Whether you’re planning where to eat for dinner tonight, selecting which movie you’re going to watch this weekend with friends, or buying an instant pot on Amazon, you’re probably going to look at some user ratings to help you make that decision.

Maybe it’s just a glance at the star rating next to that restaurant on Yelp, or the Rotten Tomatoes score for the movie. Maybe you read through myriad Amazon reviews and try to judge which ones provide real value and insights that are helpful for you.

No one thinks user ratings are a perfect system, but it’s hard to argue that they’re not helpful. Proof lies in the number of successful user rating systems that have algorithmically ingested our star-ratings and comments, surfacing the most helpful among them. And they’re almost an irresistible source of information when you’re trying to make a decision about where to spend your time and money.

If only there was such a guide for enterprise software. But the intricate nature of software and myriad features and use cases make it too complicated to merely be rated with five stars. You need to go deeper.

After writing about enterprise software for more than a decade, I’ve discovered that it’s very easy to get vendors to tell you about new updates to their programs, and all the features offered to users. It’s also easy to find success stories of software being used for big business wins.

What’s harder is to hear about when software lets users down. When the features are there, but the user experience is so poor that they don’t get used. Or when the support behind the software isn’t what was promised. There are many reasons why enterprise software implementation projects don’t go well, and just as many reasons why we don’t hear about them very often.

You don’t buy software the same way you find a hamburger joint on of Yelp

SoftwareReviews.com offers a way to address that problem. The Toronto-based sister company to analyst firm Info-Tech Research Group collects comprehensive software reviews from real users. It’s amassed many thousands of reviews so far and continues its work to collect verified and in-depth ratings from more than 130 different data points on each piece of software. Now that’s going beyond the five-star standard.

IT World Canada is partnering with SoftwareReviews.com to bring its detailed user review reports to our audience. We’ll have our journalists break down reports and summarize them, as Lynn Greiner did with its report on enterprise mobility management. We also plan to have members from the SoftwareReviews.com contribute content directly. The aim is to help our readers gather more information that’s helpful in making decisions about software procurement.

I met with the SoftwareReviews.com team and David Piazza, CEO of SoftwareReviews.com, explained how they work diligently to ensure the user reviews are high quality and great depth.

“To start, reviewers are verified using LinkedIn to ensure they are real professionals with applicable experience relative to the category they are reviewing. Each review is then flagged for checks around consistency of data, looking for patterns in the responses. Open field responses are analyzed to ensure consistency with the rest of the review. And finally, no review is approved without being reviewed by human eyes,” Piazza says. “While this is time-consuming, and results in a large percentage of reviews being rejected, we feel it then delivers the best data quality in the market.”

SoftwareReviews.com produces many different visuals based on its data, including a Data Quadrant that ranks vendors on the axes of product features and satisfaction, and vendor experience and capabilities. It’s a great starting point to see whom the leaders in the category are, based on real users.

It’s not what you think, it’s how you feel

Another one of my favourite aspects of the reviews offered is the emotional footprint portion. So often we try to evaluate software from a technical perspective, comparing feature lists and performance metrics. But what often matters, in the end, is how professionals talk about the actual experience they’re having with software.

“We go way beyond looking at just the basic product features, but also take into account the user sentiment towards the relationship with the software vendor, giving the end user a complete understanding of the software experience before they buy,” Piazza says. “This provides a full-lifecycle view of the software and vendor experience from procurement, to implementation, through the service experience.”

After all, after you go out for that dinner and it comes time for you to add your own review, it’s often not the finer points of the plate presentation you recall, or whether that steak was cooked a bit too much for your liking, but how you felt about the whole experience after leaving the restaurant.