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Software Buyers’ Remorse: Why It Happens & How To Avoid It

We've all made a purchase we regret. It might be a shirt hanging in the back of our closet with the tags still on, or a set of golf clubs that languish unused in our garage. 

But unlike a shirt or set of clubs, business software can’t usually be returned if you have second thoughts. That's why it's so important to choose the right system the first time around and make sure you don't end up with a case of buyers’ remorse. 

How common is software buyers’ remorse?

Software buyers’ remorse is surprisingly common. In the EHS software industry, for instance, 17% of people shopping for a new system had purchased their current system within the past two years. That’s according to NAEM's EHS & Sustainability Software Buyers Guide. 

So why are some buyers returning to the market so quickly? It’s certainly not because they aren’t doing their homework. NAEM found that the average buyer spends around a year shopping for software, and reviews five systems before making a selection. In spite of all this, it would appear many buyers have second thoughts after they sign on the dotted line. 

Why does software buyers’ remorse happen?

In our experience, buyer’s remorse sometimes happens when people don't stick to their shopping list. They get dazzled by a slick salesperson and end up buying a system full of fancy features that doesn't fit their needs. NAEM’s research supports this conclusion: dissatisfaction with the performance of their existing system was among the top reasons buyers returned to the market. 

But even if they’ve checked everything on their list, it's not uncommon for software purchasers to experience buyers’ remorse — and expensive, time-consuming custom implementations are by far the most frequent culprit

The perils of customization

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: While a "customized" EHS software system may seem like a good idea at first, companies later tend to regret the amount of time and resources it requires.

You’ll end up spending more time implementing the system than you expected, because each feature needs to be custom coded and tested before it can be rolled out to users — and it’ll cost a lot more, too. 

Even after you’re up and running, you may not get the support or updates you need because customized features take a lot of effort for the vendor to maintain. 

Here's are some more statistics on software customization that drive this point home: 

  • Corporate America spends $275 billion developing custom software
  • Only 28% of custom projects are successful
  • On average, custom projects overrun the deadline by 224% and overrun the budget by 191%
  • When you add up true costs, 80% of custom software projects cost more than they return

(Source: Standish Group)

Avoiding buyers’ remorse

Put simply, a system that requires extensive customization is a recipe for buyers’ remorse. The fact that these outcomes are so well-documented should be enough to deter you from selecting a custom system. But unless you’re a software developer, it’s not always easy to know if you’re looking at a custom system. 

Here are some warning signs to watch out for: 

  • Long implementation timeline: On average, a basic system activation should take 1-2 weeks, while a comprehensive system should take between 30-90 days. Anything more than that is a red flag. 
  • Hourly rather than fixed cost services: With custom software, it’s hard to estimate exactly how much development work will be needed — so vendors will charge you for this on an hourly basis. These costs catch many buyers by surprise. 

Setting yourself up for success

The good news is that most organizations don’t need a custom system in the first place. Instead, it’s very likely that an off-the-shelf system can be molded to meet your needs.

Many systems today have administrative options that allow them to be configured to your needs without expensive custom coding. Better yet, this can be done by the users themselves rather than having to go back to the vendor. You’ll also have the flexibility to change things as your business grows and your needs evolve. This alone can save you thousands of dollars and prevent buyer’s remorse from creeping up.

Perillon offers an affordable EHS software system that’s easy to implement, easy to use, and won't drain your resources. Request a demo today!

click to download software selection checklist