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Posted Dec 7, 2018

10 critical questions to ask in a software reference call

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It’s quite common at Juniper Square for prospective customers to ask to speak to current customers as they evaluate our software. And it makes sense — an unscrupulous software salesperson might be willing to say whatever it takes to get a deal done, whereas peer firms who are using the software are more likely to shoot it to you straight.

We think reference calls are a critical part of any purchase process, but this is especially the case with software. Since you can’t pick up and feel technology, it can be very hard to know what’s high quality vs. low. After all, we all can tell the difference between a thoughtfully designed and well-built building vs. shoddy construction. Surely you’d want to do the same for software, since you’re trusting your most important company data and business relationships to the vendor. But how to tell which firms are quality and which are not? The answer is the reference call.

We often find, however, that prospective customers don’t know what to ask in these calls. You’re probably familiar with what to ask when evaluating a new potential LP, or partner in a JV deal, or property management firm, but software? With terms like SOC2, 256-bit AES, and redundant-secure-cloud-based-distributed-architecture? These are terms that most real estate managers want to stay as far away from as possible!

That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide. Think of it as your checklist you can take into any technology vendor’s reference call. Enjoy!

These ten questions are a good guide for navigating any software reference call:

  1. How long have you been using the software?
  2. Describe the process for getting up and running in the software. How long did it take, how much time and investment was required of you and your team, and did your experience match what the vendor had promised?
  3. What are the top three things you use the software for today? Have the product features lived up to your expectations?
  4. Have you identified any feature gaps or shortcomings in the product? If so, how has the vendor handled your feature requests? Is the solution updated frequently?
  5. How would you describe the business value the software delivers to your organization?
  6. How would you rate the customer service you receive from the vendor? How would you rate the quality and caliber of employees you interact with at the vendor? Do they know and understand your business?
  7. If there are parties outside of your company who interact with the software (e.g., investors, partners, advisors), how has it been received? Have you received compliments or complaints?
  8. What other products did you look at before deciding on vendor [x]? Why did you choose vendor [x] over the others?
  9. Is there anything else about your experience with the software or vendor that you think I should know?
  10. Can you recommend the vendor without reservation?

For more information on the key considerations when assessing software like Juniper Square, we’ve written a Buyer’s Guide to Investment Management Software. The Guide includes:

  • Must-have capabilities for investment management software
  • Data security requirements, including cybersecurity frameworks and GDPR compliance
  • Ten key issues to address when picking a vendor
  • Top ten feature must-haves

Click here to download the Guide.