How to Select an Ethical Software Vendor
Many software firms believe that building great software is important. We believe it is important to take it one step further by committing to great business ethics along the way. We bring this into play through four key axioms:
- We don’t sue our customers.
- We don’t take referral fees or kickbacks.
- We always recommend the best software for our customers.
- We never hold our customers hostage.
1. We don’t sue our customers.
While this may seem obvious, one needs to look no further than the Oracle Cover Oregon debacle to know that this happens. We believe firmly that the job of a vendor is to help their customer and, therefore, we have never sued a customer for non-payment or any other reason...and we never will.
2. We don’t take referral fees or kickbacks.
Metal Toad learned this important principle very early on thanks to our involvement with the design organization AIGA. Receiving a referral fee from a third party for a recommendation compromises a consultant's objectivity. There have been numerous cases where we've actually removed referral fees from agreements with various vendors because we prefer they know that Metal Toad is operating with our customer's benefit at the forefront of our minds.
3. We always recommend the best software solution.
Over the years, we've built some great software; but the world is a big place and technology is always evolving. Part of our commitment to our customers is that we recommend the best software available, even if it isn't our own. Have you ever heard of Oracle recommending SAP software? Neither have we.
4. We never hold our customers hostage.
Software vendors holding customers hostage - via withholding data and code - is much more common than we'd all like to believe. Numerous times a year, the Toads speak with prospects whose last vendor wouldn't give them access to code, their data, or even the ability to administer their own content. With us it's very simple: the day we are no longer a fit for our customer, we provide them with what they hired us to build. We don't stall. We just do as we are asked.
Questions to Ask
If these ethical principles resonate with you, or if you have been burned by businesses that don't follow them, there are four questions we recommend asking the next time you are faced with vendor selection:
- Has your company ever sued a customer?
- Do you have any vendor referral fee agreements or kickback arrangements?
- Do you recommend software that you don't own?
- Are there any restrictions that will be placed on access to our data or code?
With those questions asked and answered you'll be in a much better position to evaluate where you will stand with your vendor if things get complicated.