You’ve gotten your software search underway. Now what? You know the main question: Which program is best for me? But there’s another very important one to consider as well: Which company should I buy from? Different software companies are able to perform different tasks, catering to the unique needs of your organization. Ensuring you have access to implementation and ongoing support is a critical part of the software decision process. This guide is designed to walk you through the key players in the software industry, so you not only choose the right software, but also the right provider to purchase it from.
What’s the difference between a software developer and a software seller?
In the software industry there is very often a distinct difference between a software seller and a software developer. In some cases the software developer will sell software directly—but very often they leave that to authorized sellers, referred to as VARs or value-added resellers. In the same sense that you purchase an automobile from a dealership as opposed to the manufacturer, VARs play a similar role. These software sellers are certified and licensed by the software developer to sell and support their systems. VARs focus on providing a number of useful services to keep your business operating smoothly.
What benefit can a software seller provide?
Whether you work with a software developer or software sales company, they will be able to assist you in every stage of your software lifespan. During your initial software review phase a seller will be able to provide you with the knowledge necessary to automate as many of your processes as possible. They will analyze your operations and provide insight into where they see inefficiencies. Once inefficiencies are identified they can be automated, saving you time and money.
How can you tell a good provider?
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a provider to work with. One of the obvious factors is price. The cost for software from one provider is likely not going to be the same as the cost from another. Why is this? The reason is software is rarely a standard commodity. It needs to be tailored to your specific specifications and user counts. Different providers will have very different cost structures, especially in the area of support and implementation services. Providers will even have different costs on the licensing depending on the margins they offer versus their cost for the software.
The nature of the support and implementation services each provider offers will vary as well. Some relevant questions to think about and ask include:
- Does your firm focus on my industry?
- Who makes up your staff and what are their qualifications?
- What are your support hours?
- What is covered in your service level agreements?
- How do you develop an implementation plan?
- Is your implementation support onsite or remote?
- What training services are offered and what is their format?
Working through implementation with a software provider
Once an implementation has begun, software providers will be able to ensure a smooth transition from your old management system to a new one. There are really two parts to any implementation: software setup and staff preparation. On the software setup side, the providers will be able to handle data migration to ensure that you hit the ground running. They will also be able to provide you with various configuration services such as: customization of document appearance, setup of the chart of accounts, setting of security privileges, and custom report writing. As far as staff preparation is concerned, the software sellers will offer training services to minimize the learning curve for your staff. After completion of initial training, they will be able to answer any questions that arise as you move to a new system.
Accessing ongoing provider support
After you have successfully implemented a system software sellers will, of course, be able to provide on-going support. There are however a number of additional services that they can offer. If you choose to host a system on your own server, many are able to offer IT support services. If you’re looking to minimize your hardware purchases and maintenance costs, other software providers will be able to handle the hosting for you. Some software providers will also offer services to relating to the management of your business such as accounting, financial reporting, payroll , tax preparation, bill pay, customer billing, etc.
Other options for purchasing software
If you’re looking for a more of a hands-off approach and do not wish to utilize the services offered by providers, you have options available to you. There is the option of purchasing a software package directly from a brick & mortar retailer. Some software companies will also allow you to purchase and download their software via the Internet. This method of purchasing will, however, require that many of the aforementioned tasks are performed with internal labor.
Take the next step
Finding the right solution and provider can seem like a difficult task. But it doesn’t have to be. Our free software search service will help save you time finding the right program for your organization. Get started today!