02 Feb Your guide to the best business systems software
Your guide to the best business systems software
New tools that drive efficiency can integrate disparate systems, improve collaboration between teams, automate basic or repetitive tasks, and collect and store better quality data. Here’s our guide to choosing the best systems for your business.
Search Phase One
The best way to approach purchasing of a new system is to rate the elements of the system that you currently use. Document the strengths (what it does well and the things you like about it) and weaknesses (what you don’t like or what it cannot do for you).
When the list is complete, check with your team to see if there are any other issues you may not have thought about, then finish by making a list of the ‘nice to haves’, or a wish list (you might be surprised) how many of these things are standard in a better system.
Categorise the list into four sections:
- must have
- should have
- could have
- wish it had.
Search Phase Two
Now you are ready for the next part of the journey. Talk to friends, colleagues, business partners and financial advisors – find out about the systems they know about, how suitable they might be for your business and what they know about the company providing the software.
Make a manageable shortlist of potential systems and do some research. Gather as much information as you can; note features that match your list of requirements and mark those that appear to be missing.
Search Phase Three
Time to contact the vendors of the potential systems. You should expect them to make a visit to your premises to meet with you and discuss what your business does and what your key issues are. For you, this is an opportunity for you to see how they behave and how professional they are: Are they the sort of people that you can build a relationship with?
During this phase you should ask for a cost estimate. If it is way out of the ballpark of what you can afford, then now is the time to be upfront and tell the vendor. Importantly, don’t discount them totally. While it may beyond your expectations it doesn’t mean that the others are going to be cheaper.
Search Phase Four
Next on the list is a demonstration of the product. Be selective – if you didn’t like the people that visited, leave that provider off the list or until last. If at the end of your evaluations of the other solutions none look suitable, then go back to these people but ensure that the relationship is going to be successful (it’s often good in these situations to let the senior manager in the organisation know that you are uncomfortable and need some reassurance).
If possible, it is valuable if the vendor customises the demonstration by using some of your products (although don’t expect it to be exactly like your business – they can only do so much to mimic the situation).
Have a checklist of things that you wish to see and don’t be afraid to ask to see a specific area working and look closely at the steps involved to achieve what you need.
Ask questions – as many as you can. No demonstration will show you every aspect in detail, but you should have a good ‘gut feel’ at the end of it. Does it look easy to use? Does it include the ‘must haves’ on your list? How many of the ‘should haves’ and ‘could haves’ are offered? Does it have any of your ‘wish it had’ items?
After each presentation, grade and rate what you have seen. By the time you have seen three different systems, it may be hard to remember how good or bad the previous system was, so it is good to capture your thoughts at the time.
Search Phase Five
Now for the tough task – the decision. Which system had the best score, ensuring that you have also scored the people as well because the relationship is very important. At the end of the day, you’re investing in people as well as a software system and the people involved definitely do make a difference to the outcome.
You can have the best system in the world and poor support and you will get an average result. Or you can have an average system with great support and you will have a better than average system. It all comes down to the expertise of the people who support your product.
Search Phase Six
Made the decision? Great. Only two more things to consider.
Finances: What is the best way to pay for your new system? From existing capital or by financing it? Talk to your advisors to ensure you make the best decision for your business.
Change management: This is where the work really begins. Change management is a major issue with any new software implementation. You need to appoint key people and have them trained on all the system elements, the business processes that you need, and how to train other staff in the areas they need to know about.
Importantly, senior people in the business need to take on these roles and as the manager or business owner, you need to lead the charge. The project just won’t succeed without you. Some staff will need to commit a lot of extra time to this project, not only do they need to learn a new system and processes, they also need to continue doing their normal job. Helping them through the process and engaging them in the ‘why’ is essential for success.