But switching to a new PSA has its own risks. How will the switch impact customers, employees, partners, and most important of all the bottom line? The point of a software switch should be to make the business significantly better. In this post, we’ll discuss the key considerations for switching to a new PSA, and how to maximize the benefits while minimizing the risks.
Key Components to making an informed Software Switch:
1. Write Out Your Requirements
The first place to start is writing out your requirements, and what you want the new PSA to solve for when implemented.
At this phase of the process don’t limit yourself by things like budget, risk or other limitations. The purpose of the requirements phase is to get everything out on paper. Key areas of requirement consideration can include:
- Business Requirements: What will be required of the PSA software to help you reach your business goals. Does the PSA provider show use cases and feature roadmaps that build confidence that the new solution can help your business meet your goals.
- People Requirements: How will the new PSA impact your employees? What is your staff looking for in a PSA solution, and what do they see as their own top priorities along with management priorities. It is not uncommon for management to select an PSA solution that does not meet the needs of their employees, and creates additional headaches for management down the road.
- Technology: What are the technical requirements for the system? Technical requirements could include things like: 1) System performance; 2) Security; 3) Ease of management; 4) Service-Level-Agreements; 5) Back-up and recovery. Is the platform a complete solution or will additional components need to be added by 3rd parties (ex: analytics, invoicing and payment, project management).
- Analytics & Business Intelligence: What analytics do you want to pull out of the system? Companies are becoming more and more data-driven, and being able to provide real-time actionable data and insights to your staff makes it easier to service customers, manage processes and employees and make the right decisions right now for your business.
- Vendor Relationship: What is it like to work with the new PSA provider? Have other clients been happy with the solution and services provided. You can often go to tools like G2.com or Capterra and find out how a solution is viewed by its clients. PSA software providers should also be able to provide references and case studies that show how customers view them.
2. Conduct Research
Now that you have your requirements, vet them with key stakeholders. Some companies conduct research before they write requirements, and others do the reverse.
Some key ways to conduct research include:
- Surveys: Surveying key stakeholders is a quick and easy way to get a good understanding of what matters to them in a PSA solution. Tools like mailchimp or surveymonkey are manageable ways to send out surveys and get valuable feedback
- Interviews: Key customers and employees are often willing to be interviewed about what they expect in a PSA solution. Write out a simple interview sheet that asks questions around what they see working and not working in the current system, and what they would like to see in a new solution
3. Business Parameters and Scope
You’ve defined your requirements, you’ve vetted the requirements with stakeholders, now it is time to finalize the business parameters and scope for the solution. Here is where constraints come into play. Parameters can include:
- The approved budget limit for the actual solution
- The approved budget limit for implementation, data transfer and training
- The required internal team to learn and manage the system
- The acceptable cost to migrate data
- The acceptable cost to integrate with other solutions if needed (ex: quickbooks)
- The amount of down-time required for the switch (ex: many companies try to make a switch over a week-end or holiday to limit down-time)
- The acceptable impact on customers if any
- What is the impact/cost of not making a switch
4. Features and Prioritization
As you write your requirements and conduct research identifying platform features should be a natural outcome of the exercise. You will want to create a list (ex: in MSExcel or google sheets) that lists out features with the following parameters:
- Name of the feature (ex: Workflow Engine)
- Priority (High, Medium, Low)
- Cost if in addition to the base price of the platform
- Users impacted (ex: Management, Technicians, Customers, Partners)
- Level of Effort to implement (High, Medium, Low)
- Level of Effort to manage (High, Medium, Low)
- Feature Description
Once your feature sheet is completed it is a good practice to review the feature list and least with your internal teams. Reviewing the feature list with key stakeholders will vet whether there is alignment on priorities across your business.
5. Identify PSA software providers
Now that you have your requirements, research and features defined it is time to look at PSA providers. Key steps to finding the right provider include:
- A google keyword search: Typing in terms like “PSA software” or “PSA” provider will most likely bring up a list of PSA software providers. Some providers buy ad space at the top of a keyword search, and below those ads are providers that are provided organically from the search engine. Write out the names of the different vendors you find in your keyword search
- Reviewing Online Reputation Websites: Websites like Capterra and G2 have categories for different software providers (ex Managed Service Providers (MSP) software). These sites provide key information around the provider including: 1) About; 2) Pricing; 2) Features; 3) Alternative providers; 4) Comparisons; 5) and Reviews. The information on these types of sites is generally good, but should be taken with a grain of salt.
- Reviewing Research Reports: Companies like Forrester and Gartner conduct research on different software categories. These companies do extensive research on a given area, and then feed their findings into a framework that allows customers to compare different software providers. These research firms generally only provide their reports at a significant cost or with a subscription, but often the reports can be found on vendor websites where the vendor has received positive feedback.
