionality and options of a new ATS must align with your unique business plans.

How do You Determine True Value?

Current and future value for your business, value for the money paid and value for the end-users should be paramount in the decision-making process.

What to consider as the value will vary from organization to organization. It’s important to ask lots of good questions to understand how the software will mesh with your unique business demands. Ask questions specific to your company’s needs, but general questions about the cost, frequency of software updates, extent of resources needed by your organization to maintain a fully functioning application, how data storage is handled and protected, along with length and terms of the contract should, also, be asked. Additionally, you should know what training is included for the initial rollout, as well as for future updates, product refreshers, new features and training for new users, as well as software changes that address future business objectives. It’s, also, important to understand any configuration or customization you may require, to meet your initial and ongoing business processes, and their associated costs.

No software is of value if the end-users cannot use it in meaningful and productive ways. Technology should enhance the user experience not be an encumbrance, so the human engineering must be in-line with how you need the software to perform. Don’t let the vendor define your needs; it’s okay to compare product feature sets to each other, but it’s most important to compare the product functionality to your requirements to ensure you’re getting the best value for the money. If you analyzed your business at the beginning of the process, you know best as to what your business needs are.

People often over-focus on the appearance of the software. Beneficial functionality and speed are not easy to design but are the backbones of what makes for good, reliable systems. What appears flashy and sparkly in a demo doesn’t always translate into a productive real-world experience for the end-user. Flashy should not be the focus, but consider availability, functionality, and responsiveness as being what’s vital. It’s important that the end-users can use the software, sometimes all day long, without fatigue.

If, at all, possible implement the software you’re considering into production. If you have more than one location, install and use it at one of the sites. If not possible, at least take the time to talk to references – both power users and the managers who do the software purchasing for their business. Questions may vary, but ask the managers if they conducted a business needs analysis at the onset of the process. Ask to know if there were any hidden costs. Knowing how satisfied the end-users are with the software is valuable information. Software review sites such as TrustRadius and Capterra are also great sources of getting crowd-sourced opinions about a product, company, and its people.

It’s, also, important to ask for references from customers that are achieving success. These may be power users who will give you a fair representation of how they use the product, and with that may be able to answer questions relative to your organization.

Company Culture Matters

When evaluating vendors, assess how closely they listen, understand and respond to information about your unique business demands. If the vendor always answers, “yes,” to your questions about functionality, you should be suspicious… no off-the-shelf software will do all you want.

If the vendor is listening and advising on what’s in your company’s best interest, they are taking a customer-centric approach and not just working to meet their own sales goals. Further, ask the vendor to whom they report, is the company privately held or owned and financed by outside investors? Who does management serve, customers or shareholders/investors? What drives their innovation? Customer-driven innovation is, generally, the best because it’s like crowdsourcing. Their responses will alert you to their company structure and indicate where customers fall on the list of priorities and importance. Also, find out what the turnover is on their client roster, as well as turnover with the software vendor’s employees. See what employees are writing about them on sites like Glassdoor.

It goes without saying but understanding how the vendor defines on-going service and support is important. This will help you understand both the advantages, as well as the limitations of their solution – and their customer focus speaks volumes about their own company culture and how well they work with clients.

You need to develop a business partnership with your ATS provider, and any vendor for that matter. A compatible relationship must be built on trust, honest communication, and mutual respect.

Understanding the overall performance and service factors of the potential software system, and its compatibility with your company needs and culture are the keys to successful product selection. Ultimately, the functionality of the vendor’s software should be in-line with your expectations of success for the present and future of your business.

This article is part two in a three-part series. In the next article, I’ll address best practices for implementing your ATS and what’s needed for the care and maintenance of the new software.

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