How to Evaluate Subscription Business Software - Part I

By: Blink Session

Today, companies that thrive utilize top-notch software to improve efficiency and deliver better services. The problem: no one is born with the ability to evaluate the subscription business software they need. In this three-part series, we aim to help you with what we have learned at Blink working with thousands of business owners, health providers, educators, and IT professionals.

In this series we are going to cover quality, cost of operation, and ease of use. Today: quality.

Like a Car, not an Apple

Why is it hard to find the perfect car? Besides being super expensive, every car brand and model is vastly different. But, the difference are not like if you were shopping for apples.

Evaluating an apple is simple: does it look good, does it taste good, how much does it cost? Done. Okay, there is the whole organic thing, but you get the point.

Motor vehicles on the other hand have thousands of parts and systems you never see, but nevertheless must work. And you better not buy a car just because of the leather seats, unless you have money to throw around. You must test drive on city streets, the highway, and if it's used, have a mechanic take a look along with the vehicle history report.

Quality ≠ Features

No matter how comfortable the seats are, if they do not last you won't be happy. Consumer reports ranks Toyota as the most reliable car brand with a score of 79 and Cadillac the lowest at 19. Ref. Of course, there is variability of quality by car model. The point is: Most of us know that more car features do not equate to more reliability.

A software quality score cannot be estimated by summing up it's list of features. Remember the Mac vs PC commercials? Check out this one that highlights how much less virus-prone Mac computers were. There are countless more software packages available for Windows, but, the point of the commercial was, they are all useless if your system gets a virus.

Among video conferencing software, a good example is iPad sharing. Some video conference platforms like Zoom and Webx have an iPad-sharing feature. Often, we associate software with a fringe feature like this with quality, when in reality, there are many external things that must go right for that feature to even work. In other words, fringe features are sometimes added to attract software buyers, but they have no effect on the overall quality of the product.

Reliable Cars Can Ride Terribly on Horrible Roads

Many car salesman will direct your test drive down smooth roads with beautiful views. Once you have signed the paper work and drive back to your pot-hole-filled streets, the ride can suddenly feel different. A bad ride does not mean the car is terrible.

At Blink we sell video conferencing software designed for telehealth. Our product relies on good Internet and a decent computer (or tablet, phone). As with any video app, it can not speed up someone's bad Internet or cure their slow computer. An amazing accounting software package might be super reliable, but if your employees refused to learn how to use it, you'll never know.

Evaluate the performance of software based on the conditions it was designed for. If you do not or will not have access to those conditions (e.g. your client's will have very slow Internet), adjust your expectations. Now, if you need software which will perform regularly under sub-optimal conditions, you might need to look for different software or adjust your plans. In the end, if your expectations fit what the software promises, you will have an easier time making an educated decision.

The Bandwidth Example

Those "minimum system requirements" are important, but often useless. They are important if they mean you absolutely cannot run the software unless you have a specific operating system or hardware. If they related to things like system memory or Internet bandwidth, they are often useless.

At Blink, the number one tech questions we receive is: "What is the minimum bandwidth require to run the software?" This is a logical questions. You want software that will work on slower connections right? The problem: Internet connections have changed so much in the last ~10 years, the question is irrelevant.

Almost every video call system will state their "minimum bandwidth" somewhere around 1-3mb, for down and upload speeds. The issue: almost every Internet connection in the developed world meets that "minimum", even mobile connections. But, they certainly all won't work well. Other factors such as latency times, Wifi interference, and how many people on the network are watching YouTube videos affect the quality more than bandwidth alone.

If "minimum requirements" are useless, how can you evaluate? There is no easy answer. Sometimes it simply takes more research. Other times it comes down to formulating realistic expectations. Keep in mind that "minimum system requirements" are only that: minimums.

Part II - Cost vs Benifit

Read Part II - Cost vs Benifit