Part 1 – Signs Your Purchase is Beyond Saving

There are more than 7.5 million Google search results for the keywords – enterprise software purchase regret – proving that oftentimes – despite well laid plans, thorough evaluations, and customer references companies end up with the wrong software solution.

The challenge of software regret can be compounded when that software is embedded into your application making removing it not only an internal issue but also a user experience challenge. Despite the pain, once you realize the software you purchased won’t meet your business goals, it’s time to make a change.

“Hanging onto a bad buy will not redeem the purchase” – Terence Conran

However, the thought of replacing embedded software can be overwhelming. You may have been the person who advocated for the new offering, asked your team to invest countless hours evaluating the solution and ultimately saw sub-par results from what you were promised. You probably know it’s time for a change, but your reputation may take a hit and it’s scary to do it all over again.

But, it is possible to become the hero again by avoiding past mistakes, choosing the right solution and implementing it quickly. In this 3 part series we will first cover how to know it’s time to take the leap, cut the cord, go back to square one or any other idiom of your choosing, and then what to look for as you embark on a new relationship.

Product managers are far too practical to simply rely on their gut instinct that something is amiss with a purchase they made. As positive people with bold visions, admitting something isn’t working can be the biggest challenge to making an improvement. Fortunately, PMs can rely on their stated business goals they established and certainly well documented when evaluating solutions. Below are the three biggest reasons PMs tell us they began looking for a new solution and stopped hoping things would turn around.

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You still aren’t implemented, months after the vendor said you would be.

Implementation may seem just beyond your grasp, enticing you by getting ever closer but remaining elusive. Delayed implementation is the symptom of greater issues, all of which suggest long-term viability concerns for your software:

  1. Developers claim to be too busy – The solution is too complicated for developers to make expected progress in a reasonable amount of time. It may require excessive customization, backend coding to connect to your systems or simply isn’t stable. While these issues could be overcome to reach an MVP, once live, these systemic problems could cause roadmap delays, maintenance issues, frustrated customers and limited adoption. 
  2. Doesn’t easily connect to all your data – Software that fails to offer easily understood and well-documented APIs to connect to data make it difficult to connect and maintain connections requiring constant upkeep and maintenance.
  3. Doesn’t provide the expected end-user experience – Before launch, you want any third-party software to infuse seamlessly into your software. Some solutions may suggest this is possible but only offer rudimentary capabilities, require custom code or paid professional engagements to deliver on the pre-sales promise.

Any of these factors are red flags for your product and development teams. Even if you “duct tape” these issues, your teams will constantly struggle to maintain and improve the offering, reducing available developer cycle time for other development priorities and frustrating customers.

You’re launched, but your business objectives aren’t being met.

Perhaps you’ve partially or fully implemented the solution you purchased. Going live is an exciting step towards delivering new features and capabilities to your users. However, going live is just the beginning. Below are the challenges you’re probably facing if you’re looking for a new solution.

  1. Developers are complaining. Developers prefer to spend more time innovating and less time fixing buggy third party software. Developer frustration, slowing burn-down rates or laggy response times are a good indication the software purchased may not be fit for purpose.
  2. Many “great” features aren’t being used. When you purchased the software, some of the more innovative features were likely appealing and justified more expensive software. However, you need to meet your users where they are and if ultimately they aren’t using the newest features you might want to opt for a less expensive solution. The result is a simplified user experience, lower costs and happier customers. Note – you don’t want to totally mortgage the future for today so find a vendor with a good product today and a meaningful roadmap to ensure ongoing innovation.
  3. KPIs aren’t being met – You’ve invested in a new embedded capability to meet certain business objectives. Some of these might include; upselling customers, increasing engagement or reducing churn. While it takes time to meet these goals, failure to see any leading indicators could suggest the capability deployed isn’t meeting user expectations. This could be an implementation issue but often is the result of purchased software not working as intended.

The vendor isn’t supporting you the way you expected.

  1. Support isn’t up to snuff. Even the easiest to use embedded software will run into challenges from time to time. Having support which understands the unique challenges embedding creates and the importance of solving those challenges quickly is critical. This requires a support staff that has expertise working with product and engineering teams as opposed to IT teams, as well as extensive documentation. Some companies suggest they offer this, but few truly do.
  2. Roadmap features promised haven’t materialized. While roadmaps are no guarantee, they do play a critical role in buying decisions, especially when it comes to embedded software. If you are making roadmap decisions and promising capabilities to your customers and users based on promises that your embedded analytics vendor makes, but they don’t materialize, that damages your reputation in your market. This isn’t a good partnership.
  3. You’re just not that important to them (once you signed). Large software vendors are very focused on their largest customers. While your customer account manager will invest time in your relationship and care about your success smaller companies are often second when it comes to premier support or other services and have little say on driving new features and capabilities. Partnering with young, growing vendors might seem to be more risky, but it could lead to a much more powerful partnership.

Conclusion:

Overall, even the most well researched software can turn into the wrong choice. However, the benefit of working in a SaaS environment is contracts tend to be short, customers expect applications to change and development teams work in ongoing sprint cycles to account for change. Ultimately though, the product manager, product owner or VP Product needs to admit they made a mistake, rally the troops to find the right solution and work hard to ensure they don’t make the same mistakes twice – which we’ll explore in our next article.

In this series…

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