How to Avoid Tricky Timesheet Vendors
One of the biggest investments any company can make is in the software it uses on a daily basis. Customer records, personnel files, outstanding invoices, status of projects, accounting information and much, much more is all created, modified and saved in the software your company uses.
With those stakes in mind, properly vetting a potential software vendor is a critical step in the success of your company. To make matters even more challenging, while the software industry is filled with many reputable vendors, there are still many vendors that ship third-rate software. Others engage in predatory practices, lining up sales, promising features and abilities, but never delivering.
How can your company avoid these kind of software vendors?
Do Your Homework
Before spending a dime on time tracking software, or any software for that matter, take the necessary time to research possible vendors. What kind of reviews do they receive in trade magazines, journals and websites? What reputation do they have within the industry?
Another factor to consider is the age of the company. How long has it been in business? How many downturns in the market has it survived? While any business, new or old, can fall on hard times and struggle through economic downturns, well-established businesses often have the expertise and capital to survive them.
But what about the size of the company? In a world where the size of a company can mean better access to support, getting questions answered, and getting migrated to the new system efficiently, company size is everything.
“Big software vendors and their products are not inherently more stable than small vendors,” writes Tony Byrne for InformationWeek. “This runs counter to that old saw about nobody ever getting fired for going with XYZ…Ultimately, you want to balance risk with reward. A small vendor trying to get really big, really quickly, definitely represents a higher-risk supplier, but if it is on to something really good, you might welcome the ride.”
While any company’s reputation can be manipulated by an expert marketing department, there should be at least some indications in how a company and their products are viewed by the market at large.
An invaluable tool in selecting a good vendor is checking the company’s references. Any reputable company should have no problem providing a list of companies that have successfully used their products and sharing them with you prior to you signing on the dotted line.
Be careful, however, of references who take the initiative to call you. In today’s busy market, any reference who has enough time on their hands to proactively call potential customers for their chosen vendor may not be a genuine reference—they could be a plant, an individual or company hired for the express purpose of boosting a company’s credibility and references.
Read the Fine Print
One of the biggest mistakes many companies make is not reading the fine print in a software contract. What kind of service does the vendor provide? Do they provide ongoing training? If your company has an in-house IT department, are you still obligated to use the vendor’s support services?
“Check the small print for things like software maintenance clauses; you may not need this if you have IT professionals in-house and you could be paying over the odds for a service that you don’t need,” says Martin Prendergast, CEO and co-founder of Concorde Solutions, in an interview with Techradar Pro.
“In addition to this, query your audit clause from the beginning – understand your contractual obligations and control what information you should and should not provide. Remember, the vendor is likely to use audits to identify revenue generating opportunities including upgrades and under-licensing, so you need to have control of this from the first instance.”
Check Your Exit Strategy
One of the most important considerations when evaluating any vendor is how easily you can move to another solution should the need arise. Whether it be the vendor going out of business, a better product coming along, a cheaper alternative appearing on the scene or any other scenario, you need to make sure you can migrate your data out of a given product before you put your data in it.
What file format does the vendor use? Is it proprietary or open source? Does the software export to an industry-standard format? Does the vendor export to other popular formats?
While nothing is guaranteed, especially within the volatile technology market, a little preparation, investigation and research can go a long way toward avoiding tricky software vendors and choosing one that will be with you for the long haul.