Two Important Questions for Better Software Purchases

Whether you’re looking at a low-cost SaaS tool or a new enterprise software deployment, software purchasing decisions are full of potential pitfalls.

  • Will my end users easily adopt this software?
  • What will the pains of switching from their current process be?
  • Will the change affect the way my customers do business with me?

These are all good questions to ask yourself during the buying process.

However, as two recent customer interactions reminded me, there are two fundamentally important questions you can’t afford to miss:

Question 1:  What will the user experience be for everyone involved?

It can be easy to get quickly enamored with any new, shiny piece of software that seems like it could do everything under the sun for your organization.  But, it’s important to think about the high-level strategy of implementing new software for your team, as well as the tactical impact on day-to-day life.

For example, I’m currently helping a customer in Denver who is looking to replace an existing document capture application that they use to scan and store all of their incoming paper documents, from handwritten forms and HR documents to mail and AP invoices.

Notice those handwritten forms that I mentioned. They’ve been crucial to the discussions.

Currently, the organization is utilizing software that handles both ICR (intelligent character recognition) for handwritten characters and OCR (optical character recognition) for machine printed words and numbers.

The portion of their total scan volume that is processed by ICR is quite low (below 10 percent) and their accuracy rate on ICR processing is quite low to boot.

So, I’ve recommending implementing a combination of two new solutions; one to handle the OCR scanning and another to convert those paper forms into digital forms, to eliminate the need, cost and low accuracy rate of their current ICR process.

However, before simply swapping one software for another and an old process for a completely new one, my customer is doing an excellent job of communicating with internal colleagues about how this change would impact them, as well as their constituents.

Even though my main contacts and I agree, what we’ve been discussing is the most cost-effective and efficient solution, the change could mean a big shift in the way their customers interact with their company, especially during one of their first interactions.

As they weigh their options, they’re considering how their customers that are typically filling out those handwritten forms will adjust to the new process, especially since this group of customers easily ranges in age from early 20s to nearly 100.

They are taking the time to think carefully about how end-user adoption will take place so that the investment actually pays off in the long run.

I heard this idea summed up very well by Brandon Metcalf with Talent Rover on a recent episode of the B2B Growth Show podcast.

As he described, here’s the feedback you want to avoid receiving from your end-users:

“… that would be a great nice-to-have, but it doesn’t really help me too much with my daily work.”

Keep the value in mind for both stakeholders and end-users early on, and you’ll avoid this type of unintended consequence down the road.

Question 2:  Will the changes the software brings fit with our company culture?

I recently finished a demonstration for the accounting and IT departments of a national construction company, discussing how we could eliminate manual data entry and simplify their AP invoice approval workflow, when the IT director and I had a chance to debrief in the hallway.

“We’ve seen a lot of software that looks amazing in an hourlong demo, but then isn’t the right fit after we implement it,” he told me.

That’s when he conveyed some of the team’s frustration with a few of their recent software purchases.

“We can’t afford to have software dictate our company culture,” he continued.

You see, as an employee-owned organization, the culture within my customer’s company has been built on decades of empowering their local offices and job site employees to make decisions and work more independently than you typically find in companies of similar size.

We discussed how often accounting system integrators and other software providers couldn’t wrap their minds around some of their processes that seemed to be the opposite of what they typically encountered in similar AP workflows. Other vendors had been stumped on how to design solutions where the important approvals were happening in the field offices, rather than at the corporate office, like with many other organizations of a similar size.

Thinking about your users’ experience is important, but determining the cultural fit, based on that end-user impact, can be even more significant.

This level of analysis takes time, but it’s less costly than implementing something that you rip-and-replace in a matter of years, or even worse, months.

a tech-loving millennial, has spent nearly 10 years in the office equipment industry helping customers get more out of their technology, so they can get more out of their day. He currently serves as the Director of Integrated Solutions for Frontier Business Products, headquartered in Aurora, Colorado. He is tasked with helping FBP’s customers find the right software solutions to help make their business more efficient. He has sold copiers, printers, scanners and related software from Montana to Texas, in various roles with independent office equipment dealers in the West. He loves a good productivity hack or software tool that can save time and make work lighter for his customers.