Choosing a Third-Party Software Solution

Are you currently looking for a third-party software solution for your business? Overwhelmed by the choices? First take a step back and evaluate your business’ needs, goals and objectives. Develop a priority list of features from absolutely critical, can live without, would be nice, and possibly in the future. It’s important to stay focused on the high-level goals and not get derailed. Let’s take a look at a few things to consider when vetting various software solutions.

How much will it cost?

This may or may not be concern number one, depending on your business. Either way, we can’t avoid the fact it would be part of the equation. It’s definitely a factor but remember it is only one of many. Also consider as your business scales the subscription costs will likely inflate to accommodate this.

What is the level of Customer Service?

This is extremely important as issues need to be resolved quickly. Are the developers responsive to bug reports? Do they have a good method for reporting them? Try reaching with a simple question to determine their level of responsiveness. It’s also important to point out that customer service could be an add-on that you may have to pay for after the first year (I have seen this model with some WordPress plugins).

Do they have reviews?

Who’s backing this horse? Do they have quality testimonials from reputable sources? This is a great first step in quickly vetting the service. Can you evaluate how it has positively impacted other businesses? Are there any reviews from business competitors?

What does the documentation look like?

Whether you are using the software at a user level or developer level, quality documentation is extremely important. This may be a big selling point (it is for me) and shows the level of trust, understanding, and commitment involved with the service. If it’s not publicly accessible, speak with a customer service representative.

Who are the people developing it?

What are the credentials of the creators? Are they novice or highly experienced developers? It’s important to have an understanding of the creators to know if they will be in it for the long haul and are committed to quality work. Take a look at their past history and projects they’ve been involved with.

Can you test the software before you commit to it?

Is there a testing environment or trial period?┬áThis is a quick way to vet the software and decide if it will work for your business’ needs. It’s also very important to know if there will be a learning curve involved in using the software and what that may entail in terms of time and finances. Is there any training provided through the service? Ask if the service providers have any training resources, seminars, or workshops.

What is the software release history?

When was the software first created? Is it still in a development or beta stage? Are there recent performance improvements being made? Is it built using the latest and greatest technology? Knowing how often the software is serviced and maintained is a great way to understand the level of commitment and care given to the service. The release notes and schedules may be visible from a blog on the website, news or press releases, or a public repository.

Is the software scalable?

Are the developers open to receiving feedback and feature suggestions if you choose to do so? Will your business grow with the software? What are the long-term goals of the service?

If you end up discontinuing the service do you have access to the data?

This may be an overlooked concern, but still an important one. There may be a better, faster, more affordable solution in the future. How difficult would it be to switch to a different service? What is considered proprietary and what do you own as the user? Review the terms and conditions, read the fine print and speak with a customer service representative to address specific questions and concerns.

In summary, it’s important to have a clear set of business goals and objectives before vetting various third-party software solutions. Review the questions outlined above and answer them with your goals and objectives in mind. Happy software vetting!

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