How to improve your software buying process

SaaS Buying

Vendr | Data-driven vendor management
Written by
Belynda Cianci
Published on
January 18, 2022
Read Time

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If you’re stuck in a procurement, negotiaton or onboarding cycle, it feels like getting a new piece of software in place takes forever. If a software purchasing process delays projects or causes internal friction, it's time to look at the reasons why and start to implement process improvements to create better corporate efficiency.

When it comes to SaaS buying slowdowns, there are some usual suspects to address first. Most issues are related to undocumented processes, buy-in from internal stakeholders, budgeting, and managing cross-departmental needs.

Getting these blockers resolved can make purchasing software a speedier, smoother process. It can also improve the outcomes of business software purchasing and reduce the time individual stakeholders and departments spend on the process.

Here are some of the most common software blockers:

5 SaaS buying process problems — and how to solve them

1. The software purchase approval process is lacking — or nonexistent

Purchasing software takes time and coordination from many stakeholders across business units. None of these processes happen in a vacuum.

Software buyers — both procurement managers and end users — should understand:

  • The SaaS landscape — what are the best software options out there?
  • How new software integrates and creates automations or efficiencies with the rest of the company’s tech stack
  • How end users will onboard onto the new software, the product’s ease-of-use, how users interact with customer support, and how they will use software features
  • How IT will sunset any current software solutions
  • The pricing and contract terms of the software vendor agreement

When there isn’t a process to get software needs met, everything takes more time. End users don’t know where to begin in the software selection process. Finance doesn’t have visibility into budget needs. Departmental approvals get caught in limbo or rushed through last-minute. Without a software purchase approval process, teams stretch a weeks-long activity into months.

Solution: Codify the SaaS buying process

If an approval process takes forever, it’s time for procurement or finance to get the company’s SaaS buying process in place. Even for small business, establishing these official processes mean that rogue software spend is unlikely to become a major problem.

Procurement leaders should start with an intake form. A SaaS buying intake form should allow the primary software stakeholder a place to sketch out the business case for new software and recommend possible solutions. A good intake form collects enough information to move the process forward without being time-intensive. 

Once procurement has an intake form in place, implementing an approval workflow lets everyone know what’s expected. It identifies the approval order and gives stakeholders a place to communicate and follow the process.

The finalized approval workflow sets the stage for finance to approve the budget and enable the negotiation process. This process document also allows IT to get necessary assets in order to schedule implementation. By implementing this simple process as a part of digital transformation efforts, procurement leaders smooth the course for getting software solutions in place.

2. Stakeholders aren’t bought in to the purchasing process

If software stakeholders are misaligned on the elements on the software buying process, getting across the finish line is difficult. Software buying stakeholders include:

  • Software end users, often the solution “champions,” who care about features, usability and functionality
  • Senior Managers, additional “champions” who manage departmental budgets and care about their team’s productivity
  • IT Managers, who are responsible for implementation, integration and upkeep
  • Procurement Managers, who manage negotiation and the end-to-end buying process
  • Financial Managers, who are responsible for managing budget
  • Legal Officers, who keep an eye on security and compliance

This means that six team members - at minimum - are involved in every software purchasing decision. If even one of these stakeholders isn’t on board with purchasing the SaaS solution, the process becomes a belabored internal exercise rather than a corporate efficiency.

Solution: Get champions and stakeholders collaborating early 

Getting everyone involved early — and keeping them appraised — can ease the path to buying and implementing the right software.

Instead of looping in cross-departmental stakeholders at the last minute, consider keeping them abreast of use cases, research, RFP and shortlist processes let them know that their expertise will be needed down the line.

By the same token, having a procurement workflow in place means stakeholders won’t be surprised or taken aback by new requests. It creates a good balance for champions who are able to predict and understand the end-to-end process.

3. Software solutions are over budget

Budget will hang up the SaaS buying process faster than almost anything.

