Choosing the right business software is not an easy process. Many small business owners and managers know they need a new system, but are worried about competing products, the time it takes to evaluate each product, or choosing the wrong solution. We are hesitant because of my anxiety.
We cannot make mistakes. Small businesses don’t have any resources at all, so it’s important to get everything right the first time. By following these seven bussines software selection steps, you’ll be making better decisions when choosing software for your small business.
7 Steps to Choosing the Right Business Software
1. Know Your Goals (or “What is it?”)
The first step in choosing the right business software for your business is knowing what you want out of the right business software. You can only successfully find business software if you know what you are looking for.
2. Create a list of business software requirements Now that you know why you need the
Business software, let’s be a little more specific. If you have a large team, it may be worth including a few “champions” in this phase. It’s important for everyone to have a say, but it’s hard to get everyone involved. Ask for a few volunteers to help define system requirements. These “champions” should be regular users of the system and be personable and assertive enough to speak up in group discussions.
You would like to work with Champion to develop a complete list of requirements for the new system. If you feel the discussion is getting out of hand, focus on the system goals you set in step 1.
At this point, you should make a long list of all possible business software packages. We recommend entering them into a spreadsheet for later comparison. But don’t waste time evaluating your system at this point, just list everything.
Of course you can google for the type of system you need. Also, keep in mind that Google rankings are not an indication of how good your business software is. Just because a company’s marketer is good at what she does and allows her website to appear at the top of Google’s results page doesn’t mean the system is right for you.
Try business software comparison site and list all your competitors. You can also visit some official websites. Every location has its strengths and weaknesses. App Insight, our proprietary software directory tool that includes select and compare features for registered users, is very special.
We also found that G2 was useful for later evaluation steps. If you work in a professional industry, you can also find a list of suppliers in trade publications or on his website.
4. Start excluding solutions
Now that you have a (very) long list of competitors, it`s time to start whittling it down. Your goal in this step is to identify non-conforming entries as quickly as possible. There is no point in wasting time evaluating a system that will eventually become unsuitable. To do this, go through the list one by one and concentrate on a few simple criteria from your list of needs. A good place to start is with:
- Technology preference. If it only works on Mac and you’re on Windows, great, it’s less to look at. If local, and you’re looking for a cloud-based solution – cross it off the list.
- Budget. If it’s too expensive, note the price and move on.
Instead of wasting time on demos and trials, you can immediately filter out systems based on these two criteria. Ideally, you’ll receive a short list of, say, 5-10 the right business software systems. If the list is still too long, identify some “basic” criteria, which may be unique or unusual, and re-evaluate the remaining competitors against those criteria.
What is “unique” depends on your needs. Hopefully the previous list gives you a good idea of what an average system looks like. Look for one of your needs that is not included in the average offering. This process will shorten your list to a more manageable size.
A word of warning; it’s a good idea to make notes in your spreadsheet as to why you’re discounting each plan. If your requirements later change, you can re-enter them later. For example, you may have to increase your budget later in the process, and you want to re-evaluate any systems that are included in your new budget.
5. Start a trial run of the software of your choice
This is the most time consuming part of the process. Because it takes time, you have to be smart about your evaluation process. Concentrate on assessing the software against your criteria. Do not track to see all the features, only the ones you’ve identified you need.
The requirements matrix can help with this. To create a requirements matrix in a spreadsheet, list all selected solutions in the first column and all requirements in the first row. Then, highlight your requirements as you evaluate each solution.
Testing the right business software is the best way to evaluate it against usability criteria. Vendor demonstrations, on the other hand, are the best way to assess functionality and reporting requirements. Ideally you should get both. Start with a demonstration and do a dry run.
When setting up a demonstration, make sure the demonstrator is aware of the functional requirements. That way, you can demonstrate only the features that are relevant to you. It’s useful to provide a script so that each provider can perform the same functions in the same order. This makes it easier to compare systems.
6. Do your due diligence
You’ll probably have a good idea of which system is “winning” by now. After choosing (or almost choosing) a product, it’s time to do some homework. This is where we discuss the vendor requirements you listed earlier. If the product is sold through a partner or reseller program, you should also investigate the retailer.
7. Start negotiating
This is where you start to iron out the finer details of the system. Make sure you address business issues, such as deployment time, level of support, service availability, and payment terms – not just price.
When looking at the final cost, don’t forget to include all possible costs: such as licensing, support, and implementation costs. Some low-cost cloud-based tools don’t have a lot of room for pricing, but other vendors, particularly those using reseller networks, will have significant flexibility in this area. It’s always worth asking!
Following these steps will help you make an informed decision when you are looking for a new or replacement system. One last caveat, this article is about software selection. Picking the right package alone does not guarantee success. Don’t forget to allocate time and money for managing installations, integration into your current business and staff training, and ongoing monitoring and maintenance.