As technology advances, customer expectations evolve and traditional ways of running a business begin to change; business processes may require change and with that, the need to choose new software is sparked.
In this article we’re going to cover:
- Two main situations where choosing new software may be necessary
- The 5 step selection process and important aspects to take into account
Two common scenarios where you may be required to choose new software for your business
There are two main situations for when you might be tasked with choosing new software for a business.
The first situation is focused on minimising cost and streamlining a process with the help of new software. For example:
- You have a process that is labour intensive and want to automate and streamline it to minimise costs.
- Your business is growing and processes that used to take a short amount of time are starting to grow at an exponential rate.
- You have software that covers certain functionality but it no longer works or is no longer available, and you need a replacement.
- You have plans to grow but don’t have the talent, so your focus is on improving the whole company’s output
The second situation is focused on providing value or a unique experience to your customers, clients, stakeholders. An example of this is rethinking the way that your customers interact with services and creating a unique and enjoyable experience through the development of an app.
For the majority of this article, we will be focused predominantly on the first situation where it’s possible to find an off-the-shelf solution as this is where most businesses should start the journey.
5 steps you need to take when it comes to software selection
1. Understanding the requirements before choosing new software
Before you start any sort of research and selection, it’s important that you clearly define the requirements of the solution before you start your software search.
Setting out clear requirements allows you to focus your attention on what will benefit your business the most without getting caught up with the promotional, marketing jargon and fancy features software solutions may offer, that won’t help you reach your end goal.
Ultimately your complete solution should meet your goal of improving your process by making it more efficient, profitable and valuable. So it’s important to keep this front of mind throughout the entire process.
To start the requirement gathering process, start by identifying the stakeholders. These may be:
- Staff members that are involved in the the new change/solution and would be required to use the new software
- Managers that have knowledge of the current process that may be affected
- Your IT contact or consultant whom will have a better understanding of existing infrastructure that may hinder or affect implementation of the new software
Next step is to ask these important questions that will help you make the best decision in the end. Some questions you may ask your stakeholders are:
- If you were to imagine the perfect solution, what would that look like?
- What are the other systems in place that are integral to daily operations?
- How and to what degree will this new software need to interact with those systems?
- How will this new software need to integrate or be used with current processes?
- Are there any unique aspects to your current business environment that need to be taken into account?
Once you have gathered this information, grade them based on necessity, what aspects are considered essential versus “nice to haves” or which ones are negotiable versus required.
We can help you save time and ensure that you pick the right software solution for your business
Is this you?
- Unsure of all the factors that need to be considered
- Not confident that you would be able to gather all the necessary information and requirements
- Would prefer someone that has knowledge of the latest software on the market to be involved in the research and selection process
- Don’t want to waste time searching for a solution that may not be appropriate or fit your current technology setup
Let us help you figure out your requirements and research the best software solutions suited to your business.
2. Reviewing software options in the market
Now that you have your requirements thoroughly documented it’s time to look at what is available in the market.
Depending on what kind of solution you are after, your current systems, processes and industry, there may be hundreds of options available or only a few. However, chances are if you are looking for a solution to a problem, someone else has also encountered that same problem.
Review your options and begin to refine them based on your requirements, going from essential to non-essential. In addition, options may begin to drop off based on:
- Price point
- Limitations to integrate with other systems / software
- Inability to support or incompatibility with key functions or workflows
3. Requesting demos for your shortlist of software options
Once you have made a shortlist of software that you think may suit your needs, the next step is request a demo of the software.
Demo’s are a great way to get hands on with the software, experiment and work through real-life scenarios that you may encounter in your business.
When speaking to a consultant, ensure that they provide real examples of ways that their software meets your requirements and try to validate it through your own testing to see how it would work in real scenarios.
Don’t forget to invite other stakeholders (such as the ones mentioned at the start of this article) to review and provide feedback on the functionality of the software in question.
In addition to meeting your needs, ideally all shortlist options should have:
- An easy onboarding process with support throughout, to ensure a smooth transition if you are moving from one system to another.
- Thorough documentation to help not only with onboarding but with general troubleshooting for the future.
- Customer reviews or evidence that highlight responsiveness, support and ongoing feature developments.
Repeat this process with all potential solutions until you have a shortlist of options that you’re happy to present.
