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How To Buy Software 2018

Buying software solutions for your company is a skill just like any other business practice. To be effective at purchasing it is necessary to have a clear understanding of what you require and a plan on how to evaluate potential vendors. When time is also a factor a working knowledge of the internal buying processes and expectations of your employer are also important. The wide variety of similar sounding products with hard to distinguish feature differentiators can be daunting. In order to get the right software at a competitive price within the desired timeframe there are 4 important things to consider. Here’s the short list:
  • Define requirements by focusing on needs instead of features
  • Prepare your budget, know your buying process
  • Check provider quality and support
  • Make the most of your trial period
And here’s the longer one:

Understand Your Needs

Effective software purchasing starts with clearly defining your key needs. What are you trying to accomplish by acquiring the software and why? What event is driving you to make this acquisition and when are you hoping to have a solution in place? Having answers to these questions will help focus your search and make it easier for vendors to understand if they are a match for your requirements. Many products have superficial similarities but take different approaches to solving a problem. Being clear and direct about your use case means a vendor can do a better job of explaining the exact way they can be of benefit. You will get better feedback to use in comparing competitors. While it is beneficial to take time detailing the key requirements that your software must provide to meet your business goals, focusing narrowly on specific features can be counterproductive. Narrowing your focus to these needs will limit your evaluation to solutions that keep you  distracted with impressive looking side-features that sound nicer than they perform. Focus on the problem first and let a vendor show you how they have created a solution for it. Finally don’t get distracted by secondary features or product roadmaps. While additional features might be nice they are never as important as making sure your core requirements are met. Future upgrades can also be tempting but buying software based on future promises often leads to disappointment.

Establish an Informed Budget

Value is relative; this is never more true than when buying software. If you have no burning problem to solve then the temptation may be to go with a very cheap or “free” open source solution. The reality is that no software is ever free; there are always costs involved in maintaining and using it. The most important consideration is how effective the software will be in solving or preventing your core problem. Is this software mission critical? Consider the costs you incur if an issue goes undiscovered or remains unfixable for a period of time; that should set a baseline for what you budget for a solution. Software can also have an impact on your bottom line by allowing you to use resources more efficiently and saving you money on hardware or services. It is important to consider how your organization buys software before you begin your search. What are the budget limits? Who can grant approval at different levels of budget spend? Are there other parts of the organization who should be brought into an evaluation in order to increase the budget pool? Other procedural considerations like the need for NDA’s, security reviews or the involvement of a procurement team can call impact the timeline to acquire software. The more you know about your internal processes the better a vendor can work with you to make sure your project is delivered on time and within budget.

Ensure the Software is Well Supported

When looking at a piece of software that’s new to you, it’s a smart idea to look into the company who developed it. Do they have a good reputation? Have they been in business long? Do they keep their products updated and well supported? These are all things you should investigate to be certain that the software you pick will perform capably, and if you run into trouble when using it you’ll be able to access the help you need. Reading through customer reviews is a great way to get an impression of a company’s credibility and the quality of software they provide. If the vendor offers free support during a trial process, try it out. Ping the support team with a question about product usage or any feature ideas you have. If they are truly interested in being a good partner to their customers you will find that they offer a high level of support at all stages of the buying process. SolarWinds® Database Performance Monitor (DPM) offers support for usage questions as well as technical issues. Our goal is to deliver an answer during business hours within 5 minutes of any question being asked email or Intercom chat built into the product. We also offer a premium tier license that includes 24/7 support at that same great level of attention.

Trial the Software Before Purchase

Many software vendors offer free trials for customers to see the performance of their product for themselves. These are excellent opportunities to test drive the software you’re considering before making any commitments. Once you find a piece of software that appeals to you ask for a free a trial and try it in your environment. That way you’ll be able to rest assured that the software meets your business needs, functions properly and integrates well with your systems—or you’ll discover any issues before it becomes too late. A common mistake is going into a trial unprepared or without sufficient time allocated to do a meaningful evaluation. Make a plan as to what team members will be involved in the evaluation and what everyone’s tasks and goals are. Don’t wait until the last day of the trial to login and review data; you will waste a great opportunity to gain more insight about a product you may purchase as well as insight about your own problems. SolarWinds DPM does offers a free trial; the signup page can be found here. 

In Conclusion

Purchasing the right software is critical to the health of a technology based organization. The right approach matters and preparation counts. The best way to ensure you get what you need at a price you can afford is to be open and honest about your priorities and budget. If the solution you pick fails to meet expectation, then working with lackluster tools will become irritating fast. Even worse, switching software solutions once your business gets going is a costly and painful process that’s made harder by the knowledge it all could have been easily avoided in the first place. Conducting strong research is the best defense against these problems, so be thorough when following the advice above, consider all your options carefully, and you’ll be sure to end up with software that’s perfect for you.  
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