When trying to find the right service provider for you, it’s important to check references. Some people swear by this practice and others just do it because they feel somewhat obligated. Regardless of where you fall in the practice, did you know there were two kinds.
Well, I hope this isn’t going to shock you. If you ask a software company for a reference they are going to give you a good one. I really hope this isn’t the first time you have been told this. Now, this doesn’t mean that the reference they give you is not good, it just means you should ask different questions. Here are a few examples:
- How often do you do a reference call?
- Are you compensated for doing reference calls?
- Who else in your organization should I talk with?
By reading the questions, you can see that the strategy of the reference is to assume that they like the software and the company. Taking the call and asking different questions gives you insight to what type of company you are about to partner with, you know their integrity. Also, with AP Automation it is typical that the people who by the service/software aren’t necessarily the people who implement and use it on a daily basis. It is important find that out who you are taking with on your call. The last question will help you find that out, and can give you greater insight to the service provider.
This one is my favorite. In my book The Argument to Automate, I call this type of reference the “real reference”. The real reference is where you know someone who knows someone who… (well you get the point) that uses the software. These are great because (especially if you have a good relationship) they will give you all you need to know about the automation provider. With this type of reference it is important to ask a completely different set of questions. To write the obvious, you don’t want to assume they are happy with the service provider, but you also don’t want to assume that they are happy at all. Let me explain by the type of questions you should ask. Questions like:
- Did the company come in on time and budget?
- Did they implement what they sold?
- Do you like software and/or automation in general?
The first two are typical reference checking questions. The last one refers to the idea of the person liking software. It is important when checking this type of reference that you don’t run across someone who simply hates technology. I know you are out there, it’s hard for me to believe, but AP Automation has in some situation to make certain people do more work, but the overall process is better. I think of the people who approve invoices, paper would be a lot easier for them.
Whether you are a big fan of reference checking or not, it is an important part of the process, but if you do it right and ask the right questions, you can make it strategic.
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The Argument to Automate – How Innovation Can INSPIRE Not Fire – click here to buy
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