Guide to Buying a Ready-Made Software

The right product is quickly in use, making work more efficient

The right software makes everyday work more smoothly and frees working time for the organization’s core functions – that is, for the real work. A software that has been developed together with the supplier to match your operations precisely often requires more time and money investments than what especially a smaller organization can afford. Luckily, there is a wide variety of ready-to-use system products for different needs. But what should be considered so that the buyer’s product selection would hit the bullseye with the first try?

What do you need the system for?

First and foremost, your own needs should be well mapped out beforehand. What are the bottlenecks of your work that the system should solve? This helps in limiting which products should be further examined. By telling the found bottlenecks to the system seller, they can in their part assist in recognizing which product fits your needs.

When the core necessity is clear, it is also easier to compare product offers as a buyer. Which product features are critical for your work and which are merely nice additions?

When you are familiar with your own needs, you can move on to comparing products. In this phase, it pays off to pay attention to the following:

Get to know the system and its features in advance

When getting to know software, it is a good idea to examine the materials that introduce the system. These can include for example products pages, such as the Foresta page, and video material, like the WoodsApp videos.

Keep an eye out for possible webinars introducing the use and features of the product. Usually webinars are organized especially if the product in question is new or has been recently renewed. The webinar can also include more than just the introduction of the current product. For example, last summer we arranged a Foresta webinar that also discussed the coming development lines. Additionally, a customer had the chance to tell the reasons why they decided to sign the contract on Foresta, and time had been set aside for attendee questions and comments. All in all, a webinar can be a diverse information source with a possibility to pose your own questions directly to the software supplier. It is worthwhile to participate in webinars and, in addition to listening, bring to public any doubts you may have.

Even if there are no upcoming webinars on the product, do not hesitate to ask about the software from the supplier before the buying decision. You should not worry too much about choosing the channel for contacting the supplier either. Be it through a contact form, email, or telephone, there is a human being at the other end, capable of redirecting your message to the right person.

Trial licenses and customer references

An excellent way to get to know a system in-depth beforehand is acquiring a trial license. A trial is typically a time-limited access to the entire product. However, a demo version with limited features can also be offered as a trial. Even a more restricted version gives an idea what the system’s user experience is like and helps in evaluating whether the system is fit for your purpose.

It is also good to get acquainted with other users’ experiences on the product, if any are available. Experiences can be found at reviews at Google Play or Apple App Store, for example, as well as in customer stories published in software supplier’s own channels. Should you know any users of the system, they can also be able to give you highly useful comments on the product. It is best to look for reviews with some arguments to get the most out of others’ comments. As an example, a review commenting that the forest planning module functions well can be more useful than one commenting merely that the system is good.

Does the age of a system matter?

In addition to examining the features of the product, the age of the product is an interesting aspect as well: is the product still in development, freshly finished, or has it existed already for a longer time?

Although age alone does not guarantee anything, typically older systems are steadier. This is due to that during their longer existence, there has been more time to notice and fix any possible errors.

However, it is possible that the challenges and problems of the sector as well as their significance have changed during time. System’s age can prove to be a problem if, say, information needs to be transferred from a system published ten years ago to a more recent system that other organizations of the sector use. If there is no interface to the essential system everyone in the sector uses, it is hard to compete against organizations using newer system that includes the necessary interface. It can also be challenging for an old system to receive information sent by newer systems.

A recently finished product is likely to solve the freshest challenges of the sector. Inversely, it may not function as steadily as a software that has been in production use for longer time. In the worst case, an error message stops the action on a critical moment, leaving the user to ponder more and more curious ways to work around the error and continue their actual work.

However, if the features are updated, even a software with a longer history can respond to the modern-day challenges. Out of our products, Foresta is a result of long-lasting development work, but yet it continues staying relevant and has, for example, interfaces to the most essential forest sector systems. Thanks to this, it can be used to send forest use declarations directly from the application to the digital service system of the Finnish Forest Centre. Foresta will also continue to be renewed so that it will respond to the most current needs in the future as well.

Choose a system that is updated regularly

When buying a system, it is recommendable to check out, how the potential age-related risks of the system have been considered and minimized. If there is a history log on updates and/or publications, it is definitely worth inspecting.

The regularity of updates hints not only about active development but also about preparedness to correct identified errors. Quick error fixing is significant for information security as well. In web applications, the users themselves do not have to consider installing updates, but it is important that the developers react to the changing information security landscape with updates.

It is interesting to hear not only about the updates already made but also about a so-called road map of the system, meaning its future development plan. Road map ensures that the product will continue to evolve and stay actual in the future as well.

What happens in system deployment?

The product to be deployed is, per se, new or unknown to its users. Not much happens in the product deployment itself, as long as we as the supplier and customer as the system user have prepared carefully for the deployment.

The collaboration must have been close enough. How close is enough depends entirely about the system in question. Whereas some systems can introduce their features to their users independently, more complex enterprise resource planning systems often require training. Do not let this scare you though, as a good system training does not necessarily have to last for a long time. Nonetheless, it is recommendable to go through with the system supplier beforehand how many people and with what kind of technical backgrounds will be requiring training.

Pilot use and user support

When discussing a ready-made product instead of a system tailored for the organization, typically the most important tasks for the customer organization before the deployment are product training and, when possible, piloting. By training the use of the application to its future users in advance, it can be ensured that the application is already familiar to the users once the actual use begins. This way everything rolls smoothly since the day one.

In pilot use, the application can be tested in real use cases and feedback can be given on it. In addition to making the deployment smoother, piloting can also help in committing users to what is a new system for them.

Maintaining good communication before deployment is vital for other reasons as well.

An acute need for further user support is typically born if the customer has not thought of asking and we as the supplier have not thought of telling about something in advance.

When choosing the product, it is relevant to also pay attention to the availability and extent of customer support. Even though the need for customer support can be minimized with training and trial use of the product, unexpected situations can always surface in everyday use. However, with good user support this will not be a problem. Instead, challenges can be quickly solved without obstacles to your operations and without unnecessary inconveniences.

Mies tutkii puhelinta metsässä

In the best case scenario, customer support may already be introduced on a web page, like in the case of Foresta user support. At the latest, support should be brought up at sales negotiations. It is not necessarily a good sign, if nothing is revealed of the user support.

Buying a system is not difficult

The right kind of software is not just forced digital buzz nor doing tricks to improve your image. At its best, it reduces unnecessary paperwork, minimizes the need to move from one place to another to do a work task, or removes the demand to spend time on a repetitive support task.

By considering the right things, buying a ready-made system does not need to be difficult. And if the product selection is not enough and you have time to invest in system development, a tailored system is an excellent choice as well.

If acquiring a forest system is topical to you, our sales will gladly help in clearing out what kind of solution is the best for you.

Janne Loikkanen

Janne Loikkanen

Senior Consultant