Software applications are somewhat notorious for either being too complicated or too expensive relative to the value they provide, particularly in the context of business functionality. Software companies, retailers, and partners often catch the majority of the flack for this, and may face criticism in the form of bad reviews or negative word of mouth. However, the problem does not always lie with the provider itself but with the customer, and more specifically, with the customer’s understanding of his needs.

To be fair, it is not necessarily the customer’s fault. Often, they will be influenced by current trends in technology that they think provides them with a clear choice of product. If a business is pouring money and advertising dollars into a program and promoting it heavily, it is easy to believe that it serves as the flagship for that particular toolset, and will address any and all company needs. Even those savvy executives who feel that they have the ability to cut through the sales pitch can be influenced by consultants and resellers who are aware of a certain product’s push to the front of the pack.

It can be difficult to understand where to turn. Assuming a business is hiring a consultant, or discussing the purchase of software with a vendor, they are most likely doing so because they do not know which software will best suit their needs. For what it’s worth, most sellers want the customer to be happy, and do not intentionally try to sell software products that will be useless. Remember, today’s communication channels mean that poor experiences can very easily lead to massively reduced sales. So, if resellers and consultants want to help, why the proliferation of shelfware?

Let’s turn back to the issue. A customer needs software but they don’t know how it works. However, that is almost never the real problem. The real problem arises when a customer does not know exactly what his needs are. In order to get a software solution that is not extraneous in implementation, use, or cost, vendors need to know exactly which processes a customer needs help with. The more specific, the more helpful they can be. If a customer simply states that they want a solution to their problem, but cannot describe the processes that are causing that problem, a vendor really has no choice but to recommend an expansive (and usually, expensive) solution with functionality that the business does not necessarily need.

If you are in the market for a software solution, before looking for outward support from vendors or consultants, spend some time looking inward to identify which inefficient processes are causing your problem. That may mean spending a few weeks, or even a few months, analyzing internal activities. The money saved from purchasing software with high costs, needless complexity, and useless features will be more than worth it.