Ten years ago, choosing software for your business was a pretty big decision. Not only did you have to choose a software package, but you also had to choose what server you wanted it on and the type of operating system, all the while taking into account the network needs, security, storage … the list goes on.
And because that was such a major headache, you also had to find the right IT expert to work with you. The stakes are high, and you need help finding a system that would grow with your business and return the best value for money. Often, this system would set you back tens of thousands of dollars! But it had to be done.
But then SaaS (Software as a Service) hit the market, and everything changed. Suddenly, the software provider took care of all the hardware and security requirements. Now, because the internet is such a low cost and scalable way to deliver software, systems that used to cost thousands of dollars could now be made available for less than a hundred dollars a month.
Now the complexity has been taken out of system decisions, and people seem to have forgotten the importance of process when choosing new software for their company. It’s almost too easy, so we’ve simply stopped making an effort. And that complacency costs us in the end.
The “let’s just get it, it’s only 50 bucks a month and there’s no contract” attitude costs small businesses thousands in poor choices, grumpy and unproductive staff, lost data and downtime … and all because people don’t bother doing basic due diligence before signing up.
So, let’s bring the process back into choosing software. It’s the only way you can ensure you choose the right package for your needs. Here’s a look at the process we’d recommend:
1. Engage your staff
You’re the boss and you’ve done it all, but this does not mean that you know it all. Each person in your team is connected with different areas of the business, and has a fresh opinion and new pain points to consider. Pull together everyone a new software decision will impact. Define the problem you want to solve, and work together to flesh out what is and isn’t needed. It’s also a great opportunity for team building and you’ll establish buy-in from your staff from the very start!
2. Evaluate the options
After completing the previous step, you’ll have a list of requirements for your business. To provide clarity on what’s most important, break this likst down into groups (such as financial or operational requirements), or rank them in order of importance. Now you have a handy checklist to tick the systems that meet these requirements. You will very rarely find something that fits everything you want – some will have 90% of what you want, some 80% or less. It’s all about finding the best fit.
3. Implement and review
Now that your new system is up and running, it’s time to dig out that list you made during step 1. Ask yourself, is the new software doing what you thought it would? Is it ticking the boxes? What are your measures of success – time saved, clients more engaged, more visibility over your business? Reviewing these changes is the most important thing you can do. You can’t just set and forget – systems need maintaining, updating and reviewing to ensure they are producing the right outcome for your business.
The above is obviously a very simple process for choosing new software and there may be more steps you want to add in. There are some other things to consider:
1. Engage an expert - You’re great at what you do, but unless what you do is system migration and change management, you might like to engage the help of someone who knows this stuff inside out. Working with a systems professional can help make the process much smoother.
2. Take advantage of free trials - Most SaaS providers offer free trials and some will even extend these for you if you need more time. As a consumer we rarely get the chance to try before we buy, so test it out live and see how it goes – this dramatically reduces risk of picking the wrong thing.
3. Don’t choose based on price – You need to seriously think about ROI. Return on anything in business is important, and this is especially true for software. Think of your software as an investment, rather than a cost. Are you getting back what you put in?
4. Reflect on the process - At the end of this process ensure you take the time to sit back and reflect. What were your learnings? What could you do better in the future? Are there other areas of the business that need changing? Taking the time to do this is very valuable.
When we go to purchase anything, be it software, sports cars or soap, we go through a basic buying process in our heads. We’ll quickly work out what we need, evaluate some options and buy! But having a set process in place means we can apply this method to more than just software. Whether you’re buying a piece of machinery, a new printer or a new type of pencil, engaging your team, taking the time to evaluate your options and reviewing your decision is essential for a great, long term outcome!
What do you also include as part of your process when making changes in your business?