At ThoughtTrace, we don’t just build software, we also buy a lot of it too. For applications such as Customer Relationship Management, Marketing, Accounting, and much, much more, we lean on other software providers to provide us with the necessary tools to be the best company we can be. Over the years, we have developed a set of “must haves” that we look for in our vendors and that we also apply to our own products (because that is how we would want it to be as a ThoughtTrace customer!). We hope the list below helps not just in your interaction with us, but also other software providers that you may consider for any number of different applications.
- Time to Value (buy vs build/buy)
The software landscape is awash in companies providing “platforms” and “frameworks” that can be “adapted” to whatever your specific business need may be. While this is true, the overhead involved with customizing a software platform to fit your specific industry or use case is both expensive and siloed. In most cases, you will spend 1.5X – 3x on services versus software, and ultimately end up with a product that does not benefit from the collective intelligence of a wider market. We do our best to both buy and build solutions that are as close to “out of the box” as possible. This approach allows for instant value creation and drastically minimizes both the risk and overhead associated with deploying new software. You stake your reputation on the software you recommend to your company, rather than taking a giant leap of faith, take an exceedingly small step of faith.
- Open vs Closed Systems (integration friendly, customer vs hostage)
If a software sales person tells you to shy away from “best of breed” and that a “single platform” is the best approach, run away!(with your wallet in hand) Legacy software applications written in decades old code that have not been rewritten for a new, integration friendly world tend to create “lock-in” for users of that application, where migrating to other services or competing products becomes too steep a hill to climb. Across industries, forward thinking software companies have embraced the idea of being part of a software ecosystem rather than promoting a single platform methodology. This approach allows the customer to “future proof” their solution set and ensures that as new functionality arises from different providers, they will be positioned to take advantage of it. For many “single platform” software providers, the decision to discourage integration goes beyond technology, and is in fact a reflection of their overall business philosophy – a belief that rather than growing their business by turning customers into raving fans and evangelists, that they are better off turning customers into hostages. Don’t be taken hostage.
- Delivery Model (Subscription vs Services, "being monetized through services")
Building on Point #2, what is the actual revenue model of the company you are dealing with? Do they derive 90%+ of their revenue from software sales, or are they really a services company in software company clothing? The job titles of their LinkedIn employees may be a strong indicator! Rest assured, if they are services heavy, they will be incentivized to create circumstances to charge you for services. There are exceptions of course, applications such as BPM and RPA are predicated on services. Others, for example CRM and ERP, have made tremendous strides in minimizing services cost (if you pick the right provider).
This really, really matters. How seriously does your software provider take security? At ThoughtTrace, we have made tremendous investments in data security. We also maintain an AICPA SOC 2 Type II Certification. This is an annual audit that validates that we adhere to our stated security policies. When dealing with sensitive data, these are the same standards that we look for in our vendors. It is unlikely that your current indemnification policies would cover a $420MM fine, make sure your software providers are at least as concerned about this as you are.
- Product and Thought Leadership
Finally, and this is really important, what motivates the software providers company leadership? Are they product geeks or are they “finance guys”? Do they strike you as someone just looking to make a sale, or do they actually show a tremendous passion for their customers and their product? Go beyond the salesperson assigned to you, request a few minutes to talk to a senior level person within the company (such as the CTO or even CEO) – ask them what they are excited about, where do they see technology going, what are they reading right now? This can tell you a lot not just about the C-Levels at that company, but about who you will be dealing with day to day. Make no mistake, the C Suite will hire people that in many ways are a reflection of their own values – make sure those values align with yours.
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