What to Look for When Deciding on a Software Partner

What to Look for When Deciding on a Software Partner

The relationship between companies and their software providers has never looked less like a traditional buyer/seller arrangement and more like a cooperative partnership. Both parties benefit and become invested. 

Software vendors have as much or more impact as any third party on a company’s fortunes and successes. In addition to providing a solid product, the software developer supplies implementation assistance and ongoing professional services. In that way, they are selling software and providing meaningful, tech-driven solutions to the most significant problems businesses face.

Similarly, users provide vendors with invaluable feedback to consistently improve the product and focus resources appropriately. Actual users are also the best at selling software to their peers since social proof, and word-of-mouth recommendations count so much in the enterprise software space. For these reasons, software vendors depend on their users for revenue, facilitating growth opportunities, and guiding product road-maps.

In the field service industry, companies have historically been slow to adopt or upgrade software but now face significant pressure to digitize. The link between developer and user is powerful, even more so with field service management (FSM) software that guides every aspect of service delivery while informing every facet of business management. If software vendors are best seen as partners, the FSM vendor is the provider’s most important partner, making it vital to choose that partner carefully. Unfortunately, that’s harder than ever.

The Pitfalls of Choosing a Software Partner

The fast-growing FSM software market has attracted a wave of new entrants. Some of them bring innovative ideas and passionate customer commitments. However, just as many or more startups in the FSM space offer underwhelming products and lackluster service. Likewise, legacy players have moved into the FSM space, but they have similar problems: the software needs to be more timely, redundant, and supported. 

As powerful as the right partner may be, the wrong one can be a powerful force for the worst. Relying on the wrong software partner has numerous consequences and means missing out on what the best partners can provide. Companies may invest large sums in products that do little to improve or evolve their organization and, in fact, create daily disruptions and ongoing friction. The wrong software partners can alienate customers, technicians, investors, and anyone else a field service provider hopes to court. And in the worst cases, they can be the direct cause of a company’s going out of business. 

That makes the initial vetting process extremely important. Field service providers eager to adopt FSM software for the first time or replace an aging or inadequate system should consider multiple options. Just as importantly, they must evaluate them according to the proper criteria, evident in some cases and unexpected in others. Further complicating matters, providers must apply thorough due diligence to any software under consideration. Still, they can’t let the selection process drag on too long and leave a company without the software it needs. 

To help the selection process proceed efficiently and insightfully and arrive at the best available option, we have outlined what to look for when deciding on a software partner.

A Comprehensive Toolkit

A suitable partner checks as many boxes as possible. As mentioned earlier, they should be able to assist with the entire software lifecycle, starting with implementation and continuing with optimization, so that a lack of support does not compromise tech initiatives. Similarly, the FSM software should assist with service delivery, from scheduling and dispatch to inventory management and work order histories. The core value of FSM software comes from integrating all aspects of service delivery under one umbrella, so relying on a partial toolkit or multiple software packages undercuts the concept entirely. 

The more comprehensive the toolkit, the better—with some important caveats. Some vendors stuff their software with as many features as possible, including business management tools, but sacrifice quality for quantity along the way. Users end up with many mediocre features, causing them to miss out on all that superior technology can do. Also standard are FSM products that integrate with everyday business apps through APIs, but these integrations are limited in what they can share and fragile to minor disturbances. Users end up with multiple toolkits rather than the singular, centralized solution they want. The ideal partner offers as many tools as possible—for field service and everything else—on one platform. 

Industry Specific Expertise

One forecast suggests the FSM market will grow from $3.24 billion in 2021 to $8.06 billion by 2028—but even that may be conservative. Unsurprisingly, the FSM software market is full of new features, products, and companies competing for a more significant piece of a growing pie. The right partner has industry-specific expertise. Unfortunately, most providers, old and new alike, fall short of that standard in some way. 

In the case of startups, many have minimal experience building tech products, managing companies, or supporting a growing user base. They may be enthusiastic and innovative in spades, but they need help to deliver the consistency and customization that providers expect from a software partner. Put differently; they can offer a product but not a true partnership. Larger, longer-established companies may have more experience developing and supporting enterprise tech, but many leap into the FSM market without any experience in actual field service. The predictable result is software that looks great but performs poorly under the real conditions that dispatchers, technicians, and service managers deal with daily. The ideal partner has experience on both sides: technical and field service.  

Broad Value Proposition

Field service providers, many small operations with under 100 employees, have limited budgets to spend on technology. They want to get the biggest bang for their buck, which in practical terms means seeing an ROI as quickly as possible that continues to grow throughout the entire lifespan of the software. Of course, every vendor promises value, so how does one evaluate it? 

First, let’s look beyond the features themselves. A comprehensive toolkit only matters if it fixes problems and creates opportunities – otherwise, it’s doing things differently but not any better. Look for providers who, more than just providing features, offer to improve performance in key metrics like customer engagement, technician utilization, job profitability, and more. Results matter more than features. To that same end, gravitate towards solutions that break down data silos, automate complex processes, and seamlessly exchange information. Solutions like these don’t just upgrade service delivery – they empower a business to compete, evolve, and scale on its terms. The ideal partner sees FSM software as a means to transform a business. 

Customer Success Orientation

Modern software comes with ongoing support, ranging from troubleshooting as necessary to provide consistent software updates. That said, there’s a difference between customer support and customer success. The former, which characterizes what the vast majority of vendors provide, is essentially about maintaining the status quo: keeping the software up and running and at least adequate for the duration. Customer success, by contrast, strives to align the software with the user’s most urgent and strategic requirements at all times to maximize ROI and drive positive business outcomes. Another way to think about it: partners care about their customer’s success, while vendors care about propping up the product. 

Whether something qualifies as “customer success” depends less on the title and more on the resources backing it up. Software companies that deliver on what they promise in terms of customer success do so by putting significant numbers of staff, channel partners, and institutional emphasis behind the effort, along with mechanisms to maintain consistently high standards for success even as the company grows and serves more customers. The ideal partner has these resources, can prove it, and is willing to make binding commitments around success.

Next Technik: An Unparalleled Partner to Field Service Providers

We understand the mindset of field service providers looking for FSM software. How? Because we were in the same situation once.

Our company started as part of an industrial equipment wholesaler that chose to develop its own FSM solution after finding everything else on the market needing improvement. That solution became NextService and proved so successful that it spun off into its own company: FSM software developed by actual field service providers.

Another thing that distinguishes NextService from the vast majority of alternatives is that it runs “on-platform” with NetSuite, meaning it shares the same databases and technical infrastructure. Simply stated: they are one seamless solution rather than two integrated ones.

Last but certainly not least, we make customer success our highest priority. Each of our clients works closely with a customer success representative tasked with doing everything possible to maximize the utility, accessibility, and overall value of our software. It’s a core part of our culture to see the people who use our software as our partners and an integral part of our continued success. That’s why we go to great lengths to enrich and extend that partnership in close collaboration with everyone we serve.

Gain a software partner with the experience, expertise, and initiative to make a field service provider better in every way. Contact us to explore what a partnership entails.