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8 Things To Demand From Your Reporting Software Vendor
When it comes to your reporting software vendor, do you have all your bases covered? It’s time to find a partner that won’t strike out.
Choosing a software vendor to help you with your management reports is a big decision. If you choose well, your vendor becomes your partner and coach, ensuring you succeed. If you choose poorly, you waste both time and money.
Before you select a reporting software, take a look at all the features the software provides. Get your demo or free trial and make sure it fits what you need. But your research process shouldn't stop there. You need to look at the company that built the software, as well. Here are eight things to look for in the vendor, not just the tool:
Making the choice to take control of your reporting process is admirable, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you can handle anything that comes your way. You need support from your new software vendor. If you have questions about advanced configuration or complex calculations, are you 100% certain that a real, competent, native English-speaking individual will be able to walk you through and troubleshoot all questions you may have? Stick to your guns, and demand excellent support from whichever software group you choose to go with.
2. Development Cycle
A good vendor will continually update their software and implement new features. Consider it a large red flag if you find out that “Version 2.0” was last updated 18 months ago. You should have a good feel for whether or not this company is actually dedicated to their product before you bring them on. If you don’t question their software development cycle, you may end up having to switch to a new software program, which isn’t fun for anyone involved.
3. Customers and References
Great customer service and retention is a must. Ensure that the vendor you’re examining not only meets the customers’ expectations, but goes above and beyond to make them happy. If a vendor cannot provide great references, run far away.
Additionally, you should dig in to whether the vendor has experience with companies like yours. If your organization sells medical supplies and the vendor has experience only with aerospace companies, I would highly suggest looking elsewhere.
4. Professional Expertise
Not only will you want to find out if the vendor has experience with companies like yours, you’ll want to be sure that they have professional experience with the problems that their software is meant to solve!
Did managers with years of experience in reporting build the software? Or was it built by a company who has a project management tool and decided to add reporting? There’s a big difference between the two! If your contact at the company is hired only to answer the phones and doesn’t have any technical or strategic background, your troubleshooting experiences could be a nightmare.
5. Cultural Fit
If you’re integrating a new reporting system, you may be in frequent contact with some of the company’s employees. You need to be sure that you actually like and enjoy speaking with your main point of contact. As simple as this may sound, it gets overlooked far too often. If you find yourself rolling your eyes during every conversation or falling asleep while you’re reading articles on their website, don’t expect a different reaction when you actually bring them on to your team. You want someone who cares about your organization’s challenges as much as you do.
Not all report generation software systems, for example, are created equally. Some are web-based, so you can log in online and get started. Others require a download to your local computers, and the bigger systems may require some API setup so your data can be automatically pulled from the servers. Some of the more complex, technical setups may require help from your IT department or from the vendor itself. Make sure you understand what type of system you’re getting yourself into, and then evaluate if your organization is equipped to handle it.
You also need to consider whether you would need an entirely new reporting software setup if your company changed in size. What happens if you hire another 800 employees? Will the solution you have scale with you when you’re that size?
Reporting software solutions range in price from free to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Cost depends on many different factors, including your organization’s needs and size, as well as the scale of the solutions offered by the vendor. You know the adage, “You get what you pay for?” Well, that may be true, but first you need to actually understand what’s included in the software cost. You can’t stick all of the prices side-by-side and compare them apples to oranges. Don’t pass up on a good opportunity because you didn’t do your homework on cost.
8. Exit Strategy
So, imagine it’s two years from today. You’ve already purchased and set up a reporting solution for your company, and you merge with another organization and need to change. Do you have an easy out, or are you tied down to a lifelong, soul-sucking contract that will take every legal dollar your company has allotted to get out of?
I think I’ve made my point. Make sure you have a plan in place if you need to jump ship for any reason.
Where do I go from here?
Hopefully you now feel more prepared to vet potential vendors in regards to your organizational needs. But do you know how to respond when the vendor gives you a runaround or blanket statement?
To get the right answers you need to ask the right questions. For specific questions and more details about what you should be asking your potential vendors, download the handbook below. If you press them with these tough questions, you’ll get the answers you’re looking for, and you’ll end up with someone on your team who really deserves to be there.