For even the most seasoned, successful, and large companies, purchasing new system software can be quite the process. For any scaling business, it’s vital that any software (such as transportation management software or TMS) is thoroughly evaluated for use cases, budget, and overall business needs.
If you’re planning on evaluating enterprise software or want to learn how to select TMS software for your business, it helps to have a solid plan in place. In our brief guide, we’ll break down what you need to do when evaluating software and how to find the right products for your unique needs. No matter what type of software you need, always run potential vendors through the following steps before proceeding with a purchase.
Know the Industry
If you are currently searching for a solution to a problem your business is facing, you have probably explored quite a few potential vendors already. Many TMS vendors make it very easy on potential buyers by listing the industries they serve on their websites. In fact, many TMS vendors service dozens of industries that might surprise you. Be wary of this, though. While it might seem like serving a large number of industries means the product is more robust, it could also mean that the vendor in question is not very capable when it comes to working with distinct manufacturers. Many enterprise software companies start out serving one specific industry, which is their specialty, before moving on to other industries to broaden their reach. Try to find vendors whose expertise aligns with your specific industry and use cases.
Know the Geography
Look at where the vendor is based and how many resources they have available for your business’ physical location. This is where heavy research comes in, as this can be difficult information to pinpoint. Just because a vendor serves a wide number of countries does not mean that they have the right resources available within your specific country. Smaller vendors will often have resources in just a couple of different areas. If you are having difficulty finding the right vendor that serves your country extensively, it may be worth looking into larger vendors. Such vendors typically have more resources and notoriety through effective software solutions and excellent partnerships. These larger vendors will likely also be more expensive, however.
Evaluate Your Organization Size
Are you running a massive enterprise? Or perhaps your business is a small startup? It’s very important to research the type of organizations that a particular vendor serves. Some enterprise software companies simply do not have the scope and resources to serve large enterprises. Try not to settle for the information you find on vendor websites, either. Start investigating reviews of the product instead. Look for reviews from leaders who implemented the software into companies that align with the size of your company. This is the most efficient way to determine whether a vendor is a good fit and is important simply because the size of a company isn’t necessarily the issue -- it’s a matter of how well the software can scale with the company and match with the company culture of a business of a certain size.
Know Your Needed Functions
No two businesses are the same. Just as well, no two software vendors are identical. Most of the enterprise software you’ll find will share some similar functions per industry. But focusing on what you get out of the box won’t be good enough. Your company should determine your pain points clearly and determine exactly what is needed when it comes to software features. If you’re looking into an enterprise-wide system, all of your teams should be involved in determining these pain points and needed features. You can then get a better idea of the scope needed for your solution, which will make finding the right vendors with the right bells and whistles much easier.
Consider Your IT Architecture
What is your IT architecture built on? Is it a Java or Microsoft .NET platform? Many software vendors today will offer platforms that are multi-functional and don’t have to be used with one specific platform. The only way to know if a product is a right fit for your existing infrastructure is to involve your IT team in the “vendor shopping” process. One big mistake many leaders make when shopping for new software is a lack of involvement with IT. Realistically, your IT team will be implementing, managing, and using that technology the most. Consult with your key IT leaders to get a solid idea of your current enterprise systems and the potential investment needed for a certain solution to be implemented. Your IT team will be a good resource to determine if an in-house, cloud-based, or hybrid product is ideal for your company.
Focus on the ROI
Many vendors out there will have a pre-made application template to make the process of implementation quicker. Unfortunately, every company’s existing IT architecture is unique and will need a lot of back-end personalization in order to implement a chosen solution properly. Look into how much it will cost to implement the software of your choice, but also consider how much time it will take to get your chosen product fully integrated with your existing systems. How quickly can you determine a potential ROI? Is it possible to pay as you implement, or can you cover the costs of ongoing customization with any savings that come from your initial setup? This will determine whether an in-house or cloud solution is ideal for your budget and timeline. You should only opt for vendors that fully support your implementation plan and long-term requirements.