The software you choose can be a real game-changer for your business.
But software is expensive: not just to buy and maintain, but also in terms of the hours needed to get your team up and running, and the risk involved if it all goes belly-up.
With many software companies offering seemingly great - and sometimes similar - features, it can be a real headache deciding which one will be the right solution for your business. So how do you choose the right software for you?
Luckily, there is a tried-and-tested process for choosing software - and it works whichever type of software you are evaluating. In this blog, we take you through the 7 factors you need to consider before choosing a software for your business.
Step 1: List the problems you're trying to solve
This is where you look at the big picture to understand your reasons for looking for new software.
You can do this by listing the challenges you’d like the software to help you overcome, and sorting them into order of priority. If you’re struggling to prioritise them, estimating how much each challenge impacts profitability is a great place to start.
Once you have prioritised your list, choose the top three to keep you focused.
Completing this step will help you stay on track once you get into the detail of looking at different software types. It will provide a frame of reference that will help you to avoid becoming distracted by appealing but irrelevant features and specifications.
Step 2: Set your budget
It’s a good idea to set your budget from the outset. While you won’t have an exact idea of costs until you’ve looked into products in more detail, just setting a ballpark now will give you a rough idea of what you can afford.
Step 3: Identify the features you need
Now that you’ve identified what your business needs from your software, it’s time to get specific. This is the stage where you look at software features and specifications.
Sometimes it can be hard to know what features exist, so this is a great time to start researching different types of software. This ‘reverse engineering’ of features of competing products will help you unearth requirements you didn’t know you needed. Much better to discover this now, rather than after purchase.
Note: the aim of this stage is not to compare products yet, just use the information to build a list of features offered by the category as a whole.
Once you have a list of features, sort them into ‘nice-to-haves’ and ‘must-haves’.
Your ‘must-have’ list should be short (maximum of 5) and outline the features that are absolutely necessary for your business. Your ‘nice-to-have’ list can be broader and should be listed in order of importance. We recommend keeping your ‘nice-to-have list’ to 8 or less, for ease of administration.
Step 4: Gather your team’s functional requirements
This is a vital, but often-missed step in the process. Gathering functional requirements from your team helps ensure the software is fit-for-purpose and builds end-user buy-in. And projects with strong user buy-in have a much better chance of success once they have been implemented. (No manager likes to see their hard-won new software lying unused in the corner of someone's desktop).
An easy and effective way to do this is to ask your team to score the features in your ‘nice-to-haves’ and ‘must-have’ lists. You can also give them the opportunity to add any other vital features you may have missed.
Be prepared to adjust your ‘must have and ‘nice-to-have’ lists once you receive feedback from your team. Don’t forget to check your new list against your business objectives, to make sure you haven’t gone off-piste.
Step 5: Reduce your options
Now that you have your ‘must-have’ and ‘nice-to-have’ lists, your team’s needs, and a budget, it’s time to do some research and narrow the field. Here’s how:
- Compile a list of products that are in the running.
- Research them: using their own product information, but also by referencing industry forums and software comparison sites like Trustradius and Top ten.
- Score each product against your ‘must-haves’ list.
- Eliminate any that don’t make the grade.
- Now repeat the process for your nice-to-have list.
By the end of this process you should have whittled your list down to two or three products. Now that you have a just a handful of products left to evaluate, it’s time to see them in action.
Step 6: Get a demo and understand the pricing
It’s vital to get both a demo and a more accurate price: and you’re now in a position to do both.
For the demo, make sure you involve the team members who will actually be using the software. If you can get a free trial, even better.
To get an accurate idea of pricing, you should consider:
- One off and ongoing costs.
- Other expenses such as additional software, training, support and extended warranties.
- Will you be able to use the software out of the box? Or will it require customisation?
- Who is going to run and maintain it? Will you need to allow extra hours or headcount?
- Will it need to integrate with any other software?
- Are there any recurring renewal or upgrade expenses?
Step 7: Make your final selection
You should now be in a strong position to make a final decision.
Before doing so, make sure that you feel comfortable with the vendor as well as the product. If you feel uneasy with the sales rep, or you feel you don’t have all the information you need, you can always ask to speak with someone else. Asking to speak with previous customers in your industry can be a great pressure-check, too.
Don’t be pressured by time-sensitive offers, and keep asking questions until you feel completely at ease with your choice.
Congratulations. By following this process you’ve navigated the minefield of software purchasing in a systematic, logical way that is aligned with your business objectives and considers the needs of your end users.