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Whether it’s a new CRM or a new website, making a major software or tech buying decision is a daunting task for any organization.

We’ve identified three factors to help simplify the buying decision when it comes to web development.

A buying decision doesn’t happen overnight. Writing an RFP, assembling a core team, and identifying the business requirements all require a ton of time and resources, both of which are typically hard to come by.  Once you’ve tackled those aspects, the buying process itself takes weeks, if not months, of evaluation and that’s before the purchasing decision can be agreed upon. Decision criteria usually come down to a few key points, including vendor ability to deliver, experience and price, but there’s often more that should be considered.

Luckily, I’ve been through this process with many clients. Based on my experience, here are a few of the most important things for a buyer to consider while navigating the purchasing process.

1. Base Your Decision on the Value to be Delivered

When I say value, I don’t mean strictly based on costs. The costs of a project are one of the most difficult things to have a true understanding of during an RFP process. In software services, the value that the organization brings to the table through their experience with similar projects as well as their technical prowess should be the weighted heavily during decision making.

A vendor that can demonstrate their experience with similar projects will be able to use that experience to guide you through the entire process of a project. Furthermore, they will be able to provide valuable insight into what has worked in the past and what hasn’t, helping you to succeed on the first try.

Many companies come into a project feeling that they know what is best for the health of a project. Often times, vendors are able to provide recommendations not only on what to do, but more importantly what not to do, which will result in more value for dollars spent.

2. Make Certain You’re Comparing Apples to Apples

It is absolutely critical during the decision-making process to thoroughly evaluate what exactly is being estimated and to make sure all requirements are being intelligently considered. So, what are some tips to do this successfully?

First, identify what you believe to be the most complex pieces of the project and make sure that the vendor can explain how they came up with their estimates. Once you’ve begun a project and you can see it starting to go off the rails, it’s usually too late to change course. Your time and money are already spent and starting over is usually not an option.

A word of caution: don’t take vendor estimates at face value without a comprehensive understanding how the estimate was developed. Without a detailed review of how one vendor estimation versus another, you may get into a situation where you make the purchasing decision solely based on the bottom line cost. However, because many assumptions are made during estimation, you could actually be paying more and losing time on the backend once these assumptions are proved wrong. Be careful here!

3. Prioritize What’s Important

When a project has a huge list of requirements, it’s the job of the vendor or consultant to assess which are the most important to the delivery of a successful project. Experience with similar projects may give a great deal of insight into what should be done during an initial phase and what can probably be done later on.

In many cases, the minimum viable product (MVP) may be enough to get into production while more complex features are being developed for later releases. Prioritizing will reduce upfront costs and time so that we can really discover what else should be added. Techniques such as examining visitor flow in Google Analytics can give valuable insight into what is absolutely necessary and what might be less important to the end user.

Problems with estimating and prioritizing software projects will always come up, but focusing on the value to be delivered is key. However, the best piece of advice I can give to anyone on either side of the table is to be as transparent and honest as you can be. It sounds obvious, but it does not happen as often as you’d think. That’s why you must make sure that all factors have been considered during the buying process before making a decision.

Since joining Adage in January of 2012, Jake Toohey has worked with association, ecommerce, and manufacturing clients to help them realize and reach their digital goals. Through consulting and strategizing, Jake focuses on clients immediate and long-term needs to help develop solutions from marketing websites to full-scale digital transformations.