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Feature

Software Vendor Takes A Different Approach

OutlookSoft pays implementation staff based on customer satisfaction.
U.S. Sugar Corp. is a little savvier when it comes to buying software today than it was a few years ago. Like many businesses swept up in the IT buying spree of the last decade, executives at the privately held sugar and citrus company acknowledge that they bought and implemented technology based on canned demos, vendor promises, and a general cost-benefit analysis.

U.S. Sugar decided to use tougher criteria when it went searching for a business-process management software vendor earlier this year. "We looked at flexibility and user friendliness of the software, technology platform, security, overall cost, and the financial viability of the vendor," IT director John Brady says.

What they found was a vendor--OutlookSoft Corp.--that met the criteria and has an unusual way of paying its people. Instead of paying staff working on product implementations by the hour, on top of their base pay, OutlookSoft pays them quarterly bonuses based on a customer's willingness to be a reference. After an implementation, the customer is asked two questions, says Mike Morin, OutlookSoft's chief operating officer: "Would you do this with us again, and will you take a call from a prospective client?"

OutlookSoft is in the final phase of a three-step financial-reporting tools implementation project. U.S. Sugar plans to use the software for publishing financial statements, budgeting and reporting, and production data. The software starts at $180,000 for 50 users.

Brady, along with company controller Ellen Wine, says the vendor's approach to customer service has changed their views of how technology relationships should work. Not only was the software company's implementation team well-versed in the business side of how the technology worked, but its members spent time talking with users to gauge their needs. They also took time to educate U.S. Sugar's workers and IT staff on the technology.

That approach was much different from a recent ERP implementation in which "there was no knowledge transfer," Wine says.

And yes, U.S. Sugar is serving as a reference for OutlookSoft, so the vendor's implementation team will get its bonus.