No matter what size business you run, you are likely to reach the point where you need business management software to help you keep on top of the demands you face. Although such software can help with a wide range of operations, from accounting to customer relationship management, it is only beneficial if you make the right choice for your business.
Mike Cockfield, managing director at Khaos Control Solutions has put together a list of the fundamental questions that will help you avoid wasting money on software that’s not suitable for your business.
What are your requirements?
Before you meet with any vendors, make sure you draw up a list of your requirements. This will make you less likely to be talked into investing in software with features you don’t need. You’ll need to speak to people in various parts of your business, so you have a good grasp of the different challenges being faced. You don’t want something important to come to light once it’s too late.
When deciding what to put on your list of requirements, consider how it will benefit your customers, directly or indirectly. It’s easy to lose sight of the customer once you start considering technical details. So, always make sure you step back and take into account whether there is a clear worthwhile customer benefit.
Also consider if technology is definitely the answer to the problem you are trying to solve. Some organisational problems simply can’t be solved by software and may need a different approach, like changing working practices. Once you’ve got your list, you can prioritise what’s most important to you and what would simply be nice to have. It is also a good idea to think about how you will measure the return on investment.
What is the long term vision for your business?
Technology can quickly become outdated, especially if you work in a fast-paced industry, like retail, so you need to think about your long-term goals. Speak to your leadership team, so you understand their future vision for the business. Do they have ambitions to grow the business and what needs to be in place to support such growth?
The software you choose should help you meet your long term goals. It should ideally be scalable, so that you can grow your business without incurring excessive additional cost. You should therefore expand your list of requirements to take into account the future goals of your business.
Is your business ready for the change?
Sometimes, even though you may recognise that changes need to be made, your business might not be ready. This could be the case for all manner of reasons. There may be no clear long term vision for the business, which could make investing in new software risky.
Or, perhaps investing in advanced new software would signify a huge leap for your business, so you need some time to get support from your colleagues, especially the decision makers.
Simply introducing software without support from colleagues, particularly those who will be using it, can leave employees feeling demoralised. So, be sure to get them engaged in the process early on, so they understand what you are trying to achieve and support it. Consider the level of technical expertise staff who will use the software will need and if some job roles might need to change.
Depending on how technologically advanced your business is, you may also find that the infrastructure you have can’t cope with advanced software. If you are planning on using a hybrid of cloud and on-site software for example, you’ll need a reliable internet connection.
While the right business management software can be invaluable, rushing the decision can be a mistake. It is certainly worth doing some preliminary work so you can make a well informed decision.