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The number of software products in the market for businesses to choose from is endless. So how do you know whats right, what’s good and what you should be looking for? Here’s a quick guide to help you choose the right applications for your business.
1. Work out what you need
Doing some preparation before you start looking at possible solutions will help you hugely. It’s important to go into this process with a good understanding of what you need. It doesn’t have to take long simply draw up a list of problems your are looking to solve and the outcomes your need to achieve for your business. Ideally, if you can, also list the key features that you need. Keep it simple. Software that has lots of features will also have lots of “noise”, that is lots of buttons and busy screens that make it hard to work out what to do next. Don’t forget to talk to other members in your teams also to review and cater for their needs.
2. Shortlist three or four software options
You’re most likely to already know the options for your industry. If not, the best way to shortlist is to talk to others. Talk to your industry associations and talk to your peers. What are they using to solve the problems you have, what is working for them and why? Once you have a list of options, try and shortlist into three or four that you want to take a closer look at and compare against your list of requirements that you created earlier.
3. Take advantage of free online consultations and trials
Some software vendors offer free one-on-one consultations with software providers. These sessions will help you evaluate a product in 20 minutes and greatly speedup the evaluation process. We use video conferencing software that also allows us to share our screens with prospective clients and they love it. It works. Most vendors also offer free trials so you can put the software to practice and see if its a good fit for your business. Don't be afraid to seek out their advice and speak with their customer service teams, this will give you a good insight into how they manage their customer relationships as well.
4. Choose software with good underlying process
The easier the software is to use, the more you and your team are going stick with it. Look for software with good underlying process that gives you the greatest “return on investment” i.e it gives you the results you’re looking for with the minimum amount of admin. Test the software, whilst it may look good on the surface, if it doesn’t have good underlying process, you’ve got a problem. Remember, the more streamlined your processes are, the more competitive your business will be.
5. Remember that no software will do 100% of what you need
It doesn’t matter what software you choose. There will be something that you wish it did or wish it did differently. That’s normal. Every business is different and no software will fit 100% of your requirements. Software that has an 80-90% feature fit, is a good fit with your needs. Now don’t forget that doesn’t mean that it’s right for you, it just means it has a good number of the features you’re looking for.
6. Aim to keep the number of apps to a bare minimum
We can’t say this enough. “KEEP THE AMOUNT OF SOFTWARE IN YOUR BUSINESS TO A MINIMUM”.
Each piece of software you add in to your company, convolutes and complicates your process, adds cost in terms of dollars and time spent on training and makes you less efficient. Only introduce additional software if it adds significant value.
In our experience and research, businesses that are using apps that cover multiple business areas are more effective than having a different piece of software for each area of the business. Generally apps that cover multiple areas of the business provide a more streamlined and seamless process that is logical and integrated with a consistent UI (user interface). The end result is better systems and processes and less double handling of data as it moves through your business.
7. Team buy in is critical to success
Don’t forget to consult your team when making software selection. Get a few team members (potentially from different departments), involved in the decision making. This will ensure the software is right for the whole business and ensure you don’t waste time having to ‘start again’ for some reason. Remember though…too many cooks spoil the broth.
If your intention is to grow your business, make sure that the software is able to scale as your business grows. Try and anticipate your future needs. Good software selection will save you a lot of pain and suffering later. Changing internal software and process is akin to brain surgery.
9. A quick checklist for evaluating software
- Write a list of what key features you require for the different areas and people in your business
- Decide who needs to be involved in this process
- Draw up a shortlist of 3 or possible solutions (any more and you’ll loose track)
- Signup for trial versions of the software, liaise with their support teams
- Use the software and run tests
- Get 2 or 3 team members to evaluate the trial software and tell you what they like/don’t like