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Choosing the right software application

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Steps to choosing software that is right for your business

 

Choosing the right software application in business is not a quick or easy process. Many small business owners and managers know they need a new system but are put off by the number of competing products, the amount of time needed to evaluate each one, or a fear of choosing the wrong solution. We know you can’t afford to make a mistake, in small businesses we just don’t have resources to spare, so it’s important to get it right first time.
Following these  steps to software selection will help you make a good decision when choosing software for your small business!
 
 
Published on 24 Jan 2022

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Choosing the right software application in business

1.   Know your objective

This first step in Choosing the right software application   for your business is knowing what you want the software to do.

You cannot be successful in your software search unless you know what you are looking for!

We can often break this down into three areas:

  • Know the process. What must the system do?
  • Know the pain points. What problems must the new solution solve?
  • Know it’s value. What would a solution be worth? Can you quantify the strategic benefits of the new system, or the costs savings, or the time savings?

It is import to involve your team early on. Bring in anyone who will be dealing with the system at this point. They will know better than anyone the problems associated with the current way of working. They’ll also need reassuring that the new system will actually be better than the current way of working. The best way to calm those fears is to ensure that their needs make it into the requirements list.

2.   Create a list of software requirements

 

Having established why you need the software, it is time to get a bit more specific. If you have a large team, it may be worth involving just a few “champions” for this stage. It is important that everyone has a voice, but trying to involve every individual is not manageable. Ask for a few volunteers to help you define the system requirements. These “champions” should be regular system users, be well liked and assertive enough to speak up in group discussions.

With your champions, you’ll want to put together a comprehensive list of requirements for the new system. If you find discussions getting off track, focus on the purpose of the system that you set in step 1.

Important requirements to capture are:

  • Functional requirements – what do you need the software to do. It is easy to take things for granted at this stage, so take your time and list everything.
  • Usability requirements.  By “usability” I mean ease-of-use. Think carefully and honestly about the skillset of your own team.  Are they going to be comfortable using a command-line tool, are they used to navigating using keyboard shortcuts, or are they mousers? These criteria are difficult to articulate, but don’t lose track of them!
  • Technological preferences.  Do you want a cloud-based system or on-premises?  Windows or Mac?  Should the data be housed in a SQL Server instance, or Oracle? You get the idea.
  • Budgetary requirements. Using the work we did in step 1, now set a budget. What can you afford to pay, and what is the system worth to your business? At what price would the system actually save you money – i.e. provide you with a Return on Investment (ROI)?
  • Reporting requirements.  Will you need reports from the system? If so, what needs to be included? Should these be emailed to you, or presented as dashboards?
  • Scalability.  What volumes do you currently experience? Do you expect these volumes to rise over the next 2 to 5 years?
  • Vendor requirements. Record any requirements of the supplier themselves. Perhaps this includes the vendor’s roadmap for future development, current user volumes, years in business, or support response times.

Now go through the requirements and rank them on a scale from “Fundamental” to “Nice to have”. Unfortunately, it is unlikely you’ll find an off-the-shelf package that hits every one of your criteria, so think now about which ones you’d be happy to compromise over

Choosing the right software application in business

3.   Start searching for relevant applications

 

At this point, you want to create a long list of all possible software packages. It’s best to put them into a spreadsheet, ready for comparing later. At this point though, don’t waste time evaluating the systems, just list them all out.

Of course, you could search Google (https://www.google.com/)for the type of system you need. Remember though that Google’s ranking is not an indication of how good the software is! Just because the company’s marketers are good at their jobs – and can get their website at the top of Google’s results page – doesn’t mean the system will be a good fit for you!=

If you work in a niche industry, you may also find supplier listings in a trade magazine or website.

4.   Start excluding solutions

 

Now that you have your (very) long list of contenders, it’s time to start whittling it down.

Your aim in this step is to identify unsuitable entries as quickly as possible. There is no point wasting time evaluating a system that will ultimately turn out to be unsuitable.  To do this go through the list one at a time and concentrate on a few simple criteria from your requirements list.  A good place to start is with:

  • Technology preferences. If it only works on Macs and you are on Windows, great, that’s one less to look at. If it is on-premises, and you’re looking for a cloud-based solution – cross it off the list.
  • Budget. If it is too expensive, make a note of the price and move on.

You can quickly exclude systems on these two criteria without wasting time on demos or trials. Ideally, you’ll end up with a short list of between say, 5 and 10 software systems.

If your list is still too long, then identify a few criteria from your “Fundamental” criteria that may be unique or unusual and reassess the remaining contenders using these. What classifies as “Unique” criteria will depend on your needs. From your list so far, you’ll probably have a good idea of what an average system looks like. Look for one of your requirements that is not included in the average offering. This process should shorten your list to a more manageable size.

A word of warning though; it is worth making a note on your spreadsheet of why you’ve discounted each package. If your requirements then change, you can re-include them later. For example, you may have to increase your budget later in the process, and you’ll want to re-evaluate any system that falls inside your new budget.

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5.   Start trialling your selected software

 

This is the most time-consuming part of the process. Because it takes time, you need to be smart about your evaluation process. Concentrate on assessing the software against your criteria. Don’t get side-tracked in to looking at all the features, just the ones that you have already identified that you need.

requirements matrix will help with this. To create a requirements matrix in a spreadsheet, list all your short-listed solutions down the first column, and all your requirements across the first row. Then tick off the requirements as you evaluate each solution!

Trialling software is the best way of assessing it against your usability criteria. Whereas a demonstration from the vendor is the best way of assessing functional and reporting requirements. Ideally get both. Start with the demonstration and then take out a trial.

When arranging a demonstration, make sure the demonstrator knows your functional requirements. They can then demonstrate just the functions that are relevant to you. It may be useful to provide a script so that each vendor demonstrates the same functions in the same order. This’ll make it easier for you to compare systems.

If you are comfortable with the functionality of a product, then concentrate on usability during your trial. 

Make some notes, and take screen shots during your trial. Once you’ve tried two or three systems they will blur into one! I found it useful to take screen shots of the same functions in each system and then drop them into a Word document. Don’t forget to label your screenshots so you know which system is which.

Conclusion

 

As businesses get more complex, manual processes and systems become increasingly error-prone and risky, not to mention expensive and slow. Software Technology can help automate, streamline, and refine, giving valuable team members the space they need to do meaningful, high-value work.

Getting buy-in for it, buying the right tool, and then seeing that business impact, though, is far from simple. 

Hopefully though, with these steps, you will move toward your business goals by building and then executing your technology assessment plan and choosing the right software for your business. From here, your next steps are to pursue the specific software you need to procure, document detailed requirements, evaluate vendors, and negotiate the paperwork. Once you select a vendor, embark on a consultative, collaborative approach to design and other steps for implementation. Remember that successful technology implementation requires a broader focus on process and organizational design. To achieve business value, consider how the software and technology change will drive changes in your metrics and support models.Get our free EBook on leveraging IT solutions for your Business:

https://cybatechsolutions.com.au/free-ebook-consult/

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