Insight Legal Chairman, Brian Welsh gives his thoughts and encourages the research of a providers “why” – and the importance of their “why” aligning with yours.
What is your software providers “Why”, and why should you care?
I briefly touched on this subject a couple of articles ago, but I think it bears expanding upon.
When you look at any list of ‘How to choose the right supplier’ – regardless of the sector you’re in – they always tend to give the same advice: Know what it is you need, check out their credentials, find out what their other customers have to say about working with them, etc. etc.
But very few lists recommend asking a provider “Why” they do what they do, i.e. what it is that’s actually driving them.
In my opinion, a provider’s “Why” is extremely important, especially in a sector like the legal software industry where the choices we make and the actions we take are often placed under microscopic scrutiny, and a poorly thought-through decision can sometimes have a catastrophic domino effect.
That’s why it’s essential to find out what your software provider’s “Why” is because you’re going to put a monumental amount of trust (and probably a monumental amount of sensitive data) in the product they’re supplying. If their “Why” (or their ‘Vision’, ‘Mission Statement’, ‘Core Purpose’… it all amounts to the same thing) aligns with yours, there’s a much better chance their software will be everything you need it to be; it won’t let you down, and, if there is ever a problem, they’ll react quickly to put it right. On the other hand, if their “Why” doesn’t align with yours, you could be taking unnecessary chances.
Don’t forget; there’s also an old saying that goes, ‘Be wary of the company you keep, because they can often be a reflection of who you are, or who you want to be.’ That’s another reason why you should care about your software provider’s “Why”, because the supplier you choose can sometimes (although not always) say a lot about you, too.
Let’s start the ball rolling
Insight Legal’s “Why” is “To Provide Software and Services that Law Firms LOVE.”
That’s it. Nine words. A straight-to-the-point statement that encapsulates what we do and why we do it. How do you know why we do it? Because any company that provides a service their customer’s LOVE must obviously be invested in providing the very best service they can.
Here’s another example;
CPL Software offers specialist business solutions to property factors, block managers, landlords and contractors across the U.K.
CPL’s “Why” is to “Challenge what is seen as the ‘normal’ of today in the Block Management and Property Factoring markets by finding ways for the market to serve their customers better by the use of technology.”
That’s a lot more words than Insight Legal’s “Why”, but it still tells you what you can expect from working with CPL because their “Why” makes it clear they’re focused on providing innovative (‘challenging what is seen as the ‘normal’ of today’) technology that empowers their clients to provide a more effective and valuable service to their own customers.
As a result, CPL’s clients know exactly what to expect from working with them, and if the client is also focused on delivering the same kind of value, then CPL will most likely be the perfect fit.
Some points to consider when you’re evaluating your software provider’s “Why”
First of all, be honest with yourself; how important is their “Why” to you?
Are you buying from the provider because of the price, or are you buying from them because you believe in what they believe in? If it’s the price, that’s fine, but don’t be surprised when glitches happen or the software becomes outdated within the first few months. Also, don’t expect the provider to stay up to date with trends in your sector or provide rapid (or any) aftercare if problems arise. When you choose a supplier based solely on price, it’s a transaction for you and a transaction for them. You get what you pay for.
Second, don’t trust a “Why” that’s full of buzzwords and business jargon. Usually, that means, a) the supplier’s only using those terms to pull you in and give the impression they’re more ‘cutting-edge’ than they are, b) they don’t know what those buzzwords mean either, which indicates their “Why” might be something they don’t genuinely understand or believe in.
The “Why” should always paint a clear picture. If it sounds incoherent, it probably is.
Third, watch out for a “Why” that’s too generalised or rambling. In the U.S., the bookseller Barnes & Noble has a “Why”, which is so busy trying to cover every possible base that it practically needs a code breaker to unravel it: “To operate the best omni-channel speciality retail business in America, helping both our customers and booksellers reach their aspirations, while being a credit to the communities we serve.”
Sounds good(ish), but what does it tell you about Barnes & Noble’s actual values? It’s easy to say you want to be the best omni-channel (jargon alert!) retailer, help your customers reach their aspirations, and assist the community along the way, but that still doesn’t explain why you’re doing it, how you’re doing it, or what advantages you’re actually offering.
It’s just words. Although luckily for Barnes & Noble, they’re already a Fortune 1000 company, so having a weak “Why” probably isn’t keeping any of their executives or shareholders awake at night.
Think about it this way: when you choose a software provider, you’re entering into a partnership. In the same way you’ll have a “Why” for what your business does, so that your customers know how your values and goals align with theirs, your “Why” and your providers “Why” should always be aligned too.
It will make it a lot easier for you to trust what the provider’s offering and be much more of a guarantee that your partnership will be a mutually successful one.