It’s a great question to ask, “Does my software vendor have my best interests in mind?” Ideally, you want to ask that question before choosing a vendor.
However, even after choosing a vendor, the performance and interests of your software provider are something you should be assessing on a regular basis.
It’s your company after all, and even the best vendor is not going to look after it as well as you might.
What to Look For in a Vendor/Partner
I use the term “vendor/partner” because that’s the relationship that you want. In fact, you ought to insist on. Unless they want to partner in your success — and you are willing to invite them into the boardroom instead of having them wait in the hallway — the success of your software implementation will be limited.
There are plenty of ways to get a read on a vendor/partner before getting on board with them.
Here are a few:
- Are they product-agnostic or product-tied? A neutral vendor will be able to provide you with a greater variety of software solutions, while a tied vendor may only be able to offer a single solution. If their goal is to have you implement their product, everything they do and say will be designed to make that happen.
- What do the terms of the contract say? What happens to your data if you move on from the provider? Do you get to keep all your data, or does it become their property? If the vendor owns all your data, they can hold it hostage. You may need to pay them to get your own data, and this may make it prohibitive to move on from an under-performing vendor. They’re aware of this, and they may not give you their best effort.
- How big are they; how big are you? A smaller boutique firm will likely be more dedicated to your needs, but with a large firm you may be assigned to their B-team and get lost in the shuffle. The Rule of 5% says that to ensure you receive a sufficient amount of the vendor’s attention, you should be hiring at least 5% of their workforce.
I Already Have a Vendor: Are They Taking Care of Me?
The first step toward answering this question is simply an honest assessment.
Think back to when you hired your vendor: What were you really looking to accomplish? Have they helped you achieve this?
This is a broader measure of success, of course, but there are also some specific signs that may indicate your vendor doesn’t have your best interests in mind.
Here are some:
- Is the vendor working with you or are they working around you? You should be able to rely on your software vendor; however, their system should not be designed to force you to rely on them exclusively.
- How are you paying your vendor? Many vendors charge a fixed, monthly retainer for all support; some charge a percentage of the purchase price; others bill by the hour. Whatever system you use, make sure to regularly compare the cost with the performance. You want to negotiate a fee for support that permits the vendor to provide you with a high level of care.
Remember that any software vendor ultimately cares most about themselves. However, a vendor/partner that is product-agnostic may be able to better serve your interests.
Do your research before choosing a partner, and make sure you regularly review their performance. Keep an open line of communication and let them know where they can do better. Not only does this help them understand your needs, but it also demonstrates that you care about results.