This post is part of Made @ HubSpot, an in-house line of thought leaders, where we draw lessons from experiments conducted by our own HubSpotters.
As someone who manages HubSpot’s learning technology, I’ve bought software wrong sometimes. I moved forward without the right tech partners, missed an auto-renewal deadline, and made changes to my team without knowing how this could affect everyday life.
I learned a lot from this experience and working with other HubSpot employees who source and implement software. Today I feel good about how I manage our technology and purchasing decisions.
I have come to realize that making a successful purchase decision is less about supplier management and research (although these are important factors) and more about it Project management, Change management, and Buy-in for new ideas.
Here are some of my greatest lessons for those who are thinking about buying new software or just curious to learn more.
Lesson 1: Establish a Business Reason Before Applying for a Buy-In.
In the past, I have not taken the time to step back and evaluate the value my proposal would have for the entire organization. Even if the user base of your new software will only be a small part of the employees, Think and communicate how it relates to the company’s bottom line.
Here are some examples:
- A process is currently very manual and you want to automate it. The business reason for this software would be to save time and money.
- Your team is trying to achieve something and you don’t have the skills, the time, or the functionality. The business reason for this software would be to expand the team’s capabilities.
- Recently, our L&D team at HubSpot wanted to be able to track the performance of new employees in their training courses. The business rationale for this software was so that we could give managers more insight into how best to spend their time coaching their new hires as they advance into their roles.
Once you’ve established your business rationale, you are more likely to receive support from stakeholders.
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Another important business factor to consider when buying in is that Cost-value ratio. Adding more software means another vendor to manage, another contract to consider, and a different system to be adopted by your employees and teammates.
Make sure you have thought this through and trust that this new software offers enough value to outweigh these considerations. This will help you deal with any initial objections.
The buy-in should take place well in advance of the planned purchase of the software. This process takes time. You need to speak to people outside of your department, and often outside of your company, to make sure you understand the landscape that is already happening, what is possible, and what it takes to run new software.
Lesson 2: understand that you are going to need help.
You may be the most experienced software buyer in the world, but you can’t do it all by yourself. In my experience, the best help you can get with purchasing and implementing software is from the team whose expertise is software: Your IT team.
Introduce them at the beginning of your process, see what they are already doing to solve the challenge you identified, and ask at least one champion for feedback. Depending on your company, you may also need to go through the security, legal, and finance areas so they can add their expertise and highlight any blind spots.
You also need two key people: someone to act as a project manager and someone who has expertise (possibly with enough research) about the type of software you want to buy.
It is important to remember that you cannot make lonely decisions about software and expect everyone to love and use it. You may think you know what is best for the team, but you really need feedback, and you need to catch it up before you dive too deep.
You don’t have to consider everyone’s opinion as a prerequisite, but you should consider everything that is mentioned by multiple people and capture that feedback. The more you document and share how you make your decisions along the way, the fewer setbacks you will encounter when you are ready to start closing the deal.
It may take some extra time upfront to write everything down and share, but this process will save you a lot of time in the end.
Lesson 3 Be Vulnerable and Empathetic.
Change is difficult for everyone. Even those who are most excited about using new software can be overwhelmed by the prospect of changing what they are used to. It is important to be transparent and empathetic with your project team, your employees and the wider organization.
For example, if your team members love processes and organization in general, recognize that a project will be difficult as there will be many things that start out unorganized or unfamiliar. A proven way to work this through as a team is to openly share your emotions and then decide together to move on.
Encouraging your teammates to share their concerns can help you define the direction of your project and develop a sense of camaraderie that is helpful when things get tough.
No matter what team you’re on, who your user base will be, or how many vendor demos you’ve seen before, these tips should point you in the right direction. Buying software is not easy, but when done well it can bring a lot of value, connect you with your colleagues, and help you discover the art of change management.