Selecting New Business Software #1: Don’t Start With The Platform

I visited with a client that was thinking about buying new software last week. They had a pretty good idea of what they wanted, and I was there to ask more questions to make sure I understood all the detailed needs.
In selecting new software, it’s important to define all the needs. Businesses tend to focus only on the things that are immediate problems. That is, on the statements that begin, “It won’t do…” or “We need to be able to…” It’s important to gather this information, of course, but there are also a large number of things that fall in the category of statements that begin “We like the way we’re…” For more on this, check out the post on The Gladys Principle.
As we were leaving, the client introduced us to the “IT guy” who started with the statement, “I have a few questions I’ll need answered.”
“For example?” I asked sweetly.
“What database does it run on? Is it web ennabled? What administrative rights are required on the server? Blah. Blah. Blah.” In other words: Cost doesn’t matter. What the software does doesn’t matter. All that matters are the technical parts.
Reminded me of the guy that wanted software written in a language he knew. Also wanted the source code so he could modify it. He found some. Last time I heard from him, he had sued the software vendor to get his $75K back.
Doing it this way is like the carpenter that only had a hammer, so every problem looked like a nail!
Rule #1: Don’t worry about the technical stuff until after you’ve found the software that does what your business needs it to do.
The technical stuff should only matter when you’re comparing products that you know have the features you want and are trying to make a decision between them.
I’ll learn new technical stuff every time if you give me the business features I need.