Almost every major software company encourages and solicits other companies, knows as ISV’s, to develop solutions for their packages to give them a broader appeal. For those that aren’t sure what an ISV is, an ISV, called an independent software vendor, develops software that integrates or works with an application to add additional functionality.
There are different types of ISV applications on the market. Some are considered feature enhancements and some are considered Line of Business (LOB) applications. What is the difference? The difference: one is critical to your business in providing a solution to help run your business, while the other is a feature that without it would not cripple your business.
A feature enhancement from an ISV is considered something that is nice to have, but would not impact the business if the software was no longer available. An example would be to automatically email an invoice to a customer as a PDF instead of the process of printing the invoice to a PDF, saving it, and then emailing it. Obviously, the feature adds efficiency, but if the ISV were to go bankrupt or choose not to maintain the application, it wouldn’t impact your business too greatly.
A LOB application is something that runs your business. If you are a service company, a time and billing application is an important part of your business. You rely on the application to accurately bill the customer, calculate the profitability, and function reliably for the organization. Without it, you could probably still provide services to your clients, but it would potentially have a major impact on the company’s performance for billing, reporting, etc. It is an application you really cannot live without.
With the proliferation of the SaaS (Software as a Service) model of delivering applications, more and more international companies are delivering ISV productions to the market. Almost all major software providers in the SaaS market has some sort of market place to purchase products developed for their application. The one problem with these market places is the assumption that if the product exists it must be from a reputable company. None of these companies do any type of vetting of the software company beyond the requirements they impose on the ISV – being virus free, following their programming standards, etc.
Here are some suggestions when searching for an application that can have a major impact on your organization:
1. How long has the ISV been in business?
2. When did the product first get released and what version are you considering. It’s ok to be a trailblazer on versions, but maybe not version 1.
3. Are they incorporated in the US? This is key! If things go bad, generally a LOB application can be expensive and you may need legal recourse.
4. Do they have a presence/physical location in the US? Check that it is not just a US phone number that forwards to another country.
5. If they don’t have a US presence, do they work within normal working hours in the US, either Pacific or Eastern time? If they say they do, test them.
6. What is their SLA – Service Level Agreement?
7. Do they have a partner channel? Some will claim they have partners all over the world. Find out 3-4 of their partners and have a conversation with them. How many installations have they done, how long they have been doing it, what have been their experiences, etc. You will inevitably find someone that may provide an honest response.
8. When do they release updates when a new version gets released?
9. Test their response time for sales and support by sending them an email. It doesn’t make a difference if you are a customer or not. If they have great service, they will respond with, at least, they don’t have a record of you as a customer. It will tell you how responsive they are and if they pay attention.
By following the suggestions above, you should be able to find an ISV that can give you a successful, long-term relationship.
TIMOTHY (TIM) LALLY, CPA | President/CEO
Tim is the founder and president of KTL Solutions, Inc. He provides high-level guidance to our clients in order to help them better use technology within their organizations. He has an ability to understand the issue and provide a solution that best fits the client’s needs. When implementing solutions, his focus is to utilize off the shelf solutions first and customizations second.
Tim is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and has over 17 years of Microsoft Business Solutions software implementation and development experience. He started implementing Dynamics in 1987 in the early years of Great Plains on the Apple Macintosh. His responsibilities include mentoring new developers, teaching accounting principles and processes to developers, and leading the development and design of custom solutions. Tim oversees KTL’s Microsoft Business Solutions vertical market business.