There are many obstacles to getting a great match on business software. The biggest obstacle is the huge number of software options in the market today. With a huge pool of software to choose from, it is easy to get duped by unscrupulous software developers. Another notable obstacle is the ambiguity of software features, which makes the process of vetting different software quite tedious. It is almost impossible to find one software that emphatically checks all your boxes of preferences. That’s why many new software buyers settle for a compromise and live to regret that decision.
For starters, software that fails to meet your business needs satisfactorily will have serious negative implications on your workflow, time, and finances. The software will slow down your work, damage your reputation, and hurt your profitability. That will eventually force you to go back to the market and start over. We don’t want you to make such a costly error when buying your first business software. That’s why we have shared 5 tactics that will boost your odds of getting the perfect software match and hitting a home run in your first attempt.
1. Analyze and Prioritize Your Business Needs
Before contacting any software developer, it’s important that you first understand the issues you need the software to solve. Clearly define the irreducible minimums with regards to the benefits that you want the software to bring to your business’ efficiency and profitability. When you’re clear on what your business needs, you cannot fall for the promotional jargon and fancy features that software developers use to confuse buyers.
Analyzing your business needs isn’t a one-day or one-person affair. You will make the best possible analysis and conclusion upon consulting, among others:
- Ordinary Staff Members: These people are involved in the day-to-day running of your business. These are the people who will be using the new software. They are the wearers of the shoe, so they know where it pinches. You can’t change the shoe without consulting the wearer because you might end up with an expensive solution that nobody uses.
- Your IT Guys: These ones know everything there is to know about the existing tech infrastructure and its vulnerabilities. They will help you map out the problems that your software should solve. What’s more, your IT guys most likely have a pretty reliable understanding of the best solutions in the market.
- Department Managers: Managers have sufficient knowledge of the overall workflow process in their respective departments. They know the existing weaknesses and have valuable ideas of the solutions needed to address the weaknesses. They will help you find software that responds to everyone’s expectations.
2. Do You Really Need New Software for the Problems You’ve Mapped Out?
Sadly, many business owners are too thrilled by the idea of owning a fancy-looking software solution that they buy new tools that they don’t need. Don’t forget about the tools that you already have just because there is a seemingly better option in the market. Evaluate these tools first and answer these questions:
- Are your employees using your current software to its maximum capacity? Have you trained them sufficiently to optimally exploit the possibilities that the current tools offer?
- Of the problems you need the new software to solve, is there a possibility that some of them could actually be solved with a few tweaks to the current software?
- Which of your current tools (or employees) will be rendered redundant after you acquire the new salon software and what financial implications will that precipitate? If some employees will become redundant, what implication will that have on your business culture, employee morale, and your bottom line?
- You may have to move data from the old software to the new one. This process can be costly and time-consuming, not forgetting that data migration can leave you with extremely scattered information. With that in mind, do you still want the new software? Will it be a worthy risk to take or would you rather take your chances with your existing tools?
- If you use multiple tools for managing different departments in your company, would it be a better idea to get one comprehensive software that replaces all your current tools without hurting efficiency?
3. What Do You require the Software to Be/Have/Do?
By now, you have established why you need the new software. You have even explored the option of not buying the new software and, as a better alternative, updating/optimizing the tools you already have. That means you cannot be overly excited with the promotional material that software developers throw your way. It is time to get a bit more specific now on the features you want the new software to have and what it must do. Work with a team of regular system users to define these specifics. Some of the things you have to specify include:
- How usable do you want the software to be, particularly with respect to the skillsets in your team? How computer literate are your staff members?
- What are your budgetary requirements? How much can you afford to pay upfront? How much would you be willing to pay as monthly charges? What are your expectations with regards to Return on Investment (ROI)?
- Which functional requirements must the software have – what exactly do you need the software to do? If, for example, you want it to manage your inventory, which tracking or reporting features must it have? If you intend to use it for managing clients, which appointment/checkout/database/scheduling features must it have?
- Technological preferences. For example, would you prefer an on-premise software or a cloud-based system? Do you want software that’s compatible with smartphones or just computers? Do you want it to be compatible with Windows, Mac, or both?
- Scalability requirements. How big is your customer base now and, judging from your recent growth stats, what volumes will you be experiencing in 2 years’ time, for example? How do you expect your workforce to grow over the next 2 years? With that in mind, how scalable do you need your new software to be?
- How dependable do you want the software vendor to be? What reputation do you want the vendor to have? What about the size of their client base? Do you care about their roadmap for future development? Do you care about their support response times?
4. Don’t Drill Down at First, Start With a Broad Search
Now that you know exactly what you want, it is time to go to the market and search for your ideal software. However, be careful not to drill down or get overly specific from the onset. Drilling down right away only limits your options. You’d rather start with a broad search, explore your alternatives, seek out reviews by verified users, and evaluate different trends. While at it, evaluate the number of reviews that each available software has received over the last few months to eliminate highly-rated but outdated software. Evaluate whether the reviews you see online are from users with whom you share business values or who have/had run into problems similar to yours. This entire process will give you an invaluable ground-level perspective of your to-be software.
5. Request a Demo as You Weigh Your Options
Create a shortlist of about 3 software that you think will offer you the best business solutions and then contact their developers for demos. Make sure that the demos capture real-life business scenarios and give real-life examples of how you can use the software to gain an edge over your competitors. Most importantly, request the developers to validate their software through testing it with your own business workflow to see how suitable it is in real scenarios.
Before you pay for what you consider to be the most suitable software:
- Review the functionality of the software with your IT team and then with the rest of the team.
- Make sure that, on top of having an easy onboarding process, the vendor provides sufficient support throughout the process for a smooth transition.
- If you find a solution that fits, go ahead and pay for it.
- If the best you could find is a solution that fits most of your requirements and misses just a few, consider the option of buying a supplementary solution.
- If you cannot find a good supplementary solution, consider tweaking parts of existing business processes to suit the new software without hurting your productivity and profitability.
If you cannot find a comprehensive solution for your requirements, consider hiring a software specialist to develop a custom solution for you.