Jesse joined the Administrate team as an Account Executive in September 2015. He’s sold cars, yachts, advertising, and SaaS.
So you think you need new SaaS (Software-as-a-Service)? Whether you’ve been down this road in the past or you’re new to the process, this post is intended to provide some pointers. I’ve tried to make this as universal as possible, so it could apply to your next Training Management System (TMS), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) suite, or enterprise Learning Management System (LMS).
This post assumes you know why you’re buying SaaS (freedom from local installs, zero development costs etc.). If not, check this out before reading on.
1. Requirements gathering - know thyself
First things first, be very clear about your pain points. What is not working? What hurts bad enough for you to make a change? A new system will cause disruption (read: moving colleagues who are happy with status quo) and require a lot of time and energy.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” might be a good mantra here.
Once you’ve clearly identified your pain, you can build your requirements list, or rather, your 'issues' list. At this point, the goal is to figure out what isn’t working. Don’t worry about solutions, they'll come later.
Now that you know what’s wrong, you need to consider what, if any, features have to be present in the new software. Imagine you were looking for an alternative to Dropbox. Is it imperative that the new system lets you sync cloud folders locally? Does it need to have full mobile access? These would be deal breakers.
Alternatively, and this is very important, you might have identified an area where you’re wasting a lot of time or missing out on opportunity. Maybe that’s not painful; but nonetheless worth investigating. Here’s an example: you’ve heard about systems that offer automated marketing to a customer base. Couched as an issue (wasted time), that might be translated as, ‘all of the communication with my customers is done manually. What a pain.’
2. Refine your selection - play the field
This is the fun part. Armed with your issues list and your deal breakers, you can start shopping. Take a look at the options and narrow down the field as much as you can. I advocate not building a requirements list before this step because you shouldn’t presuppose the solutions to your problems. Approach vendors, and their potential solutions, with an open mind.
There’s no reason you couldn’t demo 10 different systems, but that’s an indication you either haven’t defined your requirements well enough, or you haven’t qualified enough systems out. If a vendor runs afoul of a deal breaker, cut bait and move on.
Good SaaS companies have a great understanding of their ideal customer profile. If the system you’re interested in offers live sales support and it looks like a good fit for your needs, call the company. It’s in their best interest and yours to quickly establish whether their product will fit the bill. SaaS companies make money over the long haul, so if there is no long haul (i.e you quit your subscription post haste), then they’ve spent money acquiring you as a customer and never realised any lifetime value.
Push the companies you contact on your issues list and deal breakers. It’s OK (actually, it’s great) if they can’t help you. If the product won’t address a particular need, pack your bags and move on. If the company can build that feature for you and you love everything else, you could ask them to include the custom work in their proposal.
3. Evaluation - show me something!
Now that you understand the options, you can put together your requirements. Those requirements could be tailored to suit particular vendors and they could even be requirements that you fully expect someone to build for you (and for you to fork over extra dough for).
Setup demos and/or trials with the handful of systems that seem to meet your needs. Confirm whether they tick all the boxes on your newly minted requirements list. Ask lots of questions. Be prepared to take follow up demos. It’s common to ask vendors to respond to your requirements by sending out an RFP (Request For Proposal). That’s fine, but don’t skip the hands-on experience with the product.
Pay attention to reviews and references, but take them in aggregate; any single review or reference could be a negative (or positive) outlier.
4. Purchase - make the call
Now you’re ready to pick your solution. You may even have a proposal in hand that you can sign off on.
Whether or not you have a proposal, it’s key to confirm the product you expect to be delivered. Remember that while you are buying a product, it's a product that’s delivered on a subscription basis. Your vendor’s T&Cs will assume that. If there is development to be done during your implementation, one option is to ask for a Statement of Work (SOW). Many companies also request a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that clearly defines the expectations for service during the subscription period.
You’ve gone through a diligent process for choosing your new SaaS. On subscription, you’ll convert a trial account to a live one, or begin implementation with your vendor. Go forth with the knowledge that you’ve identified your pain and chosen the right medicine for the job.
Evaluating Training Management Systems? Book a demo of Administrate to see if we can help solve your pain points and tick off your issues list!
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