Back to Blog

Software vs. Solution

Why work with an independent value-added reseller versus a software publisher directly?no vendor pic

If you have ever approached a software vendor about their product, it probably went something like this:   “Do you have budget for a purchase?” “When do you plan to buy?” “Are you the decision maker?” “Who is our competition?”  “Have you seen a demo?”  Often, there is only a mild interest in reason why you inquired or what your ideal Point B looks like.  Unfortunately, it’s assumed that their product will work for you until proven otherwise.  In many cases, any fit questions will be limited to only areas where they know they can potentially solve problems and ignore everything else.

The more enlightened vendors that serve nonprofits either employ a services organization or a reseller channel that can take a more holistic view of the inquiring organization’s circumstances, but most do not.  Many software publishers remain focused on moving as many units of their core solution as possible with as little friction as possible.  Understanding what the ideal Point B entails in its entirety often creates friction and that’s why many don’t ask.

Given this reality, there are specific advantages to working with an independent reseller versus the software publisher directly.

  • Solution versus Software – most independent resellers view clients and their business requirements much more broadly than just features and functionality.  The tools and features don’t solve the problem.  It’s how they are implemented in the context of an organization’s unique systems and processes.  The right solution will include services, related products, integration and user-specific workflow.  Unless the software being sold by the publisher happens to solve 100% of the business problem, the customer will be left to solve the remainder on their own and somehow fit it together.
  • Objectivity – while this varies by degrees from reseller to reseller, many represent multiple products from multiple vendors, each with its strengths and weaknesses based on context.  This allows the consultant to recommend the best fit solution based on the unique requirements presented by the client.  In the eye of the software publisher, and in the absence of a “show stopper” requirement, their software is always the ‘best fit”.
  • Not Box Movers – Software publishers, by their nature, are in the business of moving as many licenses as they can for the greatest profit margin. It’s just the nature of the beast. While not always intentional, publisher sales teams may be faced with pressure to meet unit goals and other targets that cause them to look for shortcuts or lowball services to get the deal done.  The box gets sold, but the customer is left with an inadequate, hurried implementation.  Good resellers, who make most of their living from value-added services, consider the software and its features to be one tool in the process of solving client problems.  While it matters if you use the right tool, how you use it makes all the difference.
  • Expertise – Value-added Resellers are often subject matter experts on industry best practices, regulatory issues, technology and other areas that enable them to deliver significant value in the form of their services and recommendations.  Without this subject-matter expertise, they would serve little purpose except as an unnecessary middle-man in the process and would quickly become extinct.  On the other hand, software publishers are usually subject matter experts on their own software, but rarely beyond that.  While they may offer implementation professional services, they are usually not equipped to make significant and well-considered recommendations beyond how to best use their software.

Two key bad assumptions may tempt you to go straight to the vendor in your evaluation:

  1. “The vendor knows more than anyone about their product.” – While this may be true on the technology, they may not have more experience than an independent consultant who specializes in actually implementing that product in organizations like yours.
  2. “I will get the best price from the vendor.”  It is important to understand the difference between price and value.  As noted above, the vendor may give you the lowest quote, but you may end up paying more long term with something far less valuable in the end.

Most organizations don’t have a lot of experience identifying, evaluating and selecting business applications like accounting and donor management software for their organization.  Working with an independent consultant that has this experience will increase the likelihood that your project will be successful.

Related Posts:
How to Tell Your Nonprofit’s Story
February 6, 2018
How to Tell Your Nonprofit’s Story

How do you measure the success and impact of your nonprofit’s mission? Similarly, how do your donors—be they individual, foundations, or corporate—know if their donations are impacting the work of your nonprofit through its mission? Many nonprofits gauge their impact through statistics such as the number of people served, families fed or housed, or the…

A Nonprofit’s Guide to Government Compliance
May 14, 2018
A Nonprofit’s Guide to Government Compliance

Compliance is a hefty responsibility for nonprofit organizations; indeed, more so than for-profit companies. As the firm Harbor Compliance points out, there’s a good reason for that—nonprofits are exempt from federal corporate taxes and can receive public funding. Both the IRS and states have requirements for nonprofits. The penalties for noncompliance can be severe. A…

The True Costs of Nonprofit Budgeting with Excel
February 23, 2018
The True Costs of Nonprofit Budgeting with Excel

Excel is the go-to reporting and budgeting tool for countless finance teams, including financial planning and analysis (FP&A) professionals. In fact, there are more than one billion users worldwide—that’s about one in seven people! Excel is comfortable and familiar, but for growing nonprofits, it can be a real drag on your budgeting processes and productivity….

How Can Nonprofits Measure Success and Impact?
February 22, 2018
How Can Nonprofits Measure Success and Impact?

How do you know if your nonprofit is making an impact—if your mission is a success? The answer to this question affects everything about your organization, from day-to-day operations to the success of your fundraising efforts. The National Council of Nonprofits alludes to five actions: Identify what success looks like to you. Make a plan…

 Back to Blog