When Apples and Oranges Seem AlikeIt is a common marketing practice for software vendors to utilize product comparisons that invariably help their software appear to be the best choice. However, these comparisons may actually provide an inaccurate profile of the software’s actual advantages and disadvantages. There are several different ways of comparing software, in this post we are going to delve into the most commonly used comparison methods to determine which can provide the most accurate picture of a software’s real capabilities.
The importance of selecting the right comparison method is best illustrated by a comparison of apples and oranges. Everyone knows that apples and oranges are very different, however, depending on the method of comparison they can appear very similar. For instance, both are fruit, edible, somewhat round, nutritious, have skins and seeds, and grow on trees. If one were to end the comparison here, someone who has never seen or eaten an apple and an orange might erroneously think that they are quite similar. However, with the proper questions and applied method of comparison it is very easy to illustrate the differences between apples and oranges.
Benchmarking is a methodology of comparison that was originally developed by the Xerox Corporation as a tool for business performance management. In its original form, benchmarking compared business processes and performance metrics to the best known practices in the industry. When utilized in this manner, benchmarking can provide a reliable tool for business improvement.
However, recent software comparisons have utilized benchmarking in a manner that is problematic. With software benchmarking comparisons, the features of product A are compared against only those features that already exist in product B. This positions product B as the “benchmark”, or reference point. This is a misleading way of comparing two competing products because it is implicitly assumed that product B is the standard to which every other product should be compared. In addition, the benchmark isolates certain features. Therefore any additional features that are available in product A and are not available in product B are simply not mentioned, which creates an inaccurate comparison that is not suitable for software evaluation.
Alternative Product "Reviews”
An alternative product review is actually one of the many types of fake reviews that are becoming very popular with online marketing. During an alternative product review, the review starts with product A but in a couple of paragraphs the author "discovers" product B and praises it as a better alternative to product A. Alternative product reviews are a very untrustworthy way of reviewing a product.
These "reviews" are generally paid reviews that are written for the sake of luring customers away from competitor products by using the competitors’ names in the title of the review. In addition, these fake reviews are often created strictly for Search Engine Optimization purposes by using certain keywords which will cause the review to show up in search results. Regardless of the purpose, fake reviews are misleading and provide little value to the consumer.
It is important to note that actual user reviews are generally considered a legitimate and useful method of product evaluation. Although a real user may indeed have a glowing review of a product, they will tend to discuss reliability, performance, ease-of-use, and value -- and no real reviewer would ever report to be happy about high costs! A real review is going to read more like a note from a professional, as opposed to a commercial for the product.
Feature-by-Feature Comparison: Long Version
In this type of review, software are compared using an objective and long feature-by-feature comparison. These types of reviews should include comparisons of all the features that exist in both products. Unfortunately, certain disadvantages mean that these comparisons are generally only used on a lim ited basis. A feature-by-feature review is destined to become an extremely large document that may be too cumbersome to actually be effective. There is also a large amount of labor required to develop a comprehensive feature-by-feature review, which makes them time-consuming and expensive.
Feature-by-Feature Comparison: Short Version
Another form of the feature-by-feature comparison is the short version, which includes only the most important features, and/or the major differences between the products. This is the most useful type of comparison for several reasons. The end result is generally short and easy to digest, and can usually fit on one to two pages. Another advantage is the review may also include both the pros and cons of each product compared. Also, in addition to the technical features this type of comparison can also include licensing and other features. A feature-by-feature comparison can provide all of the information that is necessary to support a customer's purchasing decision.
One final important consideration that should be applied to all reviews is the rater. A review should be created by an accredited third-party organization. In addition, a proper review requires careful training of the raters to ensure that their methods are applied correctly and the review is conducted without bias. When a review is conducted by the product vendor it is much less trustworthy, subjective and highly susceptible to bias.
Comparing and selecting software can be a difficult and confusing task. However, the manner in which a vendor provides the information on its product is a good indication of the integrity and level of service that can be expected from that vendor throughout the lifespan of the software. The information provided on a software should be complete, factual and presented in a manner that is easy to understand. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that business customers select the software that is evaluated using the proper methodology in an accurate, unbiased manner.
Images courtesy of Suvro Datta and FrameAngel at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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