Imagine a software solution that could solve your biggest pain points immediately. With careful planning and concrete advice, the solution may be within sight, but how do you choose the right solution?
It’s no secret that business software solutions replace repetitive manual work, provide consistent workflows, remove outdated office practices holding businesses back from managing their cash flow, and make more effective use of their team.
Fortunately, there is a sea of technology options available, so you are not short on choice. This then becomes the problem, from all of the options, how do I choose the right one for me. Picking the right solution really depends on what your pain points are, and what your limitations are. In the end, you need to be confident in your choice.
First, consider what pain points you want to address – do you need to achieve more work with the same number of people? Do you want better reporting to uncover issues with your process? Do you want to provide more options to your customers? Also, think about how you might pitch these considerations to your staff and clients because ultimately, they’ll be the judges of the solution’s success.
After working out what the pain points are, you will need to prioritise them. Get input from your stakeholders, as they are the ones who will scrutinise the solution chosen against their pain points. Every key stakeholder in your organisation should be working towards the same goal for the software solution to ultimately work.
Next you must understand your limitations and priorities. In the software development world, there is a great tool in the agile development methodology called Value Sliders. This is a fantastic tool to understand what your priorities and limitations are, to achieve success in delivering your new solution.
Value Sliders define the following values:
The cost value describes how sensitive you are to the cost of the solution.
The time value describes how tolerable you are to long deployments.
The scope value is able the set of feature the products might have – are you willing to sacrifice features for a quick deployment?
The quality value is about the stability/ease of the solution.
With your key stakeholders, you can assign a priority from one to four. The trick is (and the point that most stakeholders don’t like) is that you can only assign each priority to one value. You cannot have two values as priority one. If you don’t agree to the order, then it comes back to haunt you later, so it’s best to spend the time to get it right before you start choosing a product.
Once you have agreed on the values, you can play them back by presenting a challenge, to see if they make sense. In the above example, let’s say I have two products to choose from, one costs twice as much as the other but can be delivered in half the time. I would choose the cheaper product because “cost” is more important to me than how long it will take to deploy.
Confidence in your decision comes down to your preparation and your appetite for risk. You have just gone through the process of getting all your key stakeholders on the same page, so you are confident in the factors that lead to a good decision. Now it comes down to your own tolerance of risk, and that of your companies.
If you have experience with one of the products in question, this may influence your decision, as it is a less risky option. You know how to use the product and navigate its shortcomings. When they don’t have experience with any of the available products, most people generally follow the market leader. Take Microsoft’s Word application, for example: Many use it and it’s unlikely to experience system or compatibility errors, so most people stick with it. Microsoft Word is known, safe, tested and there is no reason to regret making the decision to purchase it. Stakeholders are less likely to challenge your decision if it is the market-leading product. However, sometimes the safe option is not always the best option for your business, so you really do need to shop around for the right solution if it is underpinning critical business enablement.
One avenue to mitigate risk is through software trials. Trials give you a limited play environment via a non-production style account (don’t use this on real customers). A trial allows you to further evaluate the product to reduce the risk associated with it. If the product says it can do “A.B.C”, but you are not sure it really can, then a trial is great to work out if it can do it, or do it to the level you need.
Another way to handle risk in decision-making is through referrals. An ideal referral would be if a friend or colleague provides a positive review and then another person also does. This not only gives credibility to the software but also influences your decision.
A cautionary tale …
Lastly, before buying a solution you should also consider the product’s company: whether they are private or publicly listed (publicly listed companies are under greater scrutiny which is good for you) if they had any privacy breaches, when the company started operating and any other affiliations or noteworthy information.
Remember that whichever way you go about choosing a software solution, always remember to evaluate the software against your own criteria. Think of ways to measure the solution and always work within your businesses capabilities.