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We Still Suck at Selecting Software. Mistakes We Keep Repeating.

You can learn from us, those who have been there, made similar mistakes, and have hindsight.   Are you Facilitating with FINESSE?
You can learn from us, those who have been there, made similar CMMS software mistakes, and have hindsight.

We suck at selecting software. Often, we come in with the best intentions, real challenges to solve, and executive backing. Yet, somewhere between the first Google search for "Best XYZ software" and the inevitable hurdles and roadblocks you must navigate. Somehow, all the "dealbreaker" features that we must have get thrown out for a cheaper, if not the cheapest, option. This is why we suck. This is like me pricing out an F-250 Super Duty just at the last minute to buy a little Maverick—nothing wrong with a Maverick, but they aren’t even in the same class.

Too Many Software Options

1946, the year the first 'software' program was created. It was constantly evolving but rarely accessible or affordable for most businesses until the 1980s. The personal computers and later 'app stores' were two significant milestones of accessibility that led to a commoditization of applications and software.

There is no better example than the current Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) market. 400+ vendors and growing. Why so many? Because we still suck at selecting the RIGHT software for our needs. Instead, defaulting to a cheaper option. Therefore, every year newer and cheaper options enter the space.

Cheaper Is Sometimes OK

Are you saying a cheaper tool isn't right for someone? No. Those tools are exactly what some need. Some… not most. I talk to 300+ Manufacturing Maintenance teams every year. My primary job in the product demonstration (my role in the pre-sales process) is to help the champions define selection criteria and then showcase our tools' approach to that workflow. I am offering tips and guidance along the way. After almost 1,000 demos, I have seen my fair share of good and bad. In this case, it will be easier to highlight the three key questions that the selection teams who didn't suck can answer: What are we trying to solve/correct/improve? How will software help us achieve the next level? Who should be involved?


What Is The Problem?

What is the problem? What are the root causes? What are we trying to solve or improve? Every organization that I talk to is aware of the day-to-day pains. Very few are aware of the underlying problems that cause the pain. You treat pain; you don't cure it. You must diagnose the underlying problem and identify the mechanics that feed it. Something you've heard a million times in our industry is "People, Process, Technology." The teams that select software well, that don't suck, they put technology in its place at the end of the train. They see it as supplemental to your People and Process. And they stick to the core problem statement.

"A problem well-defined is a problem half solved." – Charles Kettering.


How: Finding a Solution

How will we determine the right system for us? Again, if you have clearly defined your problem and identified software as the next logical solution, half the battle has been fought. In this area of vetting, demo scripts or Request for Proposals (RFPs) are put together, answers are received, and a grading criterion is used.

Do NOT go into a demo without a problem statement, asking every vendor to feature pitch "why we are the best." The internet is full of information—not always factual, heavy on the subjective side, like this article—for you to research and understand the core functions of the XYZ system. This will allow you to be well-educated on your needs BEFORE reaching out to vendors.

How: Dealing with Costs

How: Part 2. We can't forget to talk about the almighty dollar. So, how much $$$? That's always the real question for the groups that suck at selecting software. Now, don't get me wrong, it is a very important piece. But let's say you've followed the path so far.

You have a well-defined problem and known mechanisms that contribute too. You have worked with internal stakeholders to scope requirements and have prioritized your needs vs. wants. If you've done this right, the price will be comparable between your top 3. If there is an outlier, we need to be a little suspicious.

Vendors in each level, small, mid-market, and up to enterprise, all have a standard cost of doing business. If you get to this point and must admit that you just can't afford it, just be aware that you are giving up something in return for that "add-on" or "cheaper" solution. The ones who suck at this look only at cost yet expect the same return from a cheaper system.



Nope, no owl around here. I'm talking about who else needs to be involved. This is a big one. When Engineering refuses to talk to IT or Finance until they ask for a signature, that is a big red flag. The same could be said when IT is running the pre-sales demos for the Maintenance team and will be deciding for them.

Teamwork makes the dream work. The teams that don't suck at selecting software are the ones that know what they are solving, how they are going about it, and who needs to be on what calls or need what input. Subscription as a Service (SaaS) software – most of the software on the market today – isn't like the systems of old. They don't require enormous upfront commitments from hardware and customization standpoints. Psst, this makes IT very happy, as it doesn't add to their work. Ideally, at a minimum, I would suggest a champion from the department seeking change, their direct boss, IT and finance. Add a few chairs here and there depending on size and software scope (how many departments it impacts).

 Avoid Repeating the Same Selecting Software Mistakes

We have sucked at selecting software for so long. Some have figured it out. Some have gone on to write books to include similar tips – looking at you JD. Even fewer continue to host workshops emphasizing the need to communicate internally, effectively – again, looking at JD. Good news, you don't have to suck at it. You can learn from us, those who have been there, made similar mistakes, and have hindsight. To not repeat our mistakes, you must: 1. Define your problem, the real problem, not the surface pain; 2. Clearly define how you will go about it (from a workflow perspective and how much from cost); and lastly, 3. Involve others! You got this, don't suck.


Corey Dickens has been in the Maintenance & Reliability space for over a decade. He started at the bottom of the totem pole in the US Navy on a Destroyer and is now a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional (CMRP). Having worked in big Navy, brown-water Navy, firearms manufacturing and textiles, Corey brings a unique experience to Brightly, a CMMS provider based out of Raleigh, NC. In the M&R space, Corey advocates on the behalf of maintainers, while using his experience to educate business leaders on how best to support and utilize their maintenance function, to achieve desired organizational objectives. While still maintaining a drilling reservist status with the Navy, Corey's favorite job is being a father of 2 young girls under 3.


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