12 questions to ask before purchasing new software


Buying and implementing a new piece of software is no easy task. There are so many different factors that contribute to whether or not a software implementation is successful, that it is important to do your research before investing in something new.

Craig Flynn, founder and EVP engineering at relationship management software provider Impartner, offered up his tips for purchasing new software. According to him, there are 12 questions all executives must ask before purchasing new software.

First of all, executives must understand what the technology is, Flynn said. “We tell the business buyer that they need to make sure they can clearly articulate the technology they’re asking to implement and be able to briefly explain why it’s so important for them to have and how it’s different from what they already have,” he explained.

Flynn also believes they must understand whether or not the technology is trusted and reliable. “It always makes you feel a little more comfortable if you see a couple big names who have already used it,” he says. “They are not going to want to be a guinea pig on something that is new.” When implementing something that will affect potentially thousands of users in a company, you must make sure that it is reliable, he said.

It is also important to be sure that the new technology is secure. “Big companies have a security document that they usually have vendors fill out. Vendors need to be able to have that ready for the business buyer in hand or be ready to provide it to the security teams or IT person,” he explained.

Making sure a solution is multi-tenant is also very important. “You want to make sure that you’re getting the latest and greatest software fixes at the same time as everyone else,” Flynn says. With single-tenant software, you risk having to wait for important software or security upgrades.

Similarly, the technology needs to be able to scale so that the software can grow alongside the company without having to be retooled to serve a larger number of users or add functionality.

Executives must also ensure that the technology will hold up in a disaster. “That topic really speaks to your hosting infrastructure. Are you on the cloud? If you are, is it using a CDN? Do you have cloud redundancy? And if you’re hosting it on your own network and your own infrastructure as we do, IT people are going to want to see that you’re in a Tier 3 or Tier 4 data center,” said Flynn “They’re going to want a network diagram – the general one and the detailed one – and they’re going to want to make sure you have your network setup the way they have their network set up with the correct zones, best practice, and geographically dispersed locations.”

The technology must also be easy to implement. An IT person who is signing off on a technology or helping to support it will want to make sure it will not take up a lot of their time. If it does require a lot of time, they will want an honest assessment of just how much time, Flynn explains. “It’s really important to be straightforward with the IT department and let them know what they’re getting into.”

Companies should also look for solutions that support Single Sign-On that also complies with standard authentication protocols. “Good IT departments want to be the source of record so they’re going to want to make sure SSO or API integration is seamless, best-in-class, and it supports the latest technology,” said Flynn.

Additionally, buyers should want to know how the technology integrates with their other existing solutions. According to Flynn, IT teams will look for robust APIs that are easy to configure.

Executives should look for software that has regular updates that are well-communicated. Companies should have a robust environment that features dev, stage, and production environments. Having a second environment where they can vet their modifications before it gets pushed to the production environment is also helpful. “They’re going to want to have your product update on stage so that they can make sure it plays well with everything they’ve built,” said Flynn. “We can tell them we’ve QAed it for over a year and they still would want to go test it.”

It is important to verify the integrity of the data as well. “You want to make sure the data is protected within your infrastructure,” said Flynn. He says it is also important to find a vendor that will allow you to do object-level auditing and field-level auditing.

Finally, it is important to find out if it will be cost-prohibitive to cancel the contract. “You can do all the due diligence in the world with a vendor and go through all the things I just mentioned and have them pass, but you really don’t know until you launch it,” Flynn said. Vendors that are confident in their solution should be able to say upfront that it will not be cost-prohibitive to finish or get out of a contract, he explained.

While all of these may seem like a lot to look into, it is important that you do in order to find a solution that will work for you and accomplish what it needs to.