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We Are Buying Enterprise Software All Wrong (Part 1)

Internally we have a lot of conversations about the person we refer to as “the invisible prospect.” This persona has been assigned to research ECM and might be looking for RFP content or gathering material for a purchasing team. We’re trying to get them the correct information about (the CPS version of) servicing and implementing Laserfiche into their hands. Hence we need to meet them where they are in their “buyer’s journey.”

“Buyer’s journey” is a marketing term for the steps and content ingestion that take a prospect to a lead and (hopefully) to a client. A sales team would refer to the process as a sales funnel. Here is some interesting buying trivia: a buyer is seldom a single person. Studies have shown, and we’ve seen with our clients, that 6-8 people are involved in making an ECM purchase decision. And the decision takes between 6-and 12 months. As you can see, the purchasing process is quite resource-intensive, and time is money. As for failed implementations, we don’t have any data; however, CIOs have told me that any IT leader who tells you they’ve never had a failed implementation is not being truthful.

Purchasing enterprise software is complex, no matter what some ISVs (independent software vendors) tell you. Making the right decision requires planning, requirements gathering, use-case analysis, budgeting, RFP writing, response scoring, etc. For a successful implementation, you need to be somewhat educated about the software before committing. It would help if you also were skilled at change management, project management, and communication. Have I frightened you away yet?. Frankly, I think that the purchasing process for enterprise software buying is broken; here are just a few examples of how it can go wrong:

  • Frequently, organizations will spend enormous amounts of time researching, creating an RFP, hiring a consultant, conducting a needs analysis, budgeting, and running an RFP process only to, in the end, not purchase anything. Inertia wins!

  • On the other hand, some organizations don’t do any research. Pick a vendor they click with, ask them to provide information for an RFP, and then buy their "friend’s” product. It’s all well and good if you’re that vendor, but perhaps not for the buyer.

  • Consultants are often engaged to perform a needs analysis and help the organization understand the use cases for the technology. However, the scenario usually ends with a report, possibly an RFP, and a considerable invoice―now, the organization needs to wait a year to buy and implement the technology.

  • An agency borrows an RFP from a similar organization. They make a few adjustments and release it into the wild. Vendors realize that the RFP is written for a specific system and don’t put effort into responses. The agency, which hadn’t recognized the RFP was written to ensure Vendor X would score highest, bought the wrong system.

  • The vendor has minimal expertise in the buyer’s needs, goals, and objectives. Sure, they might have a decent proof-of-concept for demo purposes, but do they understand your business processes?

  • Vendors need to be more forthcoming with their behind-the-scenes staff. For example, An organization purchases ABM (account-based marketing) software for the sales team. Marketing can also see a use case for the implementation but would like to speak with another in-house or client with a similar marketing use case. None was made available. Another example is that Laserfiche Partner has an internal records manager on staff. Still, when queried for help from the client, decide it’s not ideal to make the internal records manager available to the client for consultation. Hence, the implementation stalls.

Undoubtedly, there are many failed IT procurements where the finger is pointed at implementation or change management. However, we’ll wager that issues begin well before then. Most organizations are ill-equipped to evaluate and select enterprise IT solutions. They fall back on ‘normal rules-based procurement guidelines,’ adopt feature-based ‘apples to apple comparisons, or use tendering processes to claim due diligence.

Look for our Part 2 post, where we’ll discuss methods to increase the likelihood of successful enterprise technology procurement.



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