As we navigate an increasingly digitized world, the procurement of business software becomes a pivotal task for every company. Almost every business now depends on software solutions to make their teams more efficient and their work more proficient.
Whether you're a veteran in the software buying experience or a newcomer to the software industry, the software buying process may often seem challenging. This article guides you through the business software buying process with clear, strategic steps and considerations. We'll cover everything from identifying your needs to rolling out your new software.
How to Buy Business Software in 8 Strategic Steps
Step 1: Identify your business needs
Identifying your business needs is the first critical step in the software purchase process. This step involves asking discovery questions about your team's needs, the features your current software products lack, the challenges they pose, and how a new software product might address these issues.
Step 2: Get stakeholder buy-in and involvement
Involving key stakeholders in the software procurement process not only addresses their specific needs but also promotes project ownership and successful implementation.
To identify and engage stakeholders, a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) matrix can be used to clarify roles.
For example, in a software purchasing process:
- An IT manager might be responsible for procurement
- A marketing manager for gathering requirements
- The end users are consulted and informed
- And the finance manager and legal counsel ensure financial and legal compliance
A RACI matrix defines roles and expectations, making the process clearer for all involved. But remember: you can buy the best Saas ever but if no-one is using it, it’s a fail.
Step 3: Determine your budget
Optimizing and controlling SaaS spend management is a key challenge for finance. With the SaaS landscape growing year over year, and pricing models continuously evolving, determining your budget is a crucial factor in software procurement.
- Analyzing business needs: Identify essential features and prioritize spending based on these requirements.
- Scalability: Choose software that can adapt to your evolving business needs.
- Licensing options: Understand different models (e.g., subscription-based or perpetual licenses) and their alignment with your financial goals.
- Implementation costs: Account for both direct (software cost) and indirect costs (setup, maintenance, data migration, training, project management).
- Hardware requirements: Some software may require infrastructure upgrades, which should be budgeted for.
- Ongoing maintenance and support costs: Consider annual support fees, software updates, and troubleshooting expenses.
- Total cost of ownership (TCO): Include all costs associated with the software over its lifecycle and be aware of potential hidden costs.
Step 4: Research and talk to software vendors
With your needs identified and budget set, the next step is to research potential vendors. Reach out to software companies, engage their sales teams, and ask critical questions about their software options, pricing plans, and contract terms.
To identify suitable software vendors, you can:
- Ask for referrals: Colleagues, industry professionals, or business associates may provide trusted recommendations.
- Use online databases and reviews: These platforms provide detailed information about software features, pricing, customer reviews, and ratings.
- Engage with blogs and communities: These sources offer real-life experiences and insights from software users, offering a more informed decision based on user experiences.
Further reading: vendor relationship management
Step 5: Evaluate your shortlist of vendors
When you have a shortlist of potential software vendors, it's time to evaluate them. This is where the 'five yeses' come into play.
You want to go into negotiations knowing you have all the support you need, so the decision to proceed with a software vendor should only come when you have approval from:
- The department head
- The head of finance
- The head of security
- Your legal team
- Relevant internal stakeholders or end users
Step 6: Ask for demos
Before making any software decisions, ask for demos from your shortlisted vendors. A demo gives you a first-hand experience of the software, allowing you to evaluate its features, user experience, and how well it aligns with your business processes.
Step 7: Select your top choice
After evaluating your options, it's time to select your top software vendor. This selection is not just about choosing a software product, but also about choosing a partner who can provide you with the necessary support and maintenance.
Step 8: Roll out your new software
To start rolling out your new software, begin with communicating your newly purchased SaaS. This includes informing your company of the changes, why they happened, and who will have access to the new software. If necessary, training must be provided.
Technical Requirements to Consider Before Buying Business Software
In the software buying experience, there are key technical requirements to consider:
1. Technical and user support
Look for software vendors who can provide technical and user support. This support should extend beyond the sale, helping you with software deployment, maintenance, and addressing common software issues.
2. User management requirements
User management requirements vary across businesses. Ensure your software vendor can meet your user management needs, whether that's handling a few users or managing hundreds across different departments.
3. Security considerations
Given the increasing cybersecurity threats, it is vital to evaluate the security features of a software product. Make sure your selected software aligns with your company's security requirements.
4. Analytics and Reporting Capabilities
Analytics and reporting capabilities can provide valuable insights into your business processes, making this a vital requirement.
The ability to integrate with other software (and the ease of the integration) in your tech stack is another important requirement. The more integrations a software product allows, the smoother your business processes will be.
6. User Experience
User experience is a critical factor in determining the adoption and success of a software product. Always opt for software with a user-friendly interface and straightforward features.
7. Data Access and Portability
Data is the lifeblood of businesses today. Ensure that your chosen software product allows easy access to your data and that you can move your data when needed.
What can you do when someone needs tool access after you’ve already allocated all the seats in your contract?
Handling unexpected seat requests requires a combination of quick thinking, effective negotiation, clear communication, and proactive planning.
The approach to such a situation would typically involve a series of 9 steps:
1. Assess urgency
Start by determining how essential the tool is for the team member's workflow. Would the lack of access hinder their productivity significantly, or is it more of a convenience? This understanding will guide your subsequent steps and help you prioritize actions.
2. Check your current usage & review contract
Are you using all seats? Who, in your organisation, has been allocated a seat and is not using it? Can you swap with other people?
Also, you can review your existing SaaS contract. There might be provisions for additional seats, either at an added cost or within the existing agreement. Understanding your contractual obligations and rights will aid in finding a solution.
3. Contact the SaaS provider
Engage the software vendor and discuss your predicament. Vendors are often willing to negotiate or provide solutions, especially if the additional seat might translate into a contract expansion or longer-term commitment.
4. Negotiate or explore alternatives
There’s a high chance that you’ll renegotiate additional seats when you renew your contracts. If that’s not the case, seek ways to add flexibility to your contract.
Try negotiating a prorated price for the extra seat for the remainder of your contract term. If negotiation isn't an option, consider alternative software that can meet the team member's needs. If Sastrify is involved, their support can be valuable in navigating this process and finding the best outcome.
5. Temporary workarounds
If the above steps don't lead to an immediate solution, consider short-term fixes. This could mean using a trial version of the software, sharing a seat temporarily, or utilizing similar tools that the team member already has access to.
6. Communicate transparently
Keep the team member updated about the steps you're taking and the anticipated timeline for resolution. If a temporary workaround is implemented, explain it thoroughly to ensure they can continue their work with minimal disruption.
7. Involve management
If the seat request has significant implications—for example, if it requires budget adjustments or contract modifications—involve relevant stakeholders or management. Their support and decision-making authority may be necessary to resolve the situation.
8. Document actions
Keep a record of your actions, correspondence with the vendor, and any changes made to the contract or internal processes. This documentation can help resolve any potential disputes and serve as a reference for handling similar situations in the future.
9. Plan ahead
Use this experience to plan more effectively for the future. If such requests are common, consider building more flexibility into future contracts or budgeting for a small number of extra seats.
Buying business software is a significant investment that demands a lot of attention to detail. Digital transformation isn't only about upgrading your IT, it’s about upgrading your leadership and questioning how you're operating right now.
Whether you're upgrading your HR software, investing in customer service or sales support, always remember: an informed decision is the best decision.