11 Questions to Ask When Purchasing Software

A software purchase is a big decision. And when it comes to finding one to handle all the pieces of event management, it can become even more complicated.

Looking beyond the priorities and features specific to the system, here are 11 questions to consider when making a new software purchase.

You can also find additional resources walking through the software selection process in our Resource Library.

1. What does implementation look like?Implementation plays an important role

Different vendors will have different implementation processes. It will be important to know what is expected of you and your team. Your day job doesn’t go on hold while you implement a new system. IT departments are discussed in question #5.

Questions to Ask: Will you be responsible for teaching yourself the system? Or will the vendor provide training? How long will installation of the software take? Are there any additional fees associated with on-boarding and implementation of the new system?

2. How does the vendor handle customer support?

Questions to Ask: What happens after the sale? Are there support package levels and hours? How does the vendor handle support calls? Do you have access to an account manager? 

3. Are service packs and system upgrades included?

This is a good way to see how the vendor feels about future development and where they get inspiration for new functionality.

Questions to Ask: How often does the vendor have a system release with new functionality? Are these new releases included in your annual fee? Or is there an additional cost? Where does new functionality originate?

4. How are these updates handled?

Understanding the impact of upgrades may not seem like a major question, but it is something to consider if the upgrade takes your team down for any length of time.

Questions to Ask: When there are upgrades, will you be down during this time? What access will the vendor require to perform upgrades? What policies does your institution or IT department have on server access?

What is the infrastructure you need?

5. What will be required of your IT team and infrastructure?

The software purchase may not impact only your team. As in question 1, different vendors will impact your IT team in different ways. 

Questions to Ask: Will you need the IT department to help build the database or system; how is the program installed? Is specific hardware required? If you upgrade servers or computers, how easy is it to move the system? What is required of your IT team in the future (upgrades, database upkeep, system backups, etc)?

6. Is the software system hosted, on premise or web-based?

Understanding the difference between these 3 could play an important part on your decision. If the software is hosted or web-based, ask where the data is stored and how back-ups are handled.

With on-premise servers, it is important to identify the lines of responsibility. Who is responsible for performing updates? Who is responsible for maintaining server software and backups?

Be aware of the contract terms7. What are contract terms?

Questions to Ask: Has the contract locked you in for a certain number of years? What are the cancellation terms (some vendors require termination in writing)? Is there an early cancellation fee?

8. Who owns the software license?

Some hosted options provide a SaaS model, meaning you “rent” the license of the software. Others sell on a perpetual model, meaning you purchase the software upfront.

This matters when it comes to cancellation as with a SaaS model, you might not own the data to take with you.

9. Who else is using the software system?

References can play an important part in your decision-making process as they will provide an unbiased opinion of the system. The vendor should be able to provide you with 3 or more references similar in size to you.

Click Here to download our eGuide to get the most out of your vendor demos.

10. What is the history and future of the vendor?

History tells you what the system was originally designed to do. Some vendors developed a system for a specific industry and then “threw in” a module to address a few customer requests. If your desired system was not originally designed for your industry, take a hard look at how it will address your specific challenges.

Future tells you the focus and vision of the vendor. Requesting a company roadmap is a good way see where the vendor is planning to spend development time.

Questions to Ask: How long has the vendor been in business? How did they get their start? How large is their client base (domestic, international)? What is their attrition rate? Where do they get ideas for future functionality and development?

Look at more than just the bottom line. What will be the overall cost of a new conference management system?11. What is the overall cost of the system?

Be on the lookout for hidden fees. With the contract terms, there can be places where the vendor will “sneak” in additional charges and fees.

Questions to Ask: Is there a per-user seat fee? Are there service support levels or limited hours (billable hours)? What all does the quote price include? Are system upgrades and new releases included in the fee? What resources and training is available at the quoted rate?

If you are starting your selection process for a new software system or lining up vendor demos, visit our resource page for additional tools and guides.

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Suzanne Delap

Written by Suzanne Delap

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