If you’re like most of our prospects, you’re probably saying: “Yes, I want a software solution, but WHICH ONE? And how do I decide anyway?” Now, there’s tomes and tomes written about how to choose your CRM solution (1.89 MN entries!). There are even BOOKS written about making this choice, for Pete’s sake. The funny thing is, you will probably have read all this and STILL have the questions. IMHO, this is because most writing out there is consultative (some even with phrases like “organizational commitment” and “operational efficiencies” sprinkled liberally) and that’s not nearly specific enough. In a metaphorical sense, you probably already know where you want to go – you only need to figure out if you’ll take the bus or train or drive on your own. And my intent here is to help you do just that – figure out things at a very prosaic level, by asking questions that should be fairly straightforward to answer.
I’m going to assume that turn-of-the-Century items like Cloud vs. In-premise are no longer issues in your mind, so let’s move forward with my questions.
How many people do you want to pay for?
The answer to this question will tell you fairly clearly if you’re looking for a heavy-duty mass-transit solution or a car to drive in. With 15 people or less, any “car” will do – and buses and trains may be overkill. Meaning, at that level, you probably have a no need for complex configuration, custom reports, workflows and the like. So you can safely leave out all the “platforms” out there. On the other hand, if you have a larger number of people you want to enable, then you’ll consequently also have a larger number of things you want to accomplish with the solution. Head for the platforms.
How important is vendor brand?
This issue has two dimensions: how important is Brand in your decision? And, how big should that Brand be for you to consider it? The latter, actually, is the bigger issue, since larger brands automatically mean bigger price points. I am not implying that the price is the only thing that rises with brand – salespeople wear better suits and take you to better restaurants… No, seriously, if a big brand is very important, then you’re in the Enterprise league – stick to $FDC, M$FT or $AP. If a brand is important, but not necessarily that of a big one, there are a number of other players out there – Sage, Sugar, Zoho and so on. if brand is not an issue, talk to people like us (who’re all working hard to get into that second tier up there).
How long will you live with your decision?
Think carefully before you answer: the usual answer, “For a long time”, is usually wrong. One of the biggest advantages with SaaS is that you can move from one system to another – not necessarily with all your data, but enough to be effective – fairly easily. Most systems will have ways to export to Excel or CSV, so you can work with a sales force automation system for a few months and then move to a sales+marketing system, then on to sales+marketing+billing and so on. Particularly if you are a small team and your definition of “system” today is spelt E-X-C-E-L, work with a good sales automation system or billing system or whatever makes sense for you in the short term.
How important is “best of breed”?
Another way to ask this question is “How important is it that it all be ONE system?” Some companies by definition want the best possible solutions in each category and are willing to pay for their integration. With SaaS, integration does not imply delayed deployment – a number of vendors are on mechanisms like Zapier, giving you the ability to move data among various best-of-breed solutions automatically. The “comprehensive” systems - like WorkEtc for project-based companies, for example – are cheaper overall, but may not have all the bells and whistles in all the functions that you want to use. As another example, I can tell you that Impel’s Inventory Management does not have a lot of things that an Inventory-specific system like Lettuce or Stitch Labs would have – at least not out of the box.
How important is “vertical”?
Depending on how small or large your industry is, you may want to find a solution that is very specific to what you do and a vendor who’s worked with other companies in your industry. We’ll all tell you that we work with specific industries, but the reality is, there are some vendors that focus on just one or two industries and that may be important for you. For example, if you’re in banking or financial services, you’re probably best served by a solution that works well in your industry and works in very few others. The more “vertical” your needs are, the more you will depend on the vendor, not just to bring good software but to bring things like beast practices in your industry – something that “horizontal” players like us aren’t great at.
How quickly do you want to go Live?
This is a big one: the quicker you think you want go live, the simpler your solution needs to be. Yes, you could choose a “platform” solution and tell yourself that you’ll use its plain-vanilla version to begin with. But the reality is, that rarely works, particularly in larger teams. The moment you trot out your selected “platform” to ten of your key users, you’ll get sixteen opinions (two people didn’t talk in the meeting!) on how to configure things. With a simple solution, the options to configure are limited, so you can honestly tell your users: “No, we can’t do that” and get straight into deployment. So your target go-Live date will drive your selection, too: consider a “platform” vendor only if you have at least six weeks before you open the doors to other users.
Are there other questions you’ve asked or been asked in making a software decision? Let us know!