So you’re thinking about a new piece of software for your business.
It’s a big deal. Software projects can be notorious for over-running, costing more than planned, and failing to live up to expectations.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Taking the time to investigate the right software provider before you embark on a new project can reap dividends. Here are some of the key things to think about when looking for a new software provider.
1. What’s your big reason for wanting new software?
The reasons behind wanting a new piece of software usually fall into a couple of camps.
The first is you’re trying to improve a process within your business and you think a piece of software could help.
You might be doing things quite manually at the moment – perhaps relying on paper notes, Outlook calendars or lots of Excel spreadsheets.
Alternatively, your business might have experienced recent growth, or is seeing an increasing need or demand that you need a new process to address.
The other camp usually has a piece of software already but it’s not really doing the job any more.
This might be the result of increasing demands (like in the example above), or maybe you’ve fallen out of love with your current system.
Perhaps the service hasn’t been so great lately, or it hasn’t been upgraded for a while, or maybe it’s just no longer fit for purpose.
Whatever the reasons, understanding why you are in the market for a new solution will help you to identify exactly what it is you are looking for, and to articulate that to the software providers you’re talking to so that they can better advise on the right solution for you.
2. What do you want this software to achieve for your business?
What would the future look like for your business if you had this new piece of technology?
Will it enable you to see more clients?
Will it free up hours and hours spent monitoring staff and performance? Will you be able to report more quickly and easily to company directors or external examiners?
Think about the day-to-day problems this software could solve for you, but also the bigger picture.
Would investing in new kit ultimately help you grow the revenue of your business, because it frees up time, makes your staff more efficient, or gives you a better picture of what’s going on so you can respond in a targeted way?
Most software providers will want to know what you’re trying to achieve so that they can come up with a solution that’s a good fit for you – or step away gracefully if they’re not a good match.
3. Will it work with your other systems?
Software rarely exists in isolation.
It needs to work with other systems in your business, be that other pieces of software or the processes and procedures you already have established for how you operate.
Identify all the places where your new piece of software might have an impact, however small that might seem.
This will help you identify what you need to do ready for rolling it out, to avoid hitting any unforeseen obstacles further down the line.
You’ll also be able to give your chosen software provider a clear picture of the infrastructure their technology will operate in, so that they can identify any additional development that may be needed to ensure it properly integrates with your other systems.
4. Who else is using this software?
Take a look at who else is using the software provider you are considering.
Do they work with lots of other organisations in your sector, meaning they have a good understanding of the issues and nuances of businesses like yours?
Can you speak to any of their existing customers to understand how they’ve found the experience of working with this provider?
Seeing a demo of a new piece of software is a great place to start the decision making process, but hearing about how it works in practice from other companies that use it can be invaluable additional information.
5. Are you getting the technical details you need?
Can the software company you’re talking to answer (and do they want to answer) the questions you have about their software?
There will be a huge amount of technical detail you’ll want to know.
How is data stored? What protocols do they use to keep data secure?
How many people can use the system at once? What will happen from the moment you agree to buy to when you’re finally using the new software?
Can they have a system ready for you in your timescales?
The list goes on.
A lack of detail in the answers, or an evasion of answering the question fully can be a potential red flag.
Look for companies that are clear about the capabilities and limitations of their solution, and upfront and honest about any extra development they might need to do to make it work for you, and what that will cost.
6. Are they making it easy for you?
The software you’re looking at might be the whizziest thing you’ve ever seen.
But is the company providing it helping you to install it in your business?
Are they taking the time to fully understand how this software will fit into your business and what you want it to achieve?
If they do, there’s a much better chance it will be a good fit for you – and you’ll get a final product that will do what you need.
Then there’s the after-sales. Is the software you’re looking at supported after you’ve started using it, or will you just get a box with a patchy instruction manual.
Is there a development pipeline in place which you’ll automatically become a part of?
Will the software firm you’re talking to still be there to help you 6 months, 1 year or 5 years down the line?
At Unique IQ, we like to start with lots of questions, so that we can build up an accurate picture of what a business needs our software to do.
Then we’ll customise if we need to, so that can we can craft the right solution.
And as we roll-out, we like to work alongside you, piloting your new software with a small group first, giving us the chance to iron out any teething problems and tweak it to get the best fit, before extending it to the rest of the business.
7. Finally, do you like them?
You’re going to have to work with these people for a long time.
So undoubtedly, check they have all the right credentials and a sound software solution, but also consider whether you think you can get along with them long term.
After all, that’s the foundation of a great long-term relationship.
For more information about Unique IQ and its software solutions for the home care, contract cleaning and facilities management industries, please visit www.uniqueiq.co.uk or call us on 0800 888 6868.