5 Common Costly Mistakes Made During the Software Selection Process (and How to Avoid Them)

By: Sierra Rogers on May 14, 2020

Finding and adopting new software can be a complicated, lengthy endeavor, and your final decision will impact your business operations for the next five to 10 years. Considering the time and financial commitment it takes to find the right system, it’s important to do your due diligence to make sure the right fit is found.

To help make this task a little easier, we’ve outlined five common mistakes made during the selection process along with advice on how to avoid them.

5 common software selection process mistakes (and how not to make them

1. Not involving enough viewpoints

One of the most common mistakes made during the software selection process is only having a vague idea of what’s needed, rather than specific requirements. It’s a lot easier to evaluate and select the right software when you know exactly what you need from your new system.

We asked Sean Nguyen, director at Internet Advisor, what lessons he learned from his software-buying journey.

We had a general idea that a software upgrade was required, but we weren’t sure what we needed help with. This caused us to get distracted by shiny offers and special features we didn’t need. It was a costly lesson, but a valuable one. I would encourage any business owner to really think about what’s needed internally from a system before jumping into a purchase.

Sean Nguyen

Sometimes requirements are missed because the selection process is manned only by technical staff or a small group of leaders. To avoid this, involve a variety of stakeholders in your business’ software selection process.

Relying on one person (or department’s) point of view is too narrow, especially if multiple departments will be interacting with the new system on a daily basis (think project management software, or enterprise resource planning (ERP) software). Consider assembling a software selection team of employees that can advocate for their respective departmental needs.

After you collect input from a range of future users, create a requirements document to use throughout the rest of the selection process. A requirements document shouldn’t just list the business problems you’re aiming to solve, it should detail the need-to-have and nice-to-have features you’re looking for in a new software tool.

2. Too much (or not enough) information in your “request for” documents

With your requirements document as a compass, you can set out on the next step of software selection: vendor research. While researching, there are several requests you should send to vendors to determine whether their solution fits your business needs and budget. These can be a request for information (RFI), request for proposal (RFP), or a request for quotation (RFQ).

Too often, the level of detail included in these requests actually impedes the process. For example: too little information in your requests can lead to purchasing an incomplete solution without all the functionality you need.

On the other hand, an overly specific request that includes details not just about preferred functionalities, but every single exception or requested customization can restrict vendors’ ability to innovate and be creative while problem solving.

A balanced request makes a world of difference for vendors and is an essential part of finding a successful solution. If you’re not sure where to start, check out “5 Tips for Writing a Successful Software RFP.”

3. Relying on the wrong recommendations

It happens all the time: an organization adopts new software based on a suggestion from a friend or colleague, only to find that the solution has complicated their problems rather than solved them.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t pay attention to what others are saying about the software you’re considering—simply that context is key when it comes to success stories.

While a trusted coworker may confidently endorse a project management system they used three years ago, software can change rapidly in that amount of time. Not to mention that this colleague might have been working in a completely different industry or job function at the time.

Jeremy Owens, chief marketing officer at Seriously Smoked, shared this advice:

The biggest lesson our team learned from this experience is to consider the target market of the software that took our interest. Reviews do not mean a thing if they’re all from large corporations and big business while you are a small business.

Jeremy Owens

Reviews are only helpful with the correct context. If you’re using online reviews to help make your decision, find recommendations from similar-sized businesses in your industry with comparable use cases.

Another strategy is to ask your shortlist of vendors to provide industry-relevant references you can contact directly. From there, you can reach out on your own and ask questions about the reference’s experience with the vendor and software solution.

4. Failing to think about the future

Depending on the solution you ultimately choose, your business could be committing to up to ten years with that system, making it extremely important to consider how your business needs will change in the years to come during your software search. Otherwise, you might make the mistake of adopting software that fits your immediate needs but isn’t scalable.

Growth Marketing founder Stacy Caprio told us a familiar story: She adopted a popular software solution when she first began email marketing, but quickly realized it wasn’t financially sustainable.

Once I passed the 2,000 subscribers threshold, I realized how expensive their plan was, even if you have barely over 2,000. For me, it was no longer worth it to continue.

Stacy Caprio

While preparing your requirements document, consider your business’ trajectory, including hiring plans, product and service development, and potential expansion. Explore the value of a flexible solution that can grow with your business.

Part of staying flexible means partnering with an innovative vendor that has a pulse on emerging technologies. This type of forward-thinking vendor will help you stay competitive as your system evolves to align with your future business needs.

5. Choosing the lowest-priced option

The most common mistake made when choosing software is settling for a solution based on the lowest initial price quoted to you by vendors. That’s not to say you shouldn’t set a budget and stick to it—just that it’s important to calculate the total cost of ownership (TCO) over the intended lifecycle of your software.

Jay Allen, publisher of Unseen Japan, told us that when he started his online publication he decided to go with the “cheapest, lowest-cost way” to host content. In the end, complications with the free hosting software drove him to switch to a paid alternative, but not before migrating over 300 pieces of content to the new platform.

The lesson I learned: You get what you pay for – and if you pay nothing, you’re not going to get much.

Jay Allen

TCO can include any hardware necessary for the software to run (or Software-as-a-Service subscription fees), as well as implementation, maintenance, integration, and training costs. Integration expenses in particular can add up over the lifetime of your solution depending on how frequently upgrades or additional applications are needed.

The software selection process requires extensive planning and research

On average, it takes nine to 18 months for a business to successfully select and implement new software. Save yourself a headache—talk to our software advisors.

Our advisors can shorten the time you spend finding software options from months to minutes. Click here to chat with one of our advisors right now, free of charge, or schedule a phone call for a later time.

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