Originally published on the MindTouch Blog.
Knowing how to identify and purchase the right software successfully is not something you should have to learn through trial and error. If you are faced with putting out a software RFP, you may be tempted to confine your specs to functionality alone.
That’s a rookie mistake.
Whether you’re seeking an on-premises, hosted, or SaaS product, the following ten questions can apply to almost any software RFP.
1. Is your code developed completely in-house? If not, who writes your code and where are they located?
Outsourced code development is more likely to produce a product that doesn’t always functionally align with expectations. A development team that is tightly integrated with other company processes and operations often produces a higher quality product that more efficiently adapts to customer needs.
2. What is your QA and beta process?
You want to be assured of a thorough and detail-oriented QA and beta process so that testing doesn’t ultimately fall on customers. The process described should clearly cover system configurations and use cases that impact you.
3. What is your release cycle for updates and bug fixes?
This information will indicate how often you can expect enhancements and improvements. Some bugs are inevitable in all software, but release cycle frequency indicates if you’re more likely to wait six weeks or six months for a fix.
4. Can you share all your product documentation before we sign a contract?
The only acceptable answer here is YES. If called for, offer to sign an NDA to see it; but do not sign a contract without being able to review available documentation.
5. Can you set up a dedicated test instance before we sign a contract?
With a few possible exceptions, software vendors should provide an option for your team to test-drive the software on your own. Being told some version of “we only offer guided demos so potential customers don’t get confused” is a red flag that the software is unintuitive or overly complicated to use.
6. How many of your customers needed customizations to meet their requirements and what are the most common customizations?
Customizations aren’t just a budget-buster—they can indicate that the software is being stretched for use cases it wasn’t designed for. Consequently, the software might be unable to handle certain customizations efficiently. Some custom integrations aren’t necessarily alarming, but frequent customizations that alter or circumvent core functionality are cause for concern.
7. What are your support SLAs for all tiers of service?
These details are helpful to know well before the contract phase so you can ensure your expectations are aligned.
8. What was your average uptime during past 12 months?
Although uptime ranges should be covered in the SLAs, you want to know what to realistically expect.
9. What is your renewal rate and is it trending up or down?
This is an important indicator of customer satisfaction and can tell you if things are improving or worsening.
10. What is your employee turnover rate?
A high employee turnover rate can indicate issues within the company or, more importantly, it’s a risk that the product experts you plan to depend on could leave.