When everyone talks about software, they immediately talk about features and functionality. Does the software do this or does the software do that, often with complete disregard to what the real questions should be. This approach is so prevalent that it was the first question asked of me for a recent magazine interview. And I know others interviewed will instinctively jump to the feature they want to promote to either promote their software, or attempt to differentiate their company.
I actually took a different approach. At the end of the day, we know that ONeil has the most feature-rich product available to commercial record centers, but what really matters is ensuring that your business problems are understood and addressed. This is accomplished in several different ways.
First, experience matters. Over 30 years of developing software solutions exclusively for this industry sector has allowed our system business rules to mature and standardize throughout our products. If business rules conflict then data integrity problems occur, and they usually manifest themselves as billing errors, which you may never see. Years of experience and established business rules are there to protect you from revenue "seepage", so don't underestimate their value.
Next, if you havent worked in a Commercial Record Center, then you dont fully understand the issues that need to be addressed - period. I dont care what logistics experience anyone has, there are particular nuances to the Commercial Records Management industry that makes it unique. Knowledge of the industry is crucial to the delivery of an industry-specific software solution. This industry is not about asset tracking, although to the inexperienced eye that is how it first looks. Software designed for asset tracking should stick to that particular function and not be mistaken for commercial record management software.
The quality of any product offering is critical and quality is easily measured by the number of satisfied customers. For many, purchasing software specifically for the industry, especially if you are new to the particular business sector, can be daunting. After all, this software is going to run your business and changing later can be expensive. This leads to an important point: Dont be mistaken by cheap deals that look too good to be true. Youre a business entrepreneur and you know those deals really are too good to be true. This is all about the ROI - Return on Investment. Understanding the true total cost of ownership, so you can calculate the real long-term value of a quality product is essential. You will be surprised by what you learn and the resuklts will speak for themselves: Quality products will always deliver the best ROI.
Of course, I can never discuss quality without bringing service into the discussion. Buying software without support is like not insuring your buildings, people or vehicles. Dont do it! Support, like insurance, is a critical factor that needs to be included in any business plan. Unlike insurance, however, support should be more than just calling when you have a critical problem. Support should be about checking changes in advance, or just clarifying something about how the software is used in a particular situation. You should also make sure that support goes to a dedicated support desk, with trained technicians. If you call a support desk at 3am, a cell-phone next to someones bed just wont cut it. If the companys developers are handling support issues, who is expanding the product for you? Dont be sold short in this area. Support is a critical part of the whole service you require from a software provider.
Finally, an area that has expanded beyond anyones imagination is, of course, social networking and in todays difficult business environments you need to be able to network with your peers. User meetings and active online forums are more critical than ever, so look for active discussion groups and opportunities to network. The ability to discuss issues face-to-face, or online can really help you improve your business, which helps in the delivery of that ROI.
So the best features in our software arent features at all
they are a combination of Experience, Knowledge, Quality, Service and Networking. The fact that all this comes with a fabulous feature set is just an added bonus.