As an entrepreneur, I grew up in the software world. I’ve spent my entire adult life starting, growing businesses, so I’ve seen firsthand that these 5 steps make a critical difference in a company’s long-term growth path.
When it comes to choosing business software, most of us don’t have sufficient training or experience to ensure success. Software selection is not a subject you can take in college, nor is it something shippable-inventory based businesses often think about. Perhaps this is why I’ve heard horror stories of companies wasting thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on transitioning to an off-the-shelf software or developing their own proprietary software, just to see it all fail.
So here it is your software selection 101 class, that will help you choose business software in 5 logical steps…and then not fail at implementing it.
The most important step and one that most fail at is the development of a structure for their selection. Here is a proven 5 step structure that makes all the difference when you use it:
1. Create a Company Profile: No, don’t start by looking at software reviews, that’s step 5. Start by creating a document about your company and its operations as they are today. This could include the company’s history, day-to-day processes, products, customers, business model, and current software programs used. This step will put you in the right mindset to complete step 2.
2. Define Current Challenges/Needs: Now, write down the challenges you face and are hoping to address with this software. Let’s say you are looking for the best ERP software, or the best inventory management software. In this case it could be anything from adding more automation to opening up more sales channels by offering online catalog and e-commerce options to your clients. Here are some of the most typical challenges/needs I’ve come across in the ERP and inventory management worlds worlds:
Make sure when you make your list that you check internally with others who will use or be affected by the software so that you don’t miss important needs!
3. Rate Challenges & Needs into Must-haves and Nice-to-have: Create an excel sheet and list all of the challenges/needs you listed along with the features and expectations you have to meet each. List each feature or expectation on one row underneath each challenge/need. Make sure to rate each as a “must-have” or a “nice-to-have.” It’s highly unlikely that you will find an absolutely ideal solution that has everything you’re looking for feature-by-feature. The goal here is to get as close to it as possible. The must-haves are not to be compromised. That’s the rule! Again, make sure you show your list of features and expectations with your ratings to others. Get their feedback now otherwise you risk surprises or lack of support from others in your company when it comes time to demo or implement your new software.
4. Advice from your Professional Network: Hopefully, you have a network of professionals you know from work or on Linkedin that you can reach out to for advice.. If you’re looking for the best inventory management software you might talk to others in any industry with inventory. If you’re looking for the best ERP software (A more complex solution) then you may want to only get advice from others in your industry or who match your business size or model. Talk to your community and pay attention to their success and failure stories. Trust me you want to hear about both! Use this advice to evaluate your list of challenges/needs as well as your list of features/expectations and how you have rated each. If your network recommends or warns you about specific software, take note of that as well.
5. Approach the Internet Gods…and yes look at software reviews: Now it’s time to start searching for and creating a list of potential solutions. Start with those recommended by your co-workers or professional network. Then get specific with your keywords when going to the search engines. Make each search is broad enough to cover your must-have features. Create a list of your top five software options by adding them to your excel sheet. Record their pricing model, features, software reviews, and the first impression you had from what you saw. Then, schedule demos or create trial accounts and evaluate the system. Be sure to write notes about your findings during this process so you can keep it all straight later.
So if you are looking for the best ERP software then you will now need to analyze your list of potential solutions against your list of challenges/needs and features/expectations. Once you have your top five and their feature-list, it is time for the elimination game. Most of the time, if you have an elaborate must-have list, you’ll find two or three software choices will fall short and naturally eliminate themselves. The only appropriate step from here is to consider the next most important factor, which is the quality of the support you’ll receive during and after your implementation. Give this one a good and hard look. I like to give each contender a score between 1 and 10. If one falls below 6, it gets eliminated, unless of course, you’re sure you won’t need software training and support.
By this time, you’re most likely left with one or two options. If you have more than one option, try scoring them based on their nice-to-have features. Should you find yourself in a perfect competition between the last couple of software programs, you’re safe to use the pricing as your deciding factor.
Everything you’ve done so far was to bring you to this step. Go ahead, trust yourself. If you’ve taken the logical steps mentioned above, it’s highly likely that you have the right answer. If you’ve been evaluating inventory management software, and you’ve found a match for your must have features/expectations, then you will be putting in place something that will positively impact your bottom line right away! Pull the trigger and start strong!
In the software world, sadly, it is common for companies to invest thousands of dollars into new software only to put it aside and never fully implement it. There are two common causes of implementation failure:
If you choose business software in the way I’ve laid out your implementation and launch can be exciting and rewarding for you and your coworkers. Remember, the goal of software programs is to improve our lives by eliminating repetitive work and streamlining operations. Follow the steps above and you’re likely to become a hero at your company.
If you’re main challenges/needs revolve around finding the best inventory management software or the best ERP software, send me an email and I’d be happy to take 30 minutes on a call to help you evaluate your own list of challenges/needs as well as features/expectations!
by Daniel Radman