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Buyer’s Checklist for Sustainability Software

Explore our buyer’s checklist for sustainability software. Learn three mistakes to avoid when buying sustainability software and the questions that will help you spot them before it’s too late.

✓ #1: Don’t Believe In Unicorns

The challenge of collecting, managing and reporting on sustainability data is so complex that any app that purports to do it all either doesn’t, or doesn’t do it well enough to be useful.

The good news is you don’t want a unicorn app any more than vendors are able to build it. In recognition of this fact, the marketplace has matured to include a number of “highly integrated, highly specialized” applications that do a smaller set of jobs extraordinarily well. Just look at your smart phone to see why: there’s an app for everything. Their common traits are they (1) integrate well with one another are (2) easy to use and (3) far cheaper than traditional, heavyweight and expensive ‘enterprise’ software.

Key questions to ask:

  • Does your app integrate with other software platforms or data sources?
  • How easy is it to get data into, and out of, your application?

We want one simple, shiny app that does it all. Sorry, unicorns don’t exist.

✓ #2: Don’t Buy Into Long Term Contracts

Rapid technological evolution means the flexibility to move into (and out of) contracts is key to retaining competitive advantage. Companies that cannot adopt new, disruptive technologies because they’re married to yesteryear’s ‘market leader’ have traded flexibility for obsolescence. They’ll also suffer the frustration of declining service from a vendor who has happily pocketed the contract and summarily reduced their level of service.

Death-by-contract is avoidable. Seek out software available on a 12 month (or less) subscription term and find companies that will refund the prorated value of your subscription should you abandon their service. These vendors increasingly common. They not only have to keep offering value to keep you around, but they give you the flexibility to take advantage of the newest, best app available which is a competitive advantage in and of itself.

Key questions to ask:

  • How long does it take to start using (and getting value from) your software?
  • What happens if I want to terminate service?
  • How do I recover my data?

✓ #3: Don’t Confuse Stagnation With Stability

Like mom’s meatloaf, some things never change. Unfortunately, this is not what you want in your software products. The market, and your business, are too dynamic. Instead software should be “evergreen” – that’s fancy vendor-speak for a product that receives constant updates. Expect exciting new features regularly at no, or very little additional cost. If you don’t get them, be concerned. Very concerned…

Updates and new features are a sign of a vigorous, value-oriented software vendor and reduce the likelihood you’ve invested in a product that’s heading towards obsolescence. If you fail to see updates every two weeks or get regular notifications on “what’s next” in your vendor’s product pipeline, that’s a good sign your vendor, and their product, are heading out of style.

Key questions to ask:

  • Is your product proprietary, or are you a re-seller?
  • How frequently is your product updated?
  • Do you have a formal process to incorporate customer feedback?

New products come to market all the time. This is a good thing. Your job as a buyer is to ask these simple questions in order to distinguish viable solutions from painful mistakes. Look for targeted, highly specialized solutions that work well, fast, and can be implemented without long term encumbrances. Stick to this guiding philosophy and you’ll avoid following your software towards obsolescence.