6 Phases of the Buying Process
Deciding to invest in new technology is one of the biggest decisions you'll make—and the hardest to navigate. In our series 6 Phases of the Buying Process, we dive into each phase of purchasing new technology for your organization. We break down what to expect, who should be involved, and key objectives in each phase so that you can make your decision with confidence in your partner and your solution.
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Phase 1: The Initial Conversation
The first step in switching to any new technology system is the initial conversation with your potential partner. This is the exploratory phase of the process. The goal is for your solution partner to better understand your organization and your system needs. Without understanding key areas of your organization, there's no way a partner could know which solution is right for you.
The conversation should take approximately 30 minutes and typically only involves the person leading the initiative in your organization (a project manager, controller, CFO or CEO) and your potential solution partner.
It is common – and recommended – to have this conversation with more than one potential partner as part of your vetting and validation process. We equate this to the "first date." You are looking for a partner that you mesh with; that understands your organizational goals and priorities for your new system and has the experience and knowledge to help you achieve them and avoid common implementation risks.
By the end of this meeting, the potential partner should have in-depth knowledge of:
- Your organization's driving factor for change
- The size of your organization
- How your organization functions
- Your organization's needs
- The future growth you expect to see
A good partner will be curious about your vision. They should be able to see the smallest details and how those details work together to create the big picture. Be wary of a partner that simply offers a list of questions without also providing new ideas. To get a solution that’s right for your organization and achieve long-term success with a partner, you both must invest the time to have an exploratory conversation.
- The Difference Between a Vendor and a Partner
Because of the complexity that goes into building a solution that is tailored specifically for your organization, beware of any “partner” that starts the conversation by offering you package price quotes.
When prices get thrown around before a thorough exploratory conversation, you can be sure that you’ll end up with a vendor, not a partner. Any price range you’re given should be dependent on your industry and should be very broad. Truly gauging pricing requires going further in the software implementation discovery process. Once more information and goals are shared, the better positioned you and the partner will be to see return on investment opportunities
Critical Topics for the Initial Conversation
Essentials About Your Organization
To understand which type of solution will meet the needs of your organization, your partner must know your organization’s size, revenue and sources of cash flow. Organization leaders are often apprehensive about sharing revenue for fear of being taken advantage of or dismissed, but transparency is vital to getting the right solution. If you feel like the provider is only trying to “sell” you and isn’t engaged in learning about your business or educating you about different solutions, find another partner.
Your Preferred Timeline
Your partner must understand your expected timeline, and you must understand what a realistic software implementation timeline looks like. You might want to implement a solution in several years, or you might want to implement it in several months. The conversation will be much different for each timeline.
Sometimes, organization leaders come to the table hoping for a go-live date within 60 days. A 60-day goal is often not feasible unless your organization is implementing a significantly pared-down solution. For a quality, tailored solution you will likely hear anywhere from a 3- to 12-month timeline depending on the complexity of the system. Not sure how to tell how complex your implementation will be? We've created a timeline and complexity calculator to help you get a realistic approximation.
Potential partners who dismiss you because you are looking for a multi-year or phased implementation approach may only be focused on their short-term gains such as sales numbers.
Your Budget for the Platform and Implementation
Many organizations come into technology conversations without a clear idea of their budget, or they plan to buy on value alone without regard for price. However, your implementation partner needs a clear picture of what you’re spending on technology and what technologies you’re planning to replace to help them identify which solution will provide a true return on investment and create a foundation for you to scale into the future.
This doesn’t mean you need a precise figure that’s set in stone. You should come to the conversation with a dollar range in mind that makes sense for your organization in terms of the cost of implementation and annual recurring cost. This will ensure you receive solution designs that align with your goals and your wallet. If you don’t outline budget expectations, you’ll likely compromise on one or the other.
The great thing about modern technology platforms and organizational software is that you can lay the foundation with today’s budget and build on it in the future.
There are many possible outcomes of an initial technology conversation. For instance, you may go into the conversation wanting to switch ERP systems and you may have a technology solution in mind, but then the partner determines that particular solution or platform doesn't make sense for your organization right now.
If that's the case, a true consulting partner will be an impartial sounding board to help you qualify or disqualify a system from your consideration. They will offer advice and guidance on how you can make choices today to set your organization up for success in the future.
Or you may go into the conversation without any real intent to buy and leave feeling confident to move forward. After the Initial Conversation, Discovery will take you one step closer to finding the right technology solution for your organization.
We've put together everything you need to know when it comes to buying and implementing new technology for your organization. From calculating your timeline and complexity to learning about all six phases, we've got you covered.