In today’s ever-crowded construction software market, finding the right fit can be exhausting and overwhelming. How do you choose the right software for your construction business? How do you sort through the hype to find what the software will actually do for your business? And how can you tell which vendor will be with you for the long haul and which will disappear after the sale? These are just some of the burning questions construction companies face when evaluating software solutions.
So, how do you choose the right software solution and vendor for your organization or your organization’s specific challenge? Follow these six suggestions regarding what questions to ask and how to figure out which solution best fits your need.
1. Define what you really need. First, know what you want. If you know what you
want, make a “can’t-live-without list” and a “nice-to-have list.” This will help
you figure out the important needs of your company.
It is critical to gather accurate, thorough requirements for what’s needed in the software. The solution must align with the business goals and meet the stakeholders’ needs.
It is important to determine the internal business requirements before starting
to interview software vendors.
2. Check the software provider’s credentials and certificates. When evaluating software vendors and technology partners look into their background.
It is important to know: How long have they been in business? Are they growing? Downsizing? A start-up? Are they stable? Did they come from the industry?
It’s also important to look for strong capabilities and credibility. Do they have partner certifications relevant to the solution(s) you are looking to implement? Do they have an engineering team to focus on product/solution development?
3. What do other customers have to say? Asking for vendor references inside your industry is critical to understanding how the software is being experienced by similar businesses. Happy clients will gladly share their experiences with you.
When speaking with, or emailing customers, make sure to ask: How long have they been a client? How has this provider addressed their specific needs as a company doing business in their specific industry? Is the customer service team responsive and knowledgeable?
Also, don’t limit the research to just references provided by the company. Make sure to search the web for reviews, both positive and negative. Customer reviews on the web will have the insight you might not normally hear from a sales-provided reference.
4. Can it scale? Often times construction companies will choose their software for a short-term fix and not think about the long-term upside the new technology might provide.
Owners and stakeholders should ask about and understand the level of customization and scalability a software solution offers. As a contractor’s business grows, its software should be able to scale accordingly.
The last thing you want to be faced with is the need to re-evaluate and invest in a new solution two or three years down the road.
5. Who owns your data in the case you separate? Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that even if you love your vendor, someday you may need to leave them. Some vendors try shady tactics by holding your data hostage or charge an exorbitant amount to sway you from leaving. So, before you license any software, ask what happens if you leave and how you would get your data back. Expect to pay something, especially if the data is encrypted, but the cost shouldn’t break the bank.
6. Take a test drive. Before committing to a new software solution, make sure to test its capabilities. Most companies offer a free trial to test features, benefits, and usability. Then, during the trial, make sure the software contains the features and functionality you need. Don’t be afraid to ask the vendor questions.
Additional Questions for Vendors
- Will the software integrate easily with our existing systems? The last thing you want to find out after you have spent a lot of time and money on new software is that it doesn’t work with your legacy systems, especially when you thought it would.
- How easy is it to set up and train users? Many software solutions promise a great upside, but the learning curve is steep. Make sure you fully understand how to bring the new software into your existing workflow and that the training facilitates learning the software.
- How will you support me after the sale? Software companies are great at meeting your needs as you go through the sales process but make sure once you buy, they are still there for you. Construction companies have significant investments tied up in the performance of their software, and if a big project is on the line – you want your software support to be working when you are.
- How are updates and upgrades managed? Make sure you understand how complicated or easy it is to get the latest version of the software.