6 steps for choosing the right software for your business

For your business to grow and maximize its potential, you’ll need to invest in new software solutions that align with how you operate, enabling you to streamline processes, ensure customer satisfaction and reduce risk. Whether that’s a new CRM system, new finance software, or a new HR platform, it can be incredibly difficult to navigate the plethora of options available and choose the right software for your business.

If you feel you could be more productive or efficient with new software, it’s time to consider other options. Assessing your current setup is a good place to start. It’s important not to accept that your current setup is always ‘the way it should be just because you are used to it. Being open-minded will bring new opportunities that will boost your business performance.

It’s also key to plan ahead and select software that will future-proof your business, enabling you to stay competitive in a fast-paced world. Consider how quickly your business is growing. What capabilities will you need in the future, and will your software be able to accommodate this? Planning ahead will ensure you don’t outgrow your software prematurely, ensuring business development isn’t stifled as a result.

If you are looking to invest in new software that is aligned with the future of your business, you may be struggling to know where to begin. So, we’ve put together our seven steps for choosing the right software for your business.

Decide who needs to be involved in decision-making

Every member of your organization that will be impacted by the new software should be involved throughout the decision-making process. Additionally, there are also some external people you should consult. Here are some examples of people you need to involve:

Your employees – Everyone who will be using the software should have input in the process. It’s advisable to gather some feedback on what works well with your current software and where your team thinks new software could drive improvement.
Your managers – Managers will likely use the software slightly differently. Any new software will need to provide them with the right reporting and analysis capabilities and oversight of their team’s activities.
Your IT partner – Cyber security should be prioritized in every decision your business makes. Check with your IT partner to ensure any new software meets security standards. Likewise, bear in mind any technical considerations. Do you need to integrate your software with other tools, and can your IT provider facilitate this?
Your customers – Whilst you wouldn’t directly ask your customers about any new software you’ll be implementing, it’s crucial you have them at the forefront of every business decision. Throughout the process, consider the impact of any new software on your customers and keep them informed on any updates if necessary.
Whilst all these people will certainly not be involved in the evaluation process from start to finish, it’s important to consider all perspectives from the beginning. Involving people too late on in the process could create more problems. For example, if you ask your IT partner about security considerations after you’ve already chosen a software solution, you may end up back at square one and have to repeat the process again.

Review your processes, prioritise your needs and set your budget

When choosing the right software for your business, it’s important to first look at your existing software and processes.

Are your processes streamlined and clearly documented? The right software will help enhance productivity, but only if your processes are clearly defined. If not, you may discover weaknesses in how you operate as you’re choosing new software.

Secondly, ensure you have a clear idea of exactly what you’re looking for. Establish the pros and cons of your current software and then use this to make a list of requirements for any new software. This list should be categorized based on priority. For example, ‘Must-haves’, ‘Conditionals’, and ‘Nice-to-haves’. You can then refer to this list throughout the process to ensure you meet as many requirements as possible.

By first assessing your business needs and seeing what will fit into your current structure, you are more likely to make the right choice about what will align best with your way of working, rather than choosing something based on a shiny new feature that doesn’t end up assisting your business as much as you thought.

It’s also advisable to set a budget at this stage. Bear in mind that your budget will need to cover the price of software, implementation, training, support, and upgrade costs.

Do your research

Take your time to research your options thoroughly. Do this well in advance of any license subscriptions coming to an end to avoid making a time-pressured judgment that you may later regret. Speak to peer groups and see what other businesses in your industry are using, and what their experiences have been with different software. Check reviews and take the time to understand the way the application works before making any sort of investment.

By evaluating the alternatives comprehensively, you will be aware of what is available on the market and be able to justify your decision against other options. It will also give you greater confidence in the decision you make. You’re more likely to make the right decision if it is better researched, and therefore less likely to switch again in the future.

Get the right advice

When choosing the right software for your business, it’s advisable to seek expert advice. This can mean speaking to the companies who provide the software, as they are best placed to explain the details of the tool to you. It is, however, also worth seeking advice from your IT support partner. They will have experience in using a range of software solutions and will have used their expertise to gauge which best suits their customers. Choosing a partner who has experience in serving clients in your industry means they will have a deeper understanding of your business needs and will be better placed to advise you on the best solution.

Likewise, your IT partner will have an in-depth knowledge of your current IT setup. They will, therefore, be able to deduce how well any new software will fit into this. If you need your new software to integrate with other tools, you certainly need to get your IT provider involved to ensure it’s possible. Integrating your tools with one another will help streamline processes and boost efficiency. For example, linking your marketing software with your CRM tool is extremely important for communications and process implementation between Marketing and Sales.

Before proceeding with trialing software, bear in mind that most technology experts will advise against choosing the cheapest option purely based on price. Whilst this may save you the most money, in the long term it could damage your productivity and functionality, impacting the service you can provide to your customers. Instead, it’s advisable to invest in the most appropriate tool. This will likely help boost productivity, reduce staff frustration, and increase client satisfaction. In fact, it’s very possible that the best solution could also be the most cost-effective because it eliminates other problems and streamlines processes, whilst adding tangible value to your business. Ultimately, at Netstar we would advise you to consider cost but prioritize value.

Select the software you want to demo or trial

Once you’ve selected your shortlist of potential solutions based on your research, take part in a demo or free trial to test their capabilities for yourself. Select as many as you see appropriate, this could be anything from two to ten different options. But bear in mind, that the more you try, the more time you’ll spend on the process.

During demos or free trials, you’ll get a better idea of how much value the tool can provide your business and how they compare to one another, helping you choose the right software for your business. We recommend preparing a list of questions/criteria prior to a demo or free trial, which you can score against. This will help you decipher whether it’s the right software for your business. It’s also worth having a feedback mechanism in place for those who are testing or trialing different tools.

Following the results of these demos or free trials, you should have your top pick. You can use your research and analysis to present your choice to the final decision maker and hopefully introduce the software that’s the best fit for your business!

Train your team

You may have selected your software, but it’s not over yet! Making sure your team knows how to properly use the systems you have in place is crucial, and often overlooked. New hires don’t always receive the proper training required, and this can go unnoticed for a long time before any serious problems arise. Without being highlighted, it can erode overall team productivity and make it more difficult for employees to excel in their roles.

Many software providers will offer in-app learning and user guides that will teach you about the various features of the software and how to use them. There should also be live support available for when you or your team have a question.

Make sure you educate your team on why you selected that particular software, how it will help solve a business issue, and how they can use it most effectively. Having comprehensive user guides easily available to staff will mean everyone can get access to the information they need when they need it.