In many companies, the software selection process goes according to the “throw it on a wall and see what sticks” kind of approach.
Meanwhile, this can to lead to disappointment, unnecessary financial costs, and wasted time.
Today, we’re going to walk you through the best way to choose business software
Sounds good? Then let’s dig in.
Choosing Business Software: Round Up
We can break the software selection process down into a simple, step-by-step flow. It will guide you from start to finish and limit the possibility of complications.
Choosing business software revolves around these ten steps:
- Define the problem(s) you have and want to solve
- Assign priority levels to each of these issues
- Define your end goals
- Specify the budget you’re willing to spend on software
- Create a comprehensive list of solutions you might go for
- Shortlist these apps you’re willing to test
- Begin testing different apps with your employees
- Hear out their feedback and decide which apps are most likely to answer your needs
- Get in touch with the sales department of the chosen solutions for more information
- Make a final call and prepare for implementation
Now let’s break those down into details and additional tips.
Why Should You Follow a Software Selection Process In The First Place?
Now, you might be wondering: why would you even bother with some extensive process? Can’t you just go for the most recommended app out there?
We’re about to give you 5 good reasons for making software selection a structured process.
It Makes Choosing Software For Your Business Easier
Whenever you act without a plan, you’re far more likely to end up purchasing something you don’t need. Business software can be quite expensive so you want to ensure you make the right choice from the first try. Work according to a process to significantly increase your chance of success and ensure your team actually uses the purchased solution.
It Reduces Costs and Time Required to Choose Your Business Software
Without a process in place, you’re likely to spend more time on research and testing. Even worse, a lack of a structured workflow can force you to devote your time to fixing the results of poor software choices.
Meanwhile, a structured software selection process helps you find the right solutions faster.
Not to mention, you won’t pay for something you simply won’t use.
You’ll Know Exactly What You’re After
A smart software selection process helps you clarify your needs and financial possibilities. You’ll end up knowing exactly what you need and what you can afford.
This alone will make decision making faster and easier.
You Remain In Control
Following a software selection process allows you to stay in control. From research to testing and negotiating with providers, you will retain the clarity and focus of your end goals. With that, you can steer everything in the right direction.
You Can Replicate It
With one software solution in place, you may want to incorporate another.
It will be much easier to follow a tried and true, tested process that already rendered good results and helped you find the right app before.
With a structured and documented process of choosing business software already in place, replicating it is straightforward.
Feeling convinced yet? If so, let’s jump into another aspect of the software selection process that you can’t leave out.
Who Should You Involve In the Software Selection Process?
A single person can’t choose business software for the entire team or department. So if you’re wondering who should you involve in the software selection process, the answer is simple. Include everyone who’ll have contact with the solution, however distant it would be.
Depending on the size of your business, the list of people having a say in the final decision will include:
- Your team(s)
- Your team manager(s)
- People responsible for contact with the provider
- Owners and board of management
Of course, each of these parties will play a different role in the entire process. For example, the stakeholders can say yes or no to a given subscription fee. But it’s the actual users – the team of employees – who should decide whether a given app solves their problems.
How to Make Your Software Selection Process Successful?
It’s not just about following ANY process. You need one that’ll help you choose the right business software from the first try.
It will remain a work in progress to define, optimize, and improve your process. As you go, you will learn what worked and what didn’t work for you. But even as you start, there are some elements you can include in your workflow to make it successful.
Keep It Simple
Choosing business software can be quite complex – especially if you’re new to the topic.
But it doesn’t mean it has to stay this way.
“Agreeing on complexity as a problem is one thing, but doing something about it is quite another — particularly for managers who are already over-worked, stressed, and can barely keep up with their current workload”, says Ron Ashkenas in “Seven Strategies for Simplifying Your Organization“.
Simple processes are better. They don’t confuse your team or your stakeholders. They’re easier to implement and they require fewer resources than complex, lengthy processes.
Work With a Checklist (Or a Document)
Document your software selection process to be able to follow it. Turn it into a list of tasks with responsible people assigned to it. This way, you can easily track progress and step in instantly if any issues arise.
Adopt the Elimination Method
Simplify the decision-making process. Start by eliminating options that misalign with your goals and possibilities.
The elimination process is an effective and straightforward way to simplify your decision. Shift your mentality from “what do we want to work with” to “what we DON’T want to work with”. It will limit available options and prevent future issues.
10 Steps of Straightforward Software Selection Process
With the basics covered, let’s walk you through the process of choosing business software for your company.
It’s a 10-step process that you can easily break down into actionable tasks.
Step #1: Define the Problem(s)
Talk to your team. Understand what problems they have on a daily basis. What tires them, on what would they like to spend less time? Analyze what makes your business lose money and what could fix the problem.
Step #2: Prioritize Your Problems
While there’s an app for everything, you may not find one to answer all your needs. It may turn out that you’re split between option A and option B as a result of them addressing two different issues.
To make the right choice, analyze your issues and assign priorities. Understand which are the direst ones and on solving which you’d like to focus. Mark those which are secondary and with which you could deal without software’s help.
