Purchasing Software: The Shampoo Fallacy

By Evan Stos

I bought shampoo all by myself the other day.

I was at my local Target picking up a few items when it dawned on me that I needed some. I marched purposefully over to the shampoo aisle and proceeded to stop dead in my tracks, mouth almost certainly agape, staring wide-eyed at the overwhelming selection. At this point in the story it’s important to note 2 things:

  1. My wife, Megan, took over toiletry buying duty for me years ago.
  2. I’m *fairly* certain she has bought me the same shampoo for awhile now. I deduced this because the bottle is continuously the same shape with the same brand (Dove).

Here was my dilemma: Within that specific brand of men’s shampoo, there were a lot of bottles that were the same shape. So I basically closed my eyes, grabbed one and went on my way.

When I got home, I proudly informed my wife that she need not worry about buying my shampoo because I had taken care of it. Upon pulling the bottle out of the bag, she was highly amused. I was partially successful: It WAS the same brand and the bottle WAS the same shape as what she usually buys me. The successes, unfortunately, ended there. Apparently, I bought some sort of “volume maximizer” shampoo intended for men with thinning/brittle hair. Not to boast, but my hair is the opposite of that: It’s very thick…extra volume is the last thing it needs. Like most prideful men, I assured her it wouldn’t be a big deal. Hats off to the people at Dove. They weren’t lying when they said “volume maximizer.” I had to stop using it after a few days because I basically looked like I had a fluffy brown chinchilla on top of my head.

Why regale you with this tale? Because I’m sure there are plenty of men nodding their head at my story. We tend to buy shampoo based on one universal truth: It says shampoo on the bottle. Women, however, tend to read between the lines and find a shampoo that specifically suits their needs…like, for example, if they want their hair to have extra volume. Unfortunately, in my experience, when it comes to buying GRC or business process automation software, it doesn’t matter what the gender of the “decision maker” is. A lot of them tend to make the same mistake as men do with shampoo.

There are many different GRC/business process automation tools out there, and as someone who works with a variety of these tools, all too often I encounter situations where a customer simply picked the wrong tool based on their needs. Clearly, certain tools are better suited for certain things. Some may excel at doing Policy and Risk Management over other GRC areas, while others may be better at handling large quantities of data and others may be more amenable to external integrations.

While I know it’s difficult to answer every question during the sales cycle, the important thing to do is read between the lines and ask more specific, detailed questions. For example:

  • Can you show me or provide metrics of the performance of your platform when dealing with large quantities of data (10,000+ records in a single application)?
  • How easily can your tool access and bring in external data on a scheduled basis?
  • (For Compliance Management) Do you have regulatory requirements (PCI/HIPAA/etc.) or content partnerships we can utilize?
  • (For Vendor Risk Management) Does your tool possess the ability to capture data from 3rd party vendors who won’t have user accounts?
  • (For Risk Management) Does your tool have the ability to report via heat maps?

Those are only a smattering of examples. (I have A LOT more, but I’m trying to be more concise since this is a blog post!). My point is, too many decision makers purchase a tool based on the fact that it “can” automate GRC/other business processes, not on “how” it does it for your organization. Just like buying a volume maximizing shampoo will indeed clean your hair…beware the unintended consequences.

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