Every business requires hardware — computers, printers, and internet routers — as well as software. Business software comes in all shapes and sizes, from accounting tools to employee engagement platforms.
Not every software is right for every business. So how’s a business leader to decide?
The answer boils down to how well a program suits your company’s needs. But there are a few things every business leader should look for in every software:
Does it Integrate With Existing Systems?
The first thing to think about is whether the software will work seamlessly with what you already have in place. Take call center software: If you use a CRM system, make sure call notes can be easily integrated with the other data you keep on your customers.
Take time to do your research. Don’t be afraid to call if you can’t find integration information on the provider’s site. If a program would add an extra step to your workflow, then it probably isn’t the right fit.
Does it Add Work or Remove Work?
With that said, this question isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. While you may be tempted to choose a program that advertises immediate workload reductions, look a little deeper.
If the software you’re considering takes time and effort to implement, but increases efficiency over time, then it may be worth the investment. On the other hand, something easy to implement that will need to be swapped out as your business grows likely isn’t worth it.
Is it Accessible?
Even as younger generations enter the workforce, employees will always have varying comfort levels with tech. Make sure any new software you bring in is accessible by everyone who might need to use it. Anything that comes with instructions only your IT team understands is not a good fit.
Beyond ease of use, you also need to think about home-based use of the software. While some companies are fully back in the office after the shift to remote work this spring, others are not.
Consider whether employees will be able to use the software from their current workspace. If the program requires a state-of-the-art graphics card, employees working from home on older computers may be out of luck.
How Many People Will Use It?
Another key consideration is how many members of your team will use the software. If the software will be used department- or company-wide, make sure what you’re choosing is up to the task. Some are made to be used by large numbers of people; others are not.
Many SaaS programs limit the number of users at each price point. Plan not just for current users, but for your future growth.
If you know you’ll be hiring a half dozen new account managers this quarter, then you might make sense to step up to the next tier. Plus, you’ll likely get other features you wouldn’t at the lower price point.
Will You Need Vendor Support?
Vendor support is a hidden cost you may not think about when purchasing software. While support is sometimes included in the sticker price, it’s not a guarantee. Work with your IT department to determine if additional or external tech support will be necessary.
You may need extra assistance during the initial setup phase but use it less over time. Consider a short-term contract with the vendor so you’re not stuck paying for support you no longer need.
Will You See a Return on Investment?
Software has upfront and, in most cases, recurring costs. To determine whether the program will be a cost sink or a cost saver, figure out how long it will be before the benefits outweigh those costs.
When it comes to software, the adage “You need to spend money to make money” applies. An expensive solution may be worth it if, say, it encourages more customers to book appointments. A cheap one might not make sense if it doesn’t add value for your team.
Does it Have Long-Term Potential?
Switching out your tools every month isn’t a smart idea. When choosing software for your company, think about the long game. Invest in something that’s worth taking hours to train your team to use.
Another factor when evaluating software’s timeline for use is the vendor’s support horizon. If it’s an older program that the vendor plans to stop supporting in six months, then look elsewhere. Even a rock-bottom price point isn’t worth risking a data breach.
How Will it Reflect on My Brand?
State-of-the-art software is a selling point with customers. Just look at how many ads you see that claim a product or service is “infused with AI.”
Remember, this cuts both ways. While using capable software can be a selling point, cutting corners with low-budget software doesn’t go over well with customers. Think about what’s in your budget, and invest in the best tools you can afford. Good tools tend to pay for themselves.
Choosing the right software for your business is a challenge. Many programs that appear similar are actually quite different under the hood.
There’s no “right” option for every business. But by asking yourself the questions in this article, you’ll make a good choice more often than not.