Every day, our software developers, implementers, and customer support teams come to work armed with new ideas to improve investigators’ productivity.  One of the most frustrating stories we hear from investigative teams is that they’ve recently entered into a contract to procure case management software, and they can already tell that it’s going to be a rocky relationship.  Unfortunately, many times these teams are stuck with this relationship for at least two or three years.  If they want to switch at a later time, they’ll need to go through the time-consuming procurement process yet again.

The vendors on the other side of these relationships aren’t always malicious; they may have misunderstood what the agency was trying to accomplish in their RFP or sold a feature they thought they could quickly develop but ultimately couldn’t.  Of course, sometimes it’s less innocent than that; the vendor says yes to everything knowing that once the contract is signed, backing out will be so burdensome that the customer will simply stick with a subpar experience.

Innocent or not, here are three ways that new software can destroy your productivity.

The “Yes but No” Vendor

Some vendors are eager to promise what you want in order to get the sale; the salesperson is far more eager to commit developers to implementing a feature than the developers are to deliver it.  This is especially true for procurements done through an RFP process – vendors know that answering no to a “required” feature will get them disqualified, so they find some way to say yes even if they really would prefer not to, just to be considered as a candidate.

To prevent this, figure out what features are really necessary before building an RFP that designates pages and pages of features as “required”.  If everything is critical, nothing is critical.  No software is likely to perfectly meet all of these criteria, so the only proposals you’ll be left with are the ones from companies who promise new features before they have any idea how they will deliver them.  These vendors won’t know which of your “required” features are absolute showstoppers, and may assume they’ll figure out after the contract is signed.  That’s not a recipe for success.

The “That’s Extra” Vendor

When you order a laptop, you don’t specify that it needs to come with a battery.  You also don’t expect to learn after the sale that it didn’t include a battery.  Yet some vendors are all too happy to sell you a piece of software that doesn’t work for you, and then charge by the hour to “customize it” for your agency.

If the price sheet isn’t clean and simple, that’s a red flag.  If the software is sold as a half dozen or more modules, it’s probably going to take some time to tie all of them together – and their time will cost your money.  Worst of all, once they’re all tied together, you might be the only customer running that exact set of modules together, making you a high-paying beta tester.  Ideally, the exact codebase you’re licensing will have already been used by many other agencies.

The “Checks the Boxes” Vendor

Most agencies want their industry-specific software to solve a range of problems.  That’s reasonable, because in most cases the software is expensive.  Agencies should put together a list of capabilities and ensure that both the software and the company behind it are going to provide strong value.

Unfortunately, some important factors are hard to quantify.  How do you measure service quality, for instance?  It’s possible to meet every line of a Service-Level Agreement and still provide terrible service.  In fact, companies looking to maximize their profits can meet the bare minimum requirements, ensuring that the agency is just barely satisfied enough to not attempt to cancel a contract or procure new software before the contract ends.

That’s why references are important.  In fact, it’s better if you’re able to find a few agencies using their product who aren’t on the list of customers they provide to you as references. Their reference list is bound to include their happiest customers.  How does their average customer feel about their product and service?  If their product is on the GSA, you may be able to search a procurement database and find an agency using the specific product you’re hoping to acquire.  Give them a call, and see what they think about it.  If another agency can save you from a terrible experience, they’re most likely more than happy to do it.

To learn how CMTS can help your agency manage cases more efficiently, call us at 855-667-8877 or email us at Team_CMTS@MyCMTS.com.