- Watching reviews on youtube: Youtube can provide a treasure trove of PSA information. PSA software providers often have their own Youtube channels with overview videos, customer testimonials and product and solution insights. You can also often find 3rd party users who have insights into a given solution, and will provide you a more neutral perspective on the company
- Research on Online Communities: Online communities like reddit often can provide new perspectives on different PSA providers and how their customers view them as software providers. The benefit here is that there is generally no incentive for contributors to be anything but truthful.
- Pre-Sales Call Feature List Gathering: Many software providers provide feature lists on their websites either on dedicated feature pages or on pricing pages. You can take these feature lists, normalize them against your own feature list, and then begin to truly compare the different solutions. Having a feature list comparing multiple providers gives you a view of the software space that often not even the vendors themselves truly understand, and sets a different relationships with the sales team (a relationship in your favor). As you build out the feature list you can take the learnings from some of the other research you’ve done to get an even better sense of the level of quality of a given feature.
6. Compare PSA providers
At this point, you have done your homework, and you have put together a good overview of what you require in a solution, how different providers are viewed in the space, and how well they meet your requirements with their product. Now is the time to engage with the PSA providers directly, and decide whether they are the right solution for you.
Activities here include:
- Reaching out to the vendor: How quickly a company responds to your inquiry, and how they respond is a first good indicator of the company. You should be watching to see if they approach the relationship with the long-term in mind, or if they see you as just another number.
- Scheduling a “fit” meeting: Sales teams generally like to see if your company is a good fit for their software, and you should want the same. This is the place where you find out if the solution will fit your requirements, price range, and at the same time the vendor sales team is looking to see if you have the budget, authority, need and timeframe required to potentially close a deal.
- Getting a demo of the solution: Getting a demonstration of the system is a great step in being able to understand if the PSA software is right for you. At this point you have your requirements and features prioritized, and you generally know how the company is viewed by customers and experts. You will also know the strengths and weaknesses across their competitors, and you will be able to ask the right questions as the demo progresses. This will also give you more leverage with sales teams as they will see you as a much more informed potential customer than they normally would see.
- Solution and Feature comparison: Asking the vendor to provide a feature sheet and/or providing your own feature sheet and requirements for them to review. Ask the vendor to mark out how fully-featured each feature is on the list. This is another step where you’ll get a much deeper insight into the vendor’s strengths and weaknesses from their own perspective.
- Ask to see a feature or technology roadmap: You will want to see a feature or technology roadmap for the company. You want to see what directions and features are in their roadmap, and if they’re aligned with your priorities as you use their application for your business.
- Asking if a free trial is available: Trials can be the best way to truly understand if a PSA solution is right for you. Depending on the provider they should allow for a free-trial. Some software providers will ask for a “trial success criteria” from you (what does the trial need to do to get you to sign), and then will ask you to commit to a purchase if the trial is successful. But most companies do not ask for this type of agreement, and will provide a trial with few limitations or obligations.
- Ask for customers references: Vendors should be able to provide references to you. Obviously the customer references they provide will be from their very best customers, but you can generally get a sense of how satisfied they are with the provider by asking the right questions.
- Getting Pricing: If you’ve made it to this point, and all the steps have been positive then it is time to get pricing. You’ll want to get the “total” price from the PSA software provider (ex: platform costs, implementation costs, data migration costs, training costs). You’ll want to get this provided to you on the own company’s paper.
- Multiple Vendor Review: If reviewing multiple vendors you should compare them across the different action items above. You should be looking not only for directly measurable things like features and pricing, but also on intangibles like how supportive their sales and management teams are through the process, how supportive are customer success managers or their online support teams.
7. Justify and Buy
At this point, you’ve done a thorough review and vetting of the different PSA solutions and vendors. Now is the time to collect all your findings and justify a purchase of the software. Steps in this part of the process include:
- Review your approved budget to purchase, implement and manage the PSA solution.
- Review the quotes provided by the PSA vendors, compare the costs, features, and intangibles (ex: great to work with), and put them together in a comparison table.
- Create a return-on-investment (ROI) sheet highlighting the key metrics required for the PSA solutions to deliver the required benefits. Fill out your ROI sheet forecasting which solution will provide the highest probability of you hitting your goals.
- Select the PSA solution that is the best fit for your organization
- Review pricing and walk-thru the value with the selected vendor
- Identify if professional services are required - a. Are they free or paid
- Negotiate a better price (ex: multi-year contracts can be cheaper)
- Sign agreements and move to implementation
Selecting the right PSA solution is one of the most critical decisions impacting the way you run your business day to day. It may take some work, but outlining business goals, requirements, PSA vendor capabilities and the impacts of those capabilities against your budget will put you in a command position as you validate your needs with key stakeholders and vendors.
By taking a rigorous approach to selecting your next PSA solution you will avoid selecting a solution that limits your business, and raise the probabilities of selecting a tool that is a value-add to your company and your customers.