I’ve spoken with numerous service executives over the course of my career about their experiences when purchasing enterprise software for service management (also known as Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) software). I’ve distilled the knowledge I’ve gained into 6 tips to help you when you are in the market for enterprise service software.
1. What to expect in the sales process?
You are likely doing research before you ever even engage a vendor, but when it’s time to start talking to software providers, what should you expect? First of all, most vendors will give some sort of brief, high level demonstration of the software during your initial call. This typically is just meant to give you an idea of how the software works. More detailed, customized demos will follow and at this time more thorough vendors will ask you to fill out a demo prep form so they can tailor the demonstration to your needs. You may also be asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement so the vendor can freely share confidential information. Don’t expect more than a ballpark figure of the cost of the software on the first call; you’ll need to fully discuss your needs and expectations before getting more detailed pricing. This process also provides the opportunity for you and the software vendor to determine if you are the right fit for each other.
2. What to look for in a vendor?
There are a number of vendors offering Service Lifecycle Management software. Wading through the options can be overwhelming. The top three factors are software feature and functionality, technical competency of vendor, and vendor flexibility. Once you have vetted all vendors on these top 3 characteristics, you will likely have a short list of vendors that you want to explore further. At that point, you’ll need to evaluate the Total Cost of Ownership, implementation schedule, and vendors’ knowledge of your business. These factors can make or break the success of your SLM implementation.
3. How important is price?
Price is far from the dominant factor when purchasing service software. As it often happens, the lowest priced vendors are ruled out because they lack the functionality and/or are perceived as lacking the resources to support the implementation while the highest price vendors are often perceived as offering solutions that are too complex to implement. So while price is a consideration, making sure that the vendor can provide a solution that truly fits your needs is far more important than price.
4. How important is the role of discounts in the buying decision?
Discounts are common when pricing software so there is often some room for negotiation. Truth be told, the discount doesn’t make or break the sale. Highly competitive situations may result in larger discounts. Be wary of a vendor who drops the price too much without asking for a concession. The lower price may come back to haunt you during the implementation or when you require post implementation support.
5. CRM/ERP or best of breed service software?
For SLM software, there are often three choices: buy service software from your CRM vendor, buy from your ERP vendor, or select a best of breed service software provider. While you may think it’s easier to just use the company that you are already using for CRM or ERP, you need to consider the benefits of a best of breed solution. Best of breed vendors place their sole focus on the services side (e.g., field service, service parts, depot repair, etc.) of the business. Furthermore, best of breed software solutions are built to contain all the functional requirements to support the full service lifecycle management process in an organization. While you may not need all of the functionality now, you should be evaluating solutions with an eye toward the future.
6. What happens after the sale?
Sometimes SLM deployments fall short of expectations. For example the implementation did not go as smoothly as planned or there were problems with the vendor’s level of support post implementation. To avoid these situations, it is important to understand exactly what the vendor’s expectation are of you during the implementation as well as understand the level of resources the vendor will commit over the lifecycle of your purchase. Reference checks of companies similar to yours in terms of technology supported, size, and financial structure are a must. You’ll also need to get a clear idea of the skill sets, experience, and capabilities of the individuals supporting the implementation. How much experience have they had in implementing the version of software that you are about to purchase? A well-defined Service Level Agreement with penalties for non-compliance will also help to keep the vendor accountable during the support phase.
Purchasing any kind of software can be daunting, but when you are purchasing a mission critical solution, like Service Lifecycle Management, the stakes are especially high. As they say, knowledge is king so the more you know about what to expect before, during, and after the sale, the more likely you are to succeed.