When it comes to choosing business software researching the market place can be a bit of a minefield.
There is a mindboggling range of different software solutions all claiming to be able to improve your efficiencies, save you money, reduce admin activity and probably make you a cup of tea whilst they’re at it. Cutting through the sales jargon and getting down to the nitty gritty of the functionality of a system is key to finding the right solution for your business. There are some sensible and productive steps that we recommend completing before diving headfirst into a software project:
1. Pinpoint the ‘problem areas’ of your business. What are the challenges that you want the software to solve? Knowing the root cause of a symptom is the first step to finding the cure.
2. Talk to other departments, where do their difficulties lie? What systems are they using at the moment? Are they already using software that they like but are just finding that the company is outgrowing its functionality? If you can stick with a brand you’re already using then the transition to a new system won’t seem like so much of a huge change.
3. Shop around, do your research, see what is out there. It may take some time but it is certainly worth looking around the market place to see what companies have to offer. Read the whitepapers, take a look at some blogs and make sure you know the technology background. The most informed shopper is always the savviest.
4. Know what you want. Start making a checklist. What is the essential functionality that you need from the software? Accounts, inventory, project management? It could be helpful to make a ‘required’ and ‘nice to have’ list. The ‘nice to haves’ could wait to later stages of the project when you have solved all your business critical challenges.
5. As you’re thinking about your ‘ideal’ solution it is sensible to also think about your company’s budget. You need to make sure you’re managing expectations. If you’re a small but growing company then a smaller system like Sage Live could be for you. If you’re an established company with an eight figure turnover then it’s more likely you are going to be looking at the larger ERP options, such as Sage X3.
6. Once you know what you want figure out which solutions have the functionality you require. Cut straight through to the facts. Can the software handle multi-currency? Can you make intelligent business analysis on the data? And is the software in your company’s budget? Remember, the more functionality and tailored processes you add on, the more the pounds will add up. A complex, tailored software solution will have a higher price tag, but will reap a greater ROI in the long run.
7. It’s now probably a good time to flesh out your requirements into an RFI (Request For Information) document and send this out to your chosen software providers. You may want to have an initial meeting with the companies prior to this so that you can explain your requirements in person and tell them a bit more about how your company works.
8. Narrowing down an initial shortlist can come down to many factors. It’s important to remember what you are looking for in a business partner as well as the actual software. What experience do they have? What support do they offer? Are their current customers happy with their support? These long term questions are easy to forget when you’re distracted by the exciting zoom in, zoom out, accounts charts but they can actually end up being even more important than the core software itself.
9. Once you’ve had initial meetings and RFI’s you should have a wealth of information to narrow down to a couple of vendors to ask in for a software demonstration. These demonstrations can be time consuming days so make sure you narrow down your list as much as possible before inviting the chosen vendors in (you can have a look at Sage X3 without arranging a demo by watching our demo videos). At this point try to get as many people involved as possible, especially those that have decision making power and the person that has final sign off. You want to make sure you're all on the same page and coming to the same conclusion.
10. Once you’ve had your demos it’s time to start thinking about making a decision. You may require extra scoping sessions to really explore the functionality that you require and understand the software further. Remember the problems you initially noted down, is this solution going to solve them? And, even more importantly, does the business partner or software vendor have the relevant knowledge and experience to ensure that the project is a success?
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