True or False: “No one ever gets fired for buying IBM”?

by Emil Stefanutti 3 min read

check-mark-icons_23-2147515387.jpg'No one ever gets fired for buying IBM’ is a well-known phrase. This brilliant branding tactic suggested that choosing the larger, more established option, was the right decision for a corporation, not because of any intrinsic quality but because it's was the industry standard. However, is this really the truth today?

As CEO of a cloud-based contract management company I talk to many people who in recent times have been responsible for choosing software systems for their companies or clients. By the time these individuals contact me about my company’s product, they have often realized their company has spent millions implementing pieces of software with little functionality, only solving a small fraction of the pain and with hardly any adoption by their staff, due to the clunky, inefficient and inflexible nature of these systems.  

Many are now coming around to reassess their company’s needs, realizing that these days the real solution for their pain may only be coming out of a startup like ours, with great products that are more aligned to their needs.

Still they sometimes request for our product to integrate with aspects of the previously implemented system, even if it makes little or no sense at all. Presumably this could be to make it less obvious that implementing that incumbent software was a mistake. However, there is only so long until the truth will come into the light. How is it that someone is not going to be fired when it comes out that millions of a company’s funds have been wasted?

So, how do you avoid being in the situation where you realize you have wasted your company’s funds on unsuitable software.  Make sure you honestly ask yourself these three questions before signing off on the purchase of any product:

  1. Are you making the decision based off choosing the ‘safest’ option i.e. what you perceive to be the industry standard or have you thoroughly done your research?
  2. What is your company’s current software system?  Is this sufficient (or too much) for your company’s current needs?  What gaps are there?  Refer to the next article for identifying wired, tired, and expired IT systems
  3. What exactly does your company need the product for? Be sure not to purchase a product simply because you think you are meant to.  Be strong to say none is required.

Many times I find that the expectations from clients are extremely low for what a product should be able to offer, and exaggeratedly high for how much and how long it should take to implement.  

From the budget perspective, the availability of nimble, cloud-based, SaaS applications should make it more cost-efficient for a company to implement a robust enterprise-grade platform like ours. A high price tag doesn’t mean that the product will be any better, it just means that you’re paying more. My advice is don’t spend more so you can cover your butt. Chances are you’re getting fired anyway for making a dumb decision.

Product considerations - or what you get for your money, is where choosing the massive corporation may truly get you in trouble, as leading edge software with more functionality for a better value may be available in the market.  Make sure to focus on exactly what problem you are trying to solve and where your key pain points are as you continue your software selection.  This can involve anything from simply asking users what their issues are to a full scale gap analysis. In either case, make sure that you select software that will ultimately make your life easier.

Remember that industry standard software often becomes standard because it’s reached the peak of its product lifecycle.  With IT products coming to market more quickly than ever, this means that your industry standard product today will be outdated and obsolete tomorrow.

Naturally, many young companies will not be able to provide the type of documentation you’d like to make an easy, risk-free decision. It’s more than likely that the company you’re evaluating will not provide you with 5-year financial track record or a list of blue-chip clients yet. Keep in mind that all companies you trust today (Google, Salesforce, Docusign, Box, etc.) were “unsafe bets” not long ago. If the technology does what you need and it feels right, figure out a way to make it work. It’s most likely that the software vendor will give you options to de-risk your decision.

While selecting software can often be a difficult process, an open mind and a little understanding can go a long way towards avoiding funds spent on products that don’t have the functionality or capability to solve your problem. In selecting software, considering the value and functionality of a software package – even if it’s not industry standard – will go a long way towards making sure your business has the right solution for your needs. Keep in mind that there’s always the risk that you’ll end up looking like a hero!

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