I’m willing to bet that if you’re running a business in 2022, you’re using technology and software to get things done (in fact, you’re likely using a number of them). Technology has evolved to a point where it can help automate so many different things, rarely is there a task that tech doesn’t help with. I’m willing to make another bet - that the use of technology and software in your business is only going to deepen and become more vital to your strategy.
Let’s be honest, there are SO MANY different software, technologies, platforms, apps, widgets, doodads, and whatchamacallits to choose from to help run your business. And now more than ever, your choice in using tech can have a serious impact on your business success. Choose wrong, and you could be facing frustration, financial loss, and a bunch of wasted time. To ensure that you pick the best tech for your business, you need to be thoughtful and strategic.
So, how exactly do you make the right choice? Below are six steps you can use to select software that’s best for your business.
6 Steps to Select Software For Your Business
1. Align with Company Objectives
Stephen R. Covey outlines an essential point we can leverage when understanding this first step. In his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he tells us that we have to “Begin with the End in Mind.” In summary, he says that for every goal you plan to achieve, the end goal will determine the rest of the process and what steps to take. This is also true about software selection.
When selecting your tool, the first step is to reflect on your businesses’ vision, values, and goals. You need to consider how the software and technology can support these goals. Start the process by asking yourself questions like:
- What are my business objectives for the quarter (and year)?
- How can software and technology help achieve these objectives?
- Are there any risks, fears, or doubts that the software can help reduce?
- Who are those making the final decision on selection (the stakeholders)?
Your answers will confirm if implementing a piece of software aligns with objectives. Also, knowing the end goal of your business can guarantee that you are making the best decision.
2. Consider the Business Case
Once you have established that a piece of software aligns with your company objectives, the next step is to define a business case. The essential items you should consider when doing this include:
- Measurement of success (KPIs - Key Performance Indicators)
- Change impacts
- Major risks and assumptions
- Members of the project team
A well-defined business case gives your software selection project a solid structure. This will prevent you from straying away from your business needs.
At this point in the process, I recommend you make a simple ‘Go or No Go’ decision. Ask yourself the following two questions (which are answered by completing steps 1 and 2):
- Does using a piece of software align with our company vision and objectives?
- Do we have the budget, time, and resources to undertake the project?
If you answer ‘No’ to any of these questions, you should reconsider if implementing software makes sense at this time. But if you answer ‘Yes’ to both, then let’s move on to step 3!
3. Build the List of Requirements
You’ve confirmed that software aligns with your objectives and you have a solid business case. So, what’s next? It is time to define your list of requirements. This step will help specify what the software must do.
For the requirements, you will have to get very specific. You’ll need to define the functional, non-functional, and technical requirements. However, the most important requirement is what we like to call the ‘Signature Requirements.’
Signature requirements are non-negotiable and the highest priority. Any software you choose must meet these signature requirements or it will not be useful to your business. Examples of these requirements can include cost, integrations, security, and completing specific use cases.
Once you define the signature requirements or ‘need to haves,’ it’s time to expand your thinking. To do this, you can include some other ‘nice to have’ requirements. Examples can include a solid user experience, a strong knowledge base, and device compatibility (mobile, PC, and Mac). When building this list of nice-to-have requirements, you should consider listing them from low to high priority. This guarantees that you give each requirement the appropriate consideration.
Finally, building this list of requirements needs to be collaborative. Every necessary team member needs to provide their input in the selection process. We recommend conducting stakeholder interviews to ensure the right voices are heard. This involves meeting the key people in your business and asking them relevant questions. Understanding their perspectives on what they need the software to do is key to building a well-rounded point of view.
4. Create a ‘Long List’ and ‘Short List’ of Vendors
Now that you have defined the specific requirements, it is time to narrow in on software vendors who are fit for the job. To do this, we recommend creating two lists of vendors, the ‘long list’ and ‘short list.’
The long list is a list of 10-15 potential vendors that meet all the general requirements. You can use G2 and Capterra to help you start building this list. Some information you’ll want to look out for during your research and curation are:
- Software pricing
- Industry Specificity
- Business size (small, medium, or large businesses).
Basically, the long list aims to get a ‘taste’ of the different ‘flavors’ out there for your software needs. You do not have to waste time digging too deep into all the vendor or software specifications here because all you need is general knowledge. Once your long list is ready and you are comfortable with all the available software options, it’s time to choose your top 3 vendors.
To build your short list, compare all the vendors against your signature requirements. Any vendor that doesn’t meet a signature requirement can be automatically eliminated. For example, if the cost of one solution is a lot higher than your budget, you can instantly cross it off the list. The goal here is to use these ‘need to have’ requirements as a strict filter.
5. Software Deep Dive and Demos
Now that you finally have a list of your top 3 vendors, it is time to deep dive into each and conduct product demonstrations. How do you achieve this? We recommend doing research on each vendor and making notes on their features compared to your requirements.
During your research, you should check out each vendor’s customer support, video tutorials, and knowledge bases. If available, sign up for their free trial to get familiar with the tool. These tests will present more insight into whether the software meets your business needs.
In this step, you’ll also want to consider product demonstrations. Take time to meet with the vendor software team and let them walk you through the product. During the demonstrations, always keep your signature requirements in mind. Ask the demonstrator to prove specific cases you need the software to handle for your business. You must ensure that the software meets your need-to-have requirements.
6. Select the Software
Usually, the demonstration stage is a lot of fun. You’re likely to feel ecstatic and rush to conclude the best software based on a gut feeling. But please be careful! Go back to your list of requirements to check that the momentary gut feeling you have about the software matches your actual business needs.
Use the information you’ve gathered in your deep dive and the demonstrations to score each vendor against the list of requirements. This will ensure you compare the software against your company's established needs rather than that gut feeling.
Imaginary drum roll, please. Now that you have scored your top three vendors, it’s time to unveil the winner. Of course, the vendor with the highest point is the winner. Now you can proceed to implementing your software.
It is vital to follow this process and keep your business needs at the center of the selection process. You will feel confident knowing you’ve done your research and that you've chosen the best software for your business.
Do you need help selecting the software for your business? Reach out to Second Spring Digital to see how we can help.