Evaluate CTMS software like an IT pro – blog series: part 2
We’re going to shake it up a bit.
Yes, we want to know what the various software packages actually do, but there are many other important factors to consider before we even get to that point. So, please put your features lists away for now, grab a cup of coffee and focus on the key questions you can ask to narrow down your search immediately.
We’re going for insights here - the big “aha” moment when you realize that a vendor is really dancing to your tune, or maybe more importantly, when they are not. We’re going to immediately throw out the vendors whose rhythm doesn’t match yours.
The following questions will provide you with the appropriate amount of insight to make an initial evaluation, and help you to narrow down your search to two or three vendors who could potentially provide you with the solution that will fit your organization.
Let’s start here:
You may already be evaluating this point subconsciously, but it’s really important to get this one out in the open. It may be one of most important yet most underestimated points: do you actually like this team? In other words, would you share a pizza with them at 9pm? Integrating a new software system into your existing infrastructure is no small task. There will very likely be some late night with pizzas involved.
Here’s another one: On the sales visit, do you click with the team or do you feel friction? From what you can tell, are they cooperative, humble, honest, and open? Or is the team defensive and full of excuses? How would you feel about working side by side with that team for a year or more? If you are not feeling the love, we recommend that you quickly exit, stage left.
Chemistry between you and the team is important, but so is the chemistry amongst the team. Do they seem to get along with each other? Is it tense and stressful or more light-hearted? Can they joke with each other? Should you have a problem - this is the team that will need to work together in order to solve it with you. It’s a real plus if they like each other. Isn’t it way more fun to fly with an airline that has funny flight attendants who get along while doing their job?
Which brings us to our next question:
This question is critical because you want to be sure that you are getting the vendor’s “A-Team” not only during the sales pitch, but also for the implementation and service following the sale. You’ll want to ask about how long the team have been in their roles, and what the average tenure of the project team is. Here you are looking for long-term employees - because that is a fantastic gauge of the working environment. When an employer cares for their employees, the employees will always care for the customer. If the company can, from history, predict that the person who sells you the software today will be answering your service calls in 5 years, you have found a vendor who is dedicated to their product.
Other areas to explore: who shows up for the demo/sales call? Is the project manager along for the sales pitch? In the world of software we have optimists (the sales people) and realists (the project managers). If the project manager is present, they are normally able to give you a more realistic view of timelines and capabilities. And what is the ratio of sales people to software engineers? We’re not sure what to recommend in terms of ratio, but certainly a company who have more software engineers than sales people is dedicated to their craft - not just to selling it.
We call this a “knock-out” question. Data is the new commodity and has increasing value with each year that goes by so you’ll want to be sure that your data is stored in such a way that it’s easy to access and manipulate. If the software does not store data in a database we recommend you walk away. That’s because data stored in forms will be presented in tabs, and cannot easily be mined. There are so many ways to use inputted data; don’t use old technology that won’t allow you to use and reuse that data. Go for a solution that stores data in a database. That will usually allow you to view and use that data in an almost infinite number of ways. Check to see which your vendor supports, and then be sure to look at this point specifically when it’s time to get a product demo.
Data stored in a database should also allow you to pull an infinite number of reports, even if they were not specified before the integration. Check with the vendor-candidate to better understand the process of defining and running new reports. Must the vendor set that up? Or is that something you can do, on site, either through an administrator or more attractively, yourself?
The bottom line here is this: software that inputs into forms is old technology and will not be a good investment. Knock those guys out.
Up next: more questions to help you to narrow down your search.
- Part 1: How to become a CTMS evaluation hero
- Part 2: The killer criterion that immediately narrow down your list
- Part 3: Are they going to march to your beat or will you have to march to theirs?
- Part 4: Bells and whistles, the monitor visiting process, and how to evaluate the user interface
- Part 5: The nuts and bolts of the pricing game