#3: Define End Goals of Using Software
Any process, task, or activity in your business should have a defined end goal. Choosing business software is no different. Specify what you want to achieve with your ideal solution. This will be useful when you talk to a provider in the final stage of your choice. Ask them how their software will contribute to meeting your goals.
#4: Define Your Budget
Different solutions offer different pricing plans. First, define your budget and search for a solution that matches it. You will surely find one.
#5: Create a Comprehensive List of Solutions
Now it’s time to do your research. Create a comprehensive list of all solutions to consider. Don’t shortlist it just yet and don’t exclude options beyond your budget. Simply compile all available solutions in one place to go through.
List their most interesting features and what they lack. Include pricing and information that affects your choice.
Putting this information in a table or a spreadsheet will make the analysis much easier.
#6: Shortlist Solutions You’re Willing to Test
Next, run through the list of apps you’ve created. Following the elimination route, narrow your options down to a few selected solutions. This list should include only those which you are willing to test.
Remove options that raise doubts – either due to budget or lack of necessary features.
#7: Get to Testing
Assign your team to test apps in their daily work.
Most of the cloud software solutions offer either a freemium version or a free trial. These allow you to test the app before you purchase it. Use the opportunity to see if the app matches your expectations and if it is relatively easy to implement within your team.
#8: Hear Out Your Team’s Feedback and Decide Which Apps Are Most Likely to Answer Your Needs
After running a few tests with your team, meet up to discuss the results. Hear out their feedback and thoughts to understand their point of view.
Once more, use the elimination method to cast away choices that do not answer your needs. Then decide on the potential winners.
#9: Get In Touch With the Sales Department For a Product Tour
While this stage is optional, you may want to contact the sales department of an app you’re interested in. This way, you can ask additional questions or request a product tour. It will allow you to clarify doubts or even negotiate special pricing.
#10: Make a Final Call and Prepare for Implementation
After consulting with sales departments of given apps, get back to your team to present your findings.
Together, make the final decision and begin preparing for the implementation process.
Common Mistakes In Choosing Business Software
The goal of keeping your software selection process is to prevent you from making mistakes that will cost you time and money.
You still need to be aware of the most common pitfalls related to choosing software for your business.
These pitfalls and most common mistakes include:
- Thinking only about the budget. Business software isn’t just another expense, it’s an investment. Make it count. Oftentimes it’s worth it to spend more money on more expensive subscription fees to get more features out of the platforms you’re signing up for. Don’t narrow your focus down to your budget. Take in the broader picture and see the potential you’re actually buying.
- Not taking into consideration user-friendliness or how tech-savvy your team is. The truth is that some platforms are easier to use than others. No matter how appealing and feature-rich a given solution is, if your people can’t learn to use it properly, it wastes your money and time. Invest in software that is accessible and that your team will quickly adapt.
- Not spending enough time testing. If you spend too little time testing solutions, you will not find their flaws or discover the opportunities. Make sure to make most of the available free trials.
- Not researching less popular alternatives. Remember, you don’t have to stick with the biggest, most popular software providers. Research alternatives to the biggest brands so you can discover their unique value.
- Misunderstanding your problem. If you don’t fully comprehend what’s the issue your team is facing, you may end up choosing business software that doesn’t align with your goal. That, in the end, will lead to unnecessary costs and time wasted.
5 Things to Consider When Choosing Business Software
Choosing the right software for your business is like putting together a puzzle. All pieces must match for the desired result.
That’s why you can’t miss considering a few extra elements of your ideal software.
- User-friendliness. Does your team struggle with using a given solution? Is it intuitive? Is it easy to implement? If you suspect you will use a given app incorrectly or not at all due to its complexity, don’t invest in it.
- Budget and pricing. You’ll surely pay attention to making a choice it within your budget. Still, consider the possibility of investing in more expensive and comprehensive solutions.
- Customer Support. What’s the provider’s customer support like? Is it active and quickly responding? What channel of help do they offer? Do they offer the help of an account manager or only direct you to an FAQ?
- Educational materials the brand provides. Does your solution provider offer additional learning materials? Do they organize events, training, or webinars to help you use their platform better and scale your business?
- Results, None of the above will matter if one single principle isn’t met: does the app help you work better? Does it achieve your goals? It doesn’t have to be too complex to do the job – choose the solution that truly works rather than following trends.
13 Red Flags to Look Out For When Choosing Business Software
This guide to the software selection process wouldn’t be complete without pointing out some major red flags to look out for. Not every application out there is for you or represents the quality you’re after. As you grow more experienced in working with business software, you’ll learn to spot them.
For now, however, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for these 13 characteristics of software that is not worth your time.
- Complex, unintuitive interface
- Too many features & features you won’t use
- Removing features
- Unclear pricing
- Insufficient support
- Lack of training materials
- Bugs and instability
- Frequent downtime
- Unclear security or privacy rules
- Complexity in achieving goals and completing tasks
- Lack of responsiveness & sync
- Lack of integrations
- Questionable terms of service
This, however, is an entirely different topic to tackle. Read in full about all 13 things to avoid in business software here.
Over to You
Choosing software for your business is much easier if you follow a structured process.
With our 10-step workflow, you can pick the right solution for your team.
Are you ready to give it a go?
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