Matthias Weber on his many years of experience in the sale of business software and the question: Why the acquisition of a new business software is more like building a house than buying a car!
Sales staff know the saying: “When I buy a car, I’ll do a test drive first. Why can’t I test your software for free?” This is not completely wrong. The investment amount for a new business software is quickly running into five digit numbers. Choosing a product usually has an impact on the next 10 to 15 years. No one buys such a software in passing and the decision-makers approach the topic with corresponding caution, wanting to protect themselves – similar to a test drive when buying a car. But the comparison software purchase would be like buying a car is limp: the right company software is more than just a car.
Cloud & SaaS simplifies many things
Digitisation in the IT sector makes many things easier. Software can nowadays be offered as “Software As A Service” (SaaS) or is already cloud-based. Suppliers of ERP systems can in fact provide simple test systems via these channels – free of charge, of course. But is that the solution? Not quite! The basic availability of such a system is already half the battle, but for a qualified selection of new systems there is so much more to think about.
Driving licence test vs. training
Let’s stick to the parable that the purchase of business software is compared to a car purchase: in order to test the car you need a driver’s license. However, very few users have an “ERP driver’s license” – simply because it does not exist. The reason for this is that the basic operation of a car is the same in every vehicle – with every driver’s breath panting for a moment when changing from a left-hand drive vehicle to a right-hand drive car. With ERP software, however, the operating model is not standardized. Programmers have taken the freedom programming their software according to their operating ideas. Therefore, there is no ERP operating license – every software is different. That’s why you can’t test a software product perfectly without explanation and training. Only experts for this program have the necessary know-how with the knowledge of how all functions can be optimally used.
Short distance vs. long distance
To supply a test system or demo environment as a cloud application, software-as-a-service or virtual environment is becoming more and more common for manufacturers or providers. But does this get you there as a prospective customer? This is comparable to the question of whether I test a new car only on short trips or whether I test the vehicle over several days on long-distance journeys. Depending on the price range of the vehicle, the dealer will certainly offer this. This is similar for software vendors. A long-distance test in a software program means that the test is done with the data and data volume of the company, not with funny demo data to which one has no connection or with only a few data records that each system can process. The “loading” of a software system is always critical for its performance, just like in a car. The type of data volume and the number of concurrent users have an influence on the usability of the respective software – rarely can a pure demo system simulate this adequately. Only a few car buyers come to the dealership with the whole family and the packed luggage and take a test drive to Italy for several days. The comparison, that a car purchase is like a software purchase, also functions in this point only to a limited extent.
Business software is not a car
If you are honest to yourself, the comparison of business software with a car only serves the prospective customer, in order to receive free consulting services. A car is not business software. When you buy a car, you can drive off more or less instantly. After purchasing an enterprise software, you need the appropriate hardware (except in a public cloud scenario), installation and configuration, data transfer or initial data entry and training before you can get started. Thus before the first usage of business software, it takes so much more than registering your car with the traffic office and the insurance company and driving it to the gas station.
Foundation of a company: ERP software
Enterprise software is more than just a car. Even before the meta-topic “digital transformation” software for companies was the virtual brain of a company. Data is mapped in a central database and business processes are processed and monitored digitally. Enterprise software is therefore more likely to be the foundation of a company. Based on software, new business models emerge and offer a virtual house for customers, suppliers and employees.
The company software as a virtual office building for customers, suppliers and employees
There are much better and more suitable comparisons for enterprise software: digital image of the company, brain of the company or the virtual office building. The image of a virtual office building in particular is a good illustration of today’s tasks. ERP software becomes a collaborative and communicative program that connects all stakeholders to communicate with each other. Customers can directly access product information and place orders via a webshop. Suppliers can register planned deliveries and thus influence stock management. Employees process tasks and receive information about escalations. You can inform customers about supply bottlenecks and at the same time try to hire alternative suppliers. All these tasks are mapped within a modern enterprise software. Such an interaction is not tested during a short test drive or test phase.
Ever heard of trial living?
Despite the disagreement that an ERP purchase is not a car purchase, the challenge of finding new business software requires a solution. The ERP heroes, experts in enterprise software, have found 5 ideas for tackling the challenge and thus safely reaching their goal, i. e. living in steps – right up to the move-in: