In many industries, software has started taking a rather different form compared to when it was first introduced by the likes of Microsoft. At that point, it was introduced as a packaged product. The Windows operating system quite literally came in a packaged box. As software has been built upon these operating systems and evolved, they have transformed into a service, hence the modern term SaaS (Software as a Service). However, despite the newly coined term, it is still often treated as a packaged product, at least from the serving company’s perspective. This creates a disconnect between the intended use of the product and what the customer can get out of it. In today’s software-reliant world, it is the responsibility of the software provider to live up to the name of the product and sell a service. Among other things, this means servicing the customer when they require help, listening to feedback, and helping them get the most out of the software in the context of their specific use case.
As a customer, it’s not always easy to know upfront which companies will provide you the full-fledged service and which ones will fall short. To help with this, it can be useful to recontextualize the hunt for a new software product and make it a hunt for a new software partnership. Because ultimately, the customer will get the best experience if they are collaborating with a partner, as opposed to sending a product inquiry when something doesn’t function right. This article will explore some of the benefits of building a relationship with a software provider and look at a few surefire ways to identify a collaborative software partnership that will deliver the highest form of return.
Benefits of a Partnership
- Higher ROI than buying a packaged software product
- Develop future features you need and want in your business (this holds particularly true if you choose to partner with a startup firm)
- Extended team to collaborate on problem-solving
- Aligned incentives for success (this holds particularly true if the software is paid on a subscription basis)
- Sense of ease as the software provider is there to cover your needs for the long-term
- Grow together with mutual publicity on shared channels and outlets
Developing a true collaborative partnership is so much more than a simple
transaction. It is an enriching experience that can deliver remarkable results and help identify new areas of improvement over a sustained period of time.
However, the question remains, how do you go about finding such a partnership for your business? Let’s take a look at the following markers that indicate a software provider is a potential partner and worth collaborating with over the long term.
Before we dig into these, it is worth noting that these may vary slightly depending on the industry. The following are intended for a good partnership for construction companies and construction technology businesses, but they should hold true for most industries.
What Makes a Strong Software Partner?
1. Always there to assist you
When you purchase a new piece of software, there are always going to be problems and quirks that you didn’t anticipate. The nature of most software, particularly in construction, is complex which makes it difficult to use at first. It could be due to the steep learning curve or it could in fact be a problem in the software itself. Regardless of what the problem is, you should expect that the software provider will be there to solve it. It isn’t always the case, but it should be. If you purchase a packaged product from a software vendor with a one-time payment, chances are, they will be less inclined to help you along the way. The vendor has already moved on to try and make the next sale.
When you purchase a piece of software and something seems a little off, perhaps it’s a particular feature that doesn’t quite function most optimally. In a true partnership, your software technology company should be taking the initiative and reaching out asking things are working. The company should not simply respond to requests but be proactive and check on you. Ideally, all potential requests are brought up and sorted by the software company long before you ever have to tell them. That is the hallmark of a fruitful and functional partnership.
3. Grow & Evolve with you
In a long-term partnership, you should expect to see long-term growth and new opportunities on the horizon. On the contrary, transactional relationships provide the solution (hopefully) that has been advertised and that is where it ends.
A software technology partner will always have an eye on the future. They will always be thinking of how they can evolve the service and how that can benefit your relationship. Whatever pioneering pursuit you are on together, it’s a joint mission and the success of the mission is a success for both sides of the partnership. If your technology company takes that stance, you can expect a long and fruitful partnership with lots of joint wins.
4. Excites your Workforce
Arguably, the primary reason for adopting a new piece of technology is to solve some form of business problem. You don’t just spend money on software for the sole purpose of having new hot tech in the office. Some companies might, but if you are in the construction industry you know this is rarely the case. However, no matter how great of a solution the technology provides, it has to be built for the end-user. In this case, that’s your workforce. They need to love technology and it should make their lives easier. That is the only way it truly solves your initial problem. Great software companies that are in it for the long haul know this and have designed their product specifically for the workforce. The provider will also offer assisted onboarding and work hard on customer success to make sure the technology is meeting your needs and is easily usable by your staff.
5. Trust & Transparency
A lot of companies will adjust their value proposition to meet the needs of the potential customer simply to make a sale. Great software providers will be fully transparent with what problems they can and can’t solve and you should get an instant idea of whether or not it’s the right technology for your business. Once that has been established, the software company also has to demonstrate that it values your security, your data and quite frankly values your values. Without these things aligned, your relationship will quickly deteriorate into a hollow shell.
Trust and transparency must echo throughout the entire life of the partnership. If the software company makes a mistake, which inevitably happens at some point, it provides an ample opportunity for you to determine whether or not you are in a good partnership. By evaluating the situation similarly to regular social interaction, you will quickly be able to tell if the company is trying to place the blame elsewhere or if they take responsibility for it and immediately take action to identify the source of the mistake. The moral here is, a business partnership is very much like a social relationship. It’s not that complicated. As long as the key fundamentals are in place, you will experience a great and fruitful partnership.
Many of these traits are difficult to identify before you have started a partnership. At this stage, it is highly recommended to utilise a technology company’s pilot offers. Most companies will offer this at little to no cost to allow you to test the software for yourself. Any company that doesn’t offer this is usually best to stay away from. During a pilot, you can use the above guidelines to identify if the company will be a good partner or better understand if they are only looking to close a sale.
And finally, to truly take advantage of all of the benefits listed above, you should gravitate towards younger technology companies. These will be much more agile, quicker to respond to, and often create a more human experience than an already large and established firm. You will get the opportunity to help shape the future of the company and truly grow with them to create a highly successful and fruitful future.