There are a lot of buying process flows depending on your company’s culture, size, IT staff, influence and many other factors. Most software purchases typically go something like: “Hey have you seen this app? It can do this and that and this – isn’t it cool? Let’s get a few licenses for the team.”
In larger companies the process seems to be more detailed but in essence it is the same. “CEO wants a new reporting system, let’s get IT to do a short list of software vendors and have some meetings with all of them, get purchasing involved for pricing, etc. It is mostly based on whats available. Should we pick one vendor since it is a better fit and we already know them? Should we pick this other vendor because our competition uses them?
The issue in purchasing software is that it starts from the awareness of a potential supplier. If the buyer is not aware of a product then how can they contact them to request more information, include them in the purchase decision, or even test the product?
This makes it difficult for new, innovative and potentially cost effective products to be included and potentially selected in the buying decision as they rarely have the market presence and resources to be listed in the first page of Google, on airports or on top of buildings across major cities.
One way to be aware is to use comparison web sites that can surface them and that you should at least use before making your purchase. I have used them several times to decide which Virtual PBX software to purchase and which HR system to purchase and they provided invaluable information and even led me down to changing my mind and exposing alternative vendors.
1. GetApp boasts close to 5000 applications in their business directory and a nice trending apps overview as well as a “best fit” criteria selection, which although misleading at times could provide you with a starting list of vendors. I like the fact that there is a filter/search on the left side for pricing, devices supported, I also like the comparison tool.
2. Capterra has over 400 categories of business related software however I find at times the best way to use it is to type the name of one application that I know does the job and from that one look at the category (or categories) to identify other potential applications. It provides a nice company overview as well as a video or screen captures. People can register their reviews and comments as well as providing a 5-star rating system.
3. IT Central Station provides a more technical/IT point of view on all systems from a number of IT professionals. Think of it more like a LinkedIn approach to software review (in fact you can login using your LinkedIn account).
4. G2crowd leverages user reviews and trusted peers to build their comparison and valuation pages. It is very well categorized and professional. Using something they call “The Grid” which is a very similar approach to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant to place vendors in a Satisfaction/Market Presence grid. Much like its Gartner counterpart, the grid is subjective and potential non-significant as for example Market Presence is not really a customer driven selection criteria (more appropriate but also not primary would be criteria such as # of customers or industry coverage).
5. AlternativeTo is a crowd sourced recommendation engine and in essence it is actually one of the best as it starts with the premise that you have some type of software that you would like to replace with something else, hopefully better and cheaper. AlternativeTo goes beyond business software and it includes even games and navigator add-ons. The quality of information may be poorer than others listed here but it definitely gives you a wider rang allowing you to potentially discover new applications that you were not aware existed.
One final note on all of the above comparison tools, which is generally applicable to anything you read on the internet: even sites such as WikiPedia where we place trust on others to provide us with information you should always assume that what you read, especially from user reviews and third party provided information, is biased.
In general, we as human beings, are biased to begin with by our culture, background, and experience. But in addition to our own biases there are vendors that spend a lot of money influencing directly or indirectly many of the sites on the internet related to their industry.
User reviews are the most common place to influence you, and vendors that have the resources to enlist their current customers or that can hire “fake” reviewers in mass to flood post on Facebook, twitter, comparison sites and many other channels, will do so.
Look for comments that are specific to a feature or that truly provide constructive criticism of an application before believing the entire rating.
A final suggestion: there is no better way to select a software than to try it yourself for a few days or weeks. Install it, configure it, see what it can do or not and create your own assessment. Do not rely on others to spoon feed you the answer – they will not be on the hook when the software does not do what your business needs.
I hope the above helps you on your quest to identifying the right software for you.