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    8 Questions You Must Ask a Workplace Software Vendor Prior to Purchase

    Glenn Hicks

    Have you ever had buyer’s remorse? You’re staring at the car or house or boat you just bought and thinking, “I’ve made a huge mistake.” It’s stressful just to think about. But in these situations, there's probably, at max, a handful of people who are affected by the decision. What if your huge mistake impacted an entire company?

    What if instead of buying a lemon or a house on a fault line or a boat that randomly shuts off whenever it feels like, you bought a workplace software that was expensive, met few of your requirements and was offered by a vendor whose definition of “customer support” was to send you a series of automated emails claiming, “We’re sorry to hear about your problem. A representative will be reaching out in the next 24-48 hours”?

    That’s an entirely new level of stress.

    To help you avoid making a very expensive mistake, here are eight questions you need to ask a workplace software vendor before investing in their product.

    FMs need to be able to create and view reports on the fly. How easy is it to do this in your IWMS?How Do I Create a Report in Your Software?

    The goal here is to see how easy it is to create a medium-difficulty to complex report. Building a report shouldn’t require users to be software experts or know how to program in SQL.

    Have a specific report in mind when you pose this question—for example, total maintenance costs by building. How is the report displayed? Is it easy to analyze the data and identify trends? Ask the vendor to show you how to convert a table into a chart. This should be a standard feature in the reporting tool and, again, should be a straightforward process.

    What Is Your Customer Retention Rate?

    If the vendor stumbles over this question and says something along the lines of, “Well, it varies year by year,” or, “We typically don’t release that information,” then it’s a good indication they’re losing customers faster than they should. Maybe their customer support is lacking or the implementations haven’t been going smoothly. The bottom line is, the vendor isn’t living up to their clients’ expectations.

    Are There Limits on the Number of Users and/or User Roles?

    While some software providers (for example, iOFFICE) don’t mind if a customer has 100 users with admin-level access and/or 20,000 different user roles, other software providers charge by the user.

    According to Gartner, a mid-size enterprise has between 100 and 999 employees. Now, not every one of your employees is going to use the platform, so let’s say your total active users is 700. If a workplace software vendor charges $12.00 per active user per month, and you have 500 active users, you’re spending over $100,000 each year just on subscription fees. Some vendors even charge per request.

    Do You Offer a Trial of Your Solution? If So, How Long Does It Take to Set Up?

    If the software provider doesn’t offer a free trial or Proof of Concept, it’s likely because the system isn’t user-friendly, and they know if you discover it takes extensive training to use properly, you’ll likely move on to a competitor.

    If they do offer a free trial or Proof of Concept, but it takes them weeks to build a simplified version for your company to try out on a temporary basis, that’s another sign the software is too complex.

    Is Your Solution 100% SaaS? What Does “SaaS” Mean to You?

    If the software is hosted or on-premise (basically anything other than SaaS), it probably won’t meet your needs. Hosted and on-premise solutions tend to be more expensive than SaaS platforms and lack many capabilities that SaaS software can offer, such as secure data backup and automatic updates.

    If the vendor claims the software is SaaS, ask them to elaborate. Some software providers claim to be SaaS, but in reality, the solution is hosted. This means the vendor hosts only your database on their server and still charges you a monthly subscription fee but doesn’t automatically deploy upgrades or updates the way a true SaaS solution does. Plus, they usually charge for upgrades—something an actual SaaS software provider will never do.

    Native mobile apps for IWMS provide more functions than just a mobile-friendly browser.Are Your Mobile Apps Native?

    Native mobile apps have a few important characteristics:

    • They are downloaded from iTunes and/or Google Play.
    • They are included in the standard software modules.
    • They offer users unlimited access.

    Instead of native apps, a workplace software vendor may create a mobile-friendly version of a website through which you can access features of the software. However, because it’s browser-based, it won’t be as powerful or functional as a native app.

    How Long Does an Average Implementation Take?

    The software provider should be able to give you a set implementation timeframe. For the iOFFICE solution, customers are guaranteed in the contract that implementation will be completed within 60-90 days.

    If they say, “Implementation typically takes six months, but it could be four months or 12 months, depending on your specific needs,” you can assume implementation is going to take a while, and it’s likely going to be a difficult process.

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    Is the Software Development Performed In House?

    If development is not performed by the software provider’s own employees, it means you’ll be relying on a third-party vendor for any enhancements, which can cause delays.

    Plus, most third-party software development firms working with 10 to 15 other software companies, so the developers aren’t 100 percent dedicated to your organization and aren’t necessarily true experts on the software the vendor is providing.

    Treat any conversation with a workplace software vendor like it’s an interview. You’re ultimately looking for the best fit for your organization and you want to be 100 percent sure you’ve made the right decision.

    Want even more advice about workplace technology? Download our free guide The Workplace Leader’s Playbook for New Technology.

    Glenn Hicks

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Glenn Hicks

    A member of the Business Development team, Glenn has years of experience with business process improvement on the Commercial Real Estate and Facilities Management sides.

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