Business Software Selection: The Discovery Process
You need software to run your business efficiently, but with so many software programs on the market today, how do you know which one is right for you?
If you run a quick Google search, you’ll find “Top 10 lists” in a multitude of business software categories:
- Accounting software programs
- Customer relationship management software
- Email marketing software
- Shipping software
- Invoicing software
- And the list goes on and on and on….
Just looking at CRM software, you can see just how many options there are!
With so many options available, we recommend working with technology experts (like us!) to get clarity about what you really need. Otherwise, you can get blinded by fancy features that you don’t need – or compromise with a solution you’ll outgrow too quickly.
We work with clients every day to help them find the right small business software. Here’s how the process works.
The business software selection process
First of all, we offer a totally free, no-pressure Explore the Possibilities discovery call for anyone looking to work with us. We’ll spend 30-minutes or so getting to know you and your business challenges.
If you want us to do a more in-depth software selection discovery process, we can help you find the right software that is the best fit for you today and meets your future plans, and meshes well with other departments and other software applications you use. This project can be quick or more in-depth, depending on your unique situation.
Clients have REPEATEDLY told us that the software selection discovery process is money well spent. Implementing software that doesn’t fit your needs is painful – and expensive. We’ll work within your budget to make appropriate recommendations.
STEP 1: Understanding your needs and your business.
Before engaging an IT Consulting firm – us or anyone else – start to ask yourself questions like:
- Who will use the system?
- Why do we need this software?
- What data needs to be collected? Where is this data?
- Do we have other systems that do part of this process?
- Are we willing to change our processes to fit a new system? Or would we rather customize a system to fit our business processes?
- What’s our budget for this? Can we expect an ROI on this technology investment (or is it a foundational cost of doing business?)
- Are we already “committed” to an IT infrastructure / solution set that would be best to continue (Google, Microsoft, Linux, SAP, etc.)?
While you may be able to answer many of these questions on your own, as your business technology advisor, we bring an outsider’s objective perspective. Our work with clients exposes us to a broader array of business and technical challenges, and can help you avoid mistakes others have made by:
- Knowing what other companies have done in similar situations
- Finding simpler solutions
- Understanding “marketed features” vs. “actual functionality” to avoid surprises
- Making sure you have the resources to manage and maintain the system
- Think of items you might never consider (ex: technical compatibility, overlapping functions, security, speed, etc.)
STEP 2: Understanding your software options
Once we know what you need, the next step is investigate software options. The choices are to:
- Find commercial-off-the-shelf packaged software (like QuickBooks) that works out of the box.
- If no commercially available software fits your needs, we may recommend software development as an approach to meets your unique needs.
- The third option is to take a hybrid approach. Using software you already have or would buy, we may recommend the purchase of add-ons or build integrations to meet your specific needs. To integrate or extend an application, you’d want to verify that the software you buy has SDK or API extensibility.
Commercial software – pros and cons
Custom software – pros and cons
STEP 3. Make a recommendation
Which approach is right for you?
I know you hate to hear that, but it’s true.
The last step of the discovery process is to give you our professional recommendations, and answer questions you have about the tradeoffs among your options.
In theory, the commercially available off-the-shelf software is the simplest solution. If we can find software that fits your requirements, we can help you get started right away with the purchase and implementation. Most software programs offer some options for configuration (like whether you want to use cash basis or accrual accounting for revenue recognition in QuickBooks). You may be able to do this yourself, or you may want help with the setup.
The catch with commercially available software is that you may need to change your business processes to work the way the software works, which means training employees on the new system.
If you love your current software, but you just wish it had this one extra feature… or would like to create a workflow to automate sending data to another system, we might be able to help you find it or build it. Commercial software often has upgrade and add-on options that offer just what you need. If not, we can custom develop one. This way, you keep the software features that work and change those that don’t work, creating exactly what you need.
If none of these options are cutting it, we can build a custom software application. This could be a small, one-screen system or a significant multi-year project. If we decide to go down the road of software development or software customization, the next step would be to create a Software Development Blueprint, which we’ll explain in more detail in a later post.
Need help selecting software?
Let our IT consultants help! Our clients tell us they choose to work with us because:
- We are software agnostic, focused on what fits your needs, not what makes us the most money.
- If we can’t find an off-the-shelf software solution that meets your needs, we can do the software development.
- We have the expertise. In our 20+ years, we’ve seen the IT infrastructure and software systems of hundreds of businesses.
- We’re a right-sized small business, neither a one-man band, nor a huge IT consultancy. Our services are personalized to fit your needs. Our prices and policies are fair.
- We’re committed to helping you achieve your business goals with greater efficiency and less frustration.
Book an Explore the Possibilities call today! 586-263-1775
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between off the shelf and customizable software?
Off the shelf software will be available at major retailers to purchase ready to go. They will include common needs, but possibly not all. Customizable software is a software that can be created based on your own business’ needs.
How do I choose a software that’s right for me?
Three Steps to choosing a software:
1. Write down all business needs
2. Search your software options (this may introduce a need for an IT Consultant)
3. Decide if off-the-shelf, customizable, or creating a new software is right for you
What software is the cheapest?
Any off-the-shelf software is going to be cheaper than a custom software or creating a new program. You may need to pay extra for add-ons as well as support once you’ve already purchased the software, making it more expensive in the long run.
What are pros of a custom software?
Custom software advantages:
+Can provide a strong competitive advantage
+You are in control of the features
+Often simpler to use
+New features can be added over time
+Your development and support teams get to know your business well
+Modern software development platforms are well-supported and well-documented