Choosing Software for your business…

The relationship between you and the Software company will be a long one. So the service from the vendor is as critical as the Software. Great software can be inefficient if you don’t have effective support.

Who are you dealing with?

The person you are dealing with may not be the Application Owner. Integrator’s often work on behalf of the Software Owner, so the relationship between the Owner and the Integrator should be investigated carefully. Any customization or bug fixes will need to be referred back to and confirmed by the Owner now and in the future. Make sure you are dealing with an Integrator who has influence with the Owner, and can get bugs ironed out quickly.

Who are you dealing with?

Are you talking to a programmer? Programmers can make the software do anything you want, but sometimes what you want comes from procedures set in place because of shortcomings of your existing software. An experienced integrator will familiarize themselves with your business and guide you based on best business practice. They will plot a course for your business procedure’s while minimizing software changes. If you have the right software for your business, there should be minimal changes to the application.

Ask for a Trial

Modern Software is simple to deploy so the vendor should be able to provide a trial quickly. Sometimes they may even offer to import some data from your existing software into the new application, so you can get a feel for it. Like trying on a pair of shoes before you buy them. The trial should be available for a good 3 months. During this time you should have access to their standard support channels o try that out as well. This makes for a good test for both product and service.

Your role as the customer

Understand your role in the selection process. Consolidate questions from staff and collect a sample of all important documents and reports. Create a checklist from this information and note down the integrator s response for each and every item, even if it’s negative. Any special requests should also be listed and keep this document as a record well after you move into the new software. Once you are ready to commit have the integrator sight and sign off your list as confirmation of all discussions. There may be some items that cannot be accommodated, separated these into Deal Breakers or Not, and weigh them up against the benefits of other, newer features that come with the software. You probably won’t get everything you want. Software companies are generally obliging if you have good ideas about improvements, but remember the Software belongs to them and they are not obliged to provide every wish moving forward.

The Integration

Ideally it is useful to have a trial integration done. This may bring to light questions that would otherwise not be thought of. It also proves the extent of the integration. There are around 3 levels of integration. 1. No Integration and the customer, you, need to get all the information into the software. This could entail hours of work before you even know if the software is suitable. 2. Static information only may include Product, Customers and Suppliers with no history or balances. 3.   Product, Customers and Suppliers with balances and 4. Product, Customers and Suppliers with transnational history. Obviously this would be the best however it will cost more and be limited to the Integrator ability to extract suitable data from the existing software. In any case a good import function in the new software will serve you well.

Licensing & Support Model

There are many models – here are a few

  1. An initial license fee then a monthly fee
    1. Make sure the fee covers support and upgrades to your version
  2. A subscription with only an ongoing license fee.
    1. Make sure the fee covers support and upgrades to your version
  3. An initial Charge and no ongoing fee.
    1. Ask how much will upgrades and support cost and how frequently will the software be upgraded. If they are going to charge you for support as you use it then simply clarify that software bugs will be fixed free of charge and will be made available in your version.

Future Proof your business

Make sure the Technology behind the software is going to serve you moving forward without additional upgrade costs to the software itself. Smaller Software companies may find it too expensive to move to newer platforms as required and keep their software up to date. Also think of where your business may be at in 5-10 years. In my experience the relationship with a software provider for a small to medium size business can last more than 20 years. After all you don’t want to do this very often.

Choosing your new Business Software