4. Weighing up your options
At this point in your software selection process you will probably find yourself in one of four scenarios:
- You’ve found a solution that fits
- You’ve found software that fits most but not all of your requirements
- You’ve found a potential solution but the price isn’t sustainable in the long-run
- None of the off-the-shelf software options fit your requirements and there are no feasible ways to make any one of the products in the market work
Scenario 1 – You’ve found a solution that fits
If everything goes perfectly and you manage to find a software solution that fits your needs completely… fantastic! You won’t need to continue any further. However, for those that aren’t able to find a perfect solution you may find yourself in either scenarios 2 or 3 below.
Scenario 2 – You’ve found software that fits most but not all of your requirements
In this scenario you’ve managed to find a product that meets 80% of your business requirements, but there is 20% that it’s lacking.
For example, the requirement might’ve been to send a monthly statement of all business activity to a client. The statement needs to consist of a running account (numbers), receipts from the business, and potentially additional receipts or information from an external source. The software solution may facilitate the consolidation of numbers and receipts from the business, but won’t cater for the items required from external sources. This is an example where one piece of software may meet 80% of the requirements but the final 20% still needs to be filled with either a manual process or a separate piece of software.
The below options could be used as ways to breach the gap:
- Custom software: developing something that will bridge the gap between off-the-shelf software and the needs of the business
- Custom integration: developing something that allows integration of the new software with pre-existing systems
- Supplementary software: finding another off-the-shelf solution to meet the final requirements
Whether you decide to add a supplementary solution or change parts of existing business processes, you’ll need to assess the impact and costs associated with this new comprehensive solution.
Areas that may be affected and are important to consider are:
- Negatively impacted efficiency
For example: To make up for the 20%, new additional processes need to be put into place.
- Decreased productivity
For example: Additional software needs to be introduced to make up the gap, which requires additional training and may affect productivity.
- Changes to core business process
For example: You are required to rethink current business processes and adjust them in a way that supports the new software, which may require additional resources, training and other labour costs.
As you are working through your alternatives, ensure that you have your requirements at the front of your mind. If things end up becoming increasingly complex, inefficient or simply no longer meet the main goal of the introduction of new software, then that solution is probably not going to be the best option.
Scenario 3 – You’ve found a potential solution but the price isn’t sustainable in the long-run
You may come across a software solution that can meet all your requirements, but there’s still one major question, can you sustain the ongoing costs?
Here you will need to assess how much your current process is costing you per month and per year (most likely in labour costs) and compare this to the pricing options for your shortlisted solutions. It’s important to understand how long it would take for someone to manually execute this process including the time of all supporting staff members, so that you can have a more quantitative idea of your actual current costs to make comparisons easier and more realistic.
Generally if the new proposed solution overall costs (software costs + new labour costs) are less than your current costs, then it’s a pretty straightforward decision where it makes sense to proceed.
However, it is always important to also consider whether you’re still getting the best value possible. With the new solution, are you paying for a lot of other features but really only need one feature? Could you develop something uniquely yours and specific to your business for cheaper in the long run?
If the new proposed solution is either above or near your current labour spend, you should definitely explore and consider the possibility of implementing custom software that focuses just on your key requirements with the aim to optimise your spend. This can not only reduce your costs further, but potentially improve the efficiency of the process further too as a custom solution can be designed to exactly match requirements instead of taking the approach of ‘close enough is good enough’.
So what if after all this you aren’t able to come to an optimum solution? That’s where scenario 4 comes into play.
Scenario 4 – No off-the-shelf software fits your requirements and there are no feasible ways to make any one of the products in the market work
This scenario could be the outcome of the previous scenario or if you were in the situation where you didn’t have many options for solutions at the start, this is probably where you’ve landed shortly after.
If you’ve already revisited your options from the start and are still unable to find a solution for a function that is necessary for your business and is costing you money, then the next best step would be to speak to a software specialist to learn about what it would take to develop a solution, custom to your needs.
5. Exploring custom software solutionsNow that you’ve gone through the process of:
- Understanding and documenting the requirements of the solution
- Reviewing all available off-the-shelf software options in the market
- Requesting and testing demos from your shortlist
- Assessing how these solutions meet your needs and the cost-benefits to making them work with your requirements
At Enee, we can help take your requirements and cost analysis from the previous step and design a solution tailored to your needs that is within your budget, and provide you with an estimated return on investment.
If your business is suffering and a particular process is continuously costing you money without a streamlined solution, then we would highly recommend enquiring about your options for a custom solution. Book in a time to speak with one of our software specialists to learn more about how we can help your business with a custom software solution