For many years I have worked with businesses to help them to identify requirements and select appropriate software. In doing so I have gained a few key tips on what to consider when you are looking for a system to help solve business problems and/or make improvements to the way things are done. Here are my thoughts.

When you start looking for software solutions to help you it can be daunting. If you do a google search you will come up with lots of options but how do you know which to look at and how do you work out what each one does and how it would work for your business in reality.

My suggestions are that you should start by being clear what problem it is you are looking to solve. It is very unlikely that you will ever find an existing system that will do everything for you. Start with the most pressing problem and look for a solution. It is important when you do this that you concentrate on the end result and not on how a system enables you to get there. Be open minded. Systems will likely result in you needing to change your existing processes and that is ok.

When you start looking you may find that there are well known generalist systems available that aren’t designed specifically for your industry or job function, but with some clever set up they could work. And often you will find very specific solutions designed perhaps by peers or at least with a specific profession in mind.

It is worth looking at both options. But I would urge you to consider that even though certain business tasks sound similar across industries, they can vary greatly. Often industry specific software allows you to benefit from many other businesses such as yours who have had input into the development of the software.

I believe that we should now be opting for cloud based solutions. No need to install programmes on to your personal computer or a local network with the restriction that you can then only use the system when you are logged on to that specific computer, or when you are connected to the office network. Solutions should be available for you to login via the internet securely via multiple devices whenever you need to. This has become even more apparent due to the current environment we are working in.

Next I would ensure that any company you choose to work with is invested in making sure you get up and running with using the system quickly and painlessly. Do they offer set up training and support? Do they have supporting how to video’s and guides? Is someone available for you to contact if you get stuck?

Similar to this I would suggest checking what level of support you would get once you are live. Who do you contact and how if you have a problem? How will they communicate with you about bugs, bug fixes and upgrades?

I would also advise that when selecting a new system you look in to the business behind it. Who are the key people, what are their drivers, what’s the business about and what is the likely direction of that business. You want to work with companies you can trust and align with.

And finally the cost consideration. There are some free software solutions available out there, which in some scenario’s can do a job for you. However do be mindful that to develop and maintain good software does cost time and money and therefore it is fair to pay for that. I would urge you not to automatically opt for the cheapest options, and to always consider the value a system will bring to your business.

When faced with two possible solutions it can be tempting to go for