Pursuing a software solution without knowing if finance will sign off is one of the top reasons a purchase is delayed or called off. Software buyers skipping the important financial steps can result in lost time and frustration across all cross-departmental stakeholders, as well as cause problems for SaaS salespeople who are trying to broker the deal. Finance doesn’t want to be an obstacle to decision-making. However, with waste spending continually on the rise, SaaS spend guidelines are becoming more stringent.

Solution: Move finance to the beginning of the purchasing workflow

The more information champions can provide about a software purchase early in the process, the easier it will be to get buy-in and necessary budget. Building a business case for new software (especially when it includes preliminary numbers) is key.

Unless champions have prior budget approval for the purchase, get finance involved with the SaaS buying process as soon as the research phase is complete. With the right intake form, the workflow will quickly involve a finance decision-maker. This will allow the champions to clear the biggest hurdle early and find alternative paths for purchasing that still meet business needs.

4. Legal, IT and security dealbreakers are unclear or un-communicated

Picking a solution without understanding “brass tacks” requirements can lead to big delays or false starts in the software purchasing workflow. It’s almost certain that IT and security teams will have minimum requirements for how a new solution functions and interacts with the company’s current tech stack.

Likewise, legal departments may have internal processes to manage SaaS contracts. If chosen software doesn’t meet legal or compliance requirements, champions may be forced to renegotiate, spend time in last-minute fact-finding, or abandon a solution altogether. 

Solution: Understand what legal, IT and security teams need before starting

This is another area where a formal SaaS buying process can help. As part of the policy, IT, legal and security should have all the dealbreakers clearly spelled out for end users to understand. That way, If IT needs assurances about encryption or service-level guarantees — or if legal requires specific contract language or terms - the software champions know what their dealing with upfront, before it can throw a wrench into negotiations. 

5. The renewal and upgrade process has been ignored

For all the attention paid to net-new contracts, it’s as important to address the speed and clarity of the software renewals process.

The renewal process takes time and attention for both the buyer and the software vendor. However well-oiled new contracts might be, it won’t save buyers from delays and friction if the renewal schedule isn’t well-documented and managed. Making the final decision about renewals, downgrades or upgrades can also become costly, in the form of missed leverage or unwanted auto-renewal. 

Solution: Centralize the tech stack.

The first step to expediting the renewal process is knowing what buying decisions are coming up. Take the time to centralize and organize the tech stack, getting the information out of departmental silos and into a trackable form.

Then, establish a workflow for software renewal that allows a runway (we recommend 90 days) to examine the current software provider’s contract. Champions should look at metrics like usage and uptime, areas where the mission has changed, or issues with the service. Get adjustments or renegotiation underway, and follow a dedicated renewal workflow to get sign-off from the necessary departments. 


How Vendr can help build your SaaS buying workflow

Are your champions and procurement managers underwater from managing an unwieldy tech stack? Vendr's SaaS buying platform offers both a product and people-powered service to enable fast-growing companies to procure software quickly, directly and with guaranteed savings, and then can help you manage your SaaS contracts and renewals to save you money.

Vendr has facilitated over $1 billion in SaaS purchases across 1,200+ suppliers for finance and procurement teams at companies like HubSpot, Brex, Canva, Reddit and Toast. With leveraged knowledge of thousands of transactions and billions of data points, the Vendr team partners with your organization to streamline your entire SaaS buying process to get your team working on better software, faster.

Looking for more? Learn how we help consolidate your tech stack, perform a free savings analysis, and identify buying process challenges all before you even become a customer with our self-guided tour of our SaaS buying approach.

Getting through a software purchase doesn’t have to be frustrating or time-consuming. With some preparation and planning in advance, as well as a little help from the experts, you can go into the process confident that you’ve got the major points covered before you even talk to a software vendor. 

Belynda Cianci
Belynda is a SaaS expert who writes about procurement, finance, and the software buying landscape.

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