Are you buying new software for your organisation? Have you checked these points? The article was first published in Business & Finance on 24th March 2014 online edition. A copy is available here.
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In today’s evermore IT dependent business environment, understanding the tech needs of your business has never been more important … or more confusing.
10 years ago, the IT options available to businesses were very limited. A small selection of big brands such as Microsoft and IBM were the preferred supplier for practically all Irish companies. Of course, there were the small few who had the finances to invest in bespoke software development, but they were few and far between.
Today, the challenge is filtering through the thousands of similar products to find the one that is most appropriate to you.
So how can you find the most suitable software products for your business. The ones that will help you streamline your service and processes and ultimately lead to a better more profitable business?
Below are five considerations that apply to practically any piece of software you might want to introduce into your company.
Budget vs Cost
Often the biggest factor for SMEs, the huge difference in pricing among products will often dictate your choice. Choosing software with a big price tag doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best option for your situation. Equally, there are many completely free open source products, that are just as good if not better than proprietary software, but they may not be what you need. Ideally, you want software that fulfils your business’s needs without going over budget.
Features You Need/Don’t Need
This should be the dictating factor in the software you select. Every business is different and while the features of a certain software product may work great for one business, there’s a good chance they’ll be useless to another. Ask yourself what you really need and go with a product that adequately handles tasks without needless extras. For example, if you’re a used car sales company, you may require a CRM that allows you to store pictures of cars as well as their features, history of service, NCT details as well as any previous accidents etc. While if you’re an insurance provider then perhaps contact management, communication management, quote management and claim management are more important.
Ease of Integration
Why is this important? To put it simply, inefficient integration of your software can be counterproductive. So much so that it can actually make operations more complicated. For example if you’re using a software system like Microsoft Excel or Outlook, it’s important that the product you choose can adapt, which generally means buying more Microsoft products. However, this also applies to cloud apps like Google Drive and Dropbox. Although your software doesn’t need to match your operation model exactly, it should be relatively similar in order to compliment your operations.
Ease of Customisation
Your business is forever changing – industry trends, number of employees, company processes and so forth are forever evolving. Because of this it’s important to have some wiggle room with your software. Before you pick a platform be sure to ask just how customisable it is. That way if your needs change in the future, or your business experiences growth, the software can adapt. This is an area where open source software really stands out as the preferred choice of a growing number of businesses. It can be easily adapted to suit your departmental or company needs, at a relatively low cost.
The most important factor here is that you opt for a software vendor with a positive reputation and proven track record. The last thing you want to deal with is setbacks from a vendor shutting down or discontinuing updates on the software you’ve just purchased. Very often proprietary software developers, like Apple and Microsoft, will discontinue a software package once it’s no longer financially viable for them. The risk of this is lower with open source products but it is essential to look into their background and reputation before making a final choice.
One perfect example is Microsoft Windows XP. The product support was discontinued by Microsoft but had it been an open source product, you could have continued to grow and support it with your own resources and/or an independent IT partner.