Let’s begin to answer this question by determining what we mean by the term expert. I think the only expert that makes any difference, or has any relevance, is the source that can and will actually assist you… who can bring credible information, experience and insights into your current needs. Following are some criteria to judge potential experts.
- Pedigree of the expert
- What is their relevant experience?
- What solutions have they actually been involved in?
- Do they have a background that allows insight into or understanding of your business needs?
- Do they have relevant professional credentials and expertise?
Does the expert represent more than a single product or single solution? What is the universe of solutions from which the expert is drawing? Naturally, providers have a bias toward their own lines, however if multiple lines are represented, the expert may well have a broader view and ability to provide a wider range of potential solutions.
- Existing customers
Is the expert well respected by and have references from existing customers?
- Business longevity
While this is really just an extension of the pedigree above, evidence of “staying power” can be important.
- Support organization
- Does the expert have the support organization to be able to support your business needs and growth in a timely manner?
- What is the depth of the bench?
- Relationship with cloud vendor
- How is this expert perceived in their own area of expertise? Are they active with the vendor(s)?
- Are additional information and resources available from the vendor when needed?
- Are you comfortable with them?
This final question, while simple, is probably the most important question to ask. It lies on top of the other questions and includes the questions of reliability, integrity and ability to communicate. The relationship with the expert during the process is crucial to allow proper discovery, so that needs are well defined and solutions are architected and ultimately deployed to meet your specific business needs.
Once you have determined the viability of your expert, then you can get down to the questions regarding the solutions they present. Note that very often, the credibility of your expert (or lack thereof) carries over into the solution proposed, as almost all solutions involve both a subscription service (from the provider) and implementation and configuration services, most often provided by the expert.
Following are some major areas of questions that can be used to evaluate the subscription service (SAAS) vendors. Note that many of the questions are the same or similar to those that should be asked for on-premise solutions and their related internal IT infrastructure components.
- Business requirements
- Does the vendor’s product fit your business needs and existing workflows?
- Will the application grow with the ever-changing needs of your business as time goes by?
- Reliability and availability
- Does the vendor have references, case studies and third party assessments?
- How many customers?
- What about financial stability of the vendor?
- Is there a(n) Service Level Agreement (SLA) for services and is there a disaster recovery strategy in place?
- How frequently is it tested?
When using applications hosted by third party vendors, data security is paramount.
- What is the vendor’s approach to service security?
- How secure is the application and do independent security vendors vet the overall security of the product?
- Are they SAS 70 Type II / SSAE-16 audited?
- Data ownership
- What happens to your data if you discontinue service?
- How easy it is to integrate with other applications?
- Can the application be extended?
- Are there tools available to build new or modules or features?
Each of these question areas have underlying and related questions that are specific to each engagement. Your cloud accounting software expert will be able to assist in further investigating these questions. More information on this subject is explored in this free whitepaper: Ten Questions to Ask Your Cloud Vendor by Diversity Limited.
In addition, at BTerrell Group, we welcome the opportunity talk with you regarding your needs and would like to give you a 30-minute consultation - FREE of charge - to determine if:
- A cloud accounting solution is right for you, and/or
- If we're the right cloud accounting software experts for you