Reference Checks

A Reference Check is a must for any software selection. It's easy to do and you could be very surprised at the results

Why

You may think that there’s no point in doing a reference call as the references are coming from the vendor. You’re probably thinking that the vendor has only selected the customers that are happy. For all you know, there are only a few happy references. So you might decide to skip the reference call in the selection of a new system. That would be a big mistake.

It’s my experience that reference calls provide useful information, and often it’s not a glowing testimonial. I believe that many if not most people generally don’t like to lie. As well, software vendors are just like most companies - they don’t really know what their customers are thinking.

When

Don’t expect to get references from the vendors at the beginning of the selection process. The vendors will want to protect their customers from reference calls unless the caller is very close to making a decision. Some vendors will say that you can only do the calls when you have made the decision to select their system subject to the reference call. Unless you’re desperate, I would not accept this policy and insist on making the calls before the final decision is made. However, you should be down to a short list of preferably two and at the most three companies at this time.

How

Get the right references

Make sure that you are talking to a company in the same or similar industry, at about the same size as your company and implemented by the same company, which will be responsible for your implementation. It’s not enough that the reference company be in the same or similar industry. They should also be using the same software as proposed to you. Size matters - performance can be different as you increase the number of users or the volume of transactions.

Schedule it in advance

Be respectful about the time of the reference. Call the reference to schedule a good time for him/her to take you call.

Keep it brief

Let the reference know approximately how much time it will take and try to keep it within the allotted time unless of course the reference loves to talk.

Work from a checklist

It’s easy to be sidetracked during these calls, but you don’t want to forget about key questions.

Introduce yourself

The reference call should always start with a short description of your company. This helps personalize the conversation, which becomes another reason for the references to be reluctant to lie or leave out important facts.

Be appreciative

The reference took time out of their busy schedule to take the call.

Reference Checklist Template

Click on the title for an ERP reference check template.The template can be adapted for any software selection. The questions should be modified based on what is of most importance and to validate concerns raised during the demonstrations.