Wednesday, June 19, 2013

5 Tips for Using End-User Reviews to Improve Your Software Purchasing Process

By Vinay Bhagat, Co-Founder & CEO, TrustRadius

Recent research by the ITSMA (Information Technology Services Marketing Association) indicates that vendors are the most common source of information used by technology buyers. Other common sources are peers and reports from technology analysts like Gartner and Forrester. As online communities like TrustRadius providing end-user product reviews emerge as a new source of rich, unbiased information, how should you make the best use of them?

1. Use reviews to help define your requirements before you start to shop

It’s easy to watch demos and fall in love with features you may never actually use. Reading user reviews before you begin to shop can help you document your priorities and refine your requirements. End-user reviews can help you understand the problems others have been able to solve, the features they value, the struggles they’ve had, and the integrations they have been able to achieve etc.

2. Develop your short list based upon the experience of comparable organizations

Top 10 lists and ‘Magic Quadrants’ can help identify solutions to consider but represent a one-size –fits-all answer rarely distinguishing which solution best supports different use cases or is most appropriate for a given company’s scope and scale. End-user reviews can help you understand how products are actually being used by different types of companies and the use cases for which they are optimized. In other words, they can help you narrow your short list to solutions that are effective in contexts similar to your own. When conducting product searches and accessing reviews in TrustRadius, use product attribute tags, company size, and industry filters to find the reviews most relevant to you – both companies most like you today and companies you aspire to be like in the future.

3. Look beyond star ratings when evaluating and comparing solutions

It might be appropriate to select a movie based upon audience star ratings, but you can’t easily walk out of a bad technology purchase if you’re unhappy. A star rating can provide directional guidance, but it’s important to evaluate products on multiple dimensions like support, training, usability, system performance, ease of implementation, as well as likelihood to recommend etc. Ratings alone don’t provide enough information to make an informed decision. Generally, a lot more information is conveyed in the text of a review. Furthermore you cannot eliminate solutions solely based upon star ratings. Simpler, cheaper products tend to be rated more highly than more complex, expensive solutions, yet more complex solutions could be the best choice for some companies.

It’s also important to know which reviews are most reliable and therefore should take priority. One measure of review trustworthiness is the popularity of a review as measured by read and like counts. These metrics do however tend to be influenced heavily by the popularity of a product and sometimes promotional activity by vendors. Another way to determine which reviews are most reliable is to consider the profile of the contributor. Reviewers on TrustRadius can build profiles which articulate the products they know and how well they know them. Moreover, they accrue reputation points as they contribute and as the community votes on their contributions.

4. Build your business case and set realistic expectations using comparable examples

Once you’ve made your product selection, convincing others of your choice can be challenging. Selecting and presenting relevant user reviews from comparable organizations can be a great way to validate your recommendation. The reviews on TrustRadius also incorporate information about the return on investment others have achieved. When “selling” a product to others inside your organization, is it important to be candid about the benefits and the potential issues with a piece of technology. No technology is perfect, and it’s much better to set realistic expectations and avoid surprises.

5. Post selection, maximize your probability of success by learning from others

There’s much more to effective software buying than selecting the right product. End-user reviews and talking to other users can help you determine the right path for implementation, configuration, and integration, along with the resources required and insights into handling change management. Long-form reviews on TrustRadius generally have content on topics like implementation lessons/pathways, training adopted, systems integrated with, and configuration/customization choices. By clicking on a reviewer’s profile, you also have the option to connect to them on LinkedIn to have a more in-depth offline conversation. You can also comment on a review, and the reviewer will be notified of your question.

Do you have an important experience to share?  If you have a general insight about running a procurement process, please add your comment below. 

If you have recently implemented a product, please take the time to share your insights by writing a review on TrustRadius.  Together, we can build a great resource to help each other make wise selection and implementation decisions. 


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