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How to Avoid Buyer’s Remorse in Your Procurement Process

Published Thu Mar 21 2019


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We’ve all done it: been drawn into a new, shiny piece of technology, killer sales spiel, and appealing discounts, and ended up signing on the dotted line for something that excites us for all of a few weeks. But once the excitement has died down and we start considering how the new technology will really fit into our learning strategy—not just today, but in the future—it all starts to look a little less like the dream purchase we’d hoped for. Instead, we end up tied into long-term contracts for products that fail to meet our needs, and the features we needed when we procured the technology several months ago are not the features we will need in the coming years (and getting hold of the right ones will cost a small fortune). Not looking like such a good deal anymore, is it?

The Five Stages of Buyer’s Remorse

When a bad procurement decision is made, there are some similarities to the experience of grieving:

● denial

● anger

● bargaining

● depression

● acceptance.


Often, the system you purchased isn’t exactly what you envisioned. Perhaps you didn’t ask the right questions; the vendor wasn’t completely transparent about not just the software’s current capabilities, but also the future road map; or your circumstances change post-contract signature. When this is the case, it’s common to deny that this investment won’t live up to your expectations—meaning you end up delaying important changes until after the (lengthy) contract is up, or simply stating that the good multi-year deal you secured offsets the practical issues.

However, the denial stage leaves you, your learners, and your leadership at the mercy of software that doesn’t do what you need it to do, leading to years of frustration and lost opportunities.


A flawed procurement process can only lead to tension between you and your vendor when expectations are not fulfilled. This usually results in the customer getting angry and blaming the vendor, when in reality the buying process is a shared responsibility.

And the anger may not stop there. Internal stakeholders won’t be happy to learn that the investment has been made in the wrong solution, and learners will get frustrated that a relatively new system doesn’t live up to the promises you made. When business needs change and the system isn’t flexible enough to adapt, the anger will be directed back to the L&D team.


So what do you do when you’re stuck with software that doesn’t work for you? Many organizations attempt to bargain with their vendor for free extras and support to maximize the value of the contract. Without a clear process in place for managing these requests, this can become a time-consuming distraction, which of course fails to address the issues at the heart of the problem: that your solution simply isn’t fit for purpose.


The depression stage kicks in when you realize that even if you’ve managed to negotiate a few extras, it’s not enough to sugar the pill, and you are still stuck with years of your contract left. With stakeholders unimpressed, L&D disheartened, and learners frustrated, disengagement slowly spirals. This leads to reduced support from senior management, and often a reduction in the L&D budget when the solution fails to support the business. Often, vendor support wanes over the course of the contract, too, leaving you wrangling with a system that isn’t working for you with no support.


At some point, a ray of hope will emerge as you near the end of your contract and realize that you can do things differently this time around. You are ready to break out of the cycle of remorse that far too many organizations experience again and again. You can learn from the mistakes of your previous learning technology procurement and improve your approach to ensure that you find a better solution next time.

Does this process sound familiar? If so, fear not—it doesn’t have to be like this. Totara has created a guide to procurement practice to ensure you get the best possible learning technology for your organization’s needs. You can download the guide here to find out how to make the right choice next time you need to make a learning technology purchase, or join our upcoming ATD webcast on April 2.

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