Spending on enterprise software has more than doubled in the last 10 years according to statistics on worldwide IT spend, so the chances are that if you’re not already in the middle of software procurement, you’re thinking about it. The selection process may seem arduous, but it’s important to get it right, as it can be difficult to change or substitute a software system once you’ve committed. As you go through the specification process, some simple steps will make it much more manageable. Here are our top software selection tips for your business…
1. Define your needs
What pain points do you need the software to tackle? What are the obstacles you frequently encounter and need to remove? At this point, you might need to capture your business processes, if they aren’t already sufficiently documented. Talk to as many people as you can internally to get a full picture of the problem and what you’d like the software solution to deliver. What are your must-haves as opposed to your nice-to-haves? Triaging your needs will make finding the best fit a lot easier.
2. Set your budget early
While you might be blown away by the best-in-class software system, try to rein in your excitement by setting a realistic budget from the outset. While you might have to move it upwards to get exactly what you want, at least you know that you have a sensible starting point. Get all quotes in writing and remember to budget for onboarding, too, as well as factoring in ongoing support and future upgrade costs – you may also need to upgrade your hardware, depending on the system. You might also want to consider one system rather than two to achieve the best solution, which could have budgetary implications.
3. Give the right people a say
Ask the people who will be using the new software what they think of the options – getting their feedback now will be a plus in helping things run smoothly when you come to roll out the software further down the line.
Beyond getting feedback, the more people you involve in your final decision, the harder it may be to come to an agreement quickly. If you don’t have sole purchasing power, try to keep the numbers involved in the specification process to a select few who you know are motivated to bring the software purchase to a conclusion.
4. Create a realistic shortlist
Create a long list by researching as many software providers as you can find with products that match your needs. Once you’ve done the legwork, you can start ruling out the software that doesn’t match your budget and focusing on those options that are a good fit, based on:
- Specialising in supporting your size/type of business
- Longevity and reputation
- Product support
- Future-proofing: matching your growth plans
- Meeting your list of must-haves
- Analytics and reporting capabilities
Bear in mind that the cheapest solution may not be the best and could cost you more in failing to achieve the efficiencies you’re looking for in the long run.
5. Do the demo
The demo is your first real chance to get under the skin of the software and, while you might not be able to absorb the finer points of all the features within an hour, you’ll certainly start to get a feel for the UX. Throughout this process, keep thinking about the people who will be using the software day-to-day – how intuitive is it, how clear is the interface and is it easy to navigate, create reports and extract data?
6. Look at the add-ons
Even if you don’t have the budget for all the bells and whistles right now, you’ll want to check that the software’s scalable and to have the option to upgrade for extra features if the software proves its worth. Think ahead to what you might need in two or more years’ time – you don’t want to be in the situation where you’re struggling to hit your business goals because of your software’s limitations.
7. Check compatibility with your existing software
Will the system integrate easily with the software you’re already using across the business? While some software may even sit within the same ERP stack (an SAP supplier portal being one such example), other systems may be less straightforward to join up. While you’re getting into the detail, don’t forget to ask about software security so you can check that the software won’t place your data at risk. If you have an information security officer, get them involved, too.
8. Choose your implementation service provider
Choosing your software is only the start, so make sure that you get a clear steer on how implementation will be carried out, and any extra costs. Get some referrals from your software vendor if they aren’t able to offer implementation themselves to ensure that you benefit from experienced consultancy advice as you get the software up and running. Consider speaking to the implementation service provider to check their costs and availability before you sign off on the deal – you’ll want to find someone who can work to your timeline and it may be hard to find the right expertise if the recommended provider can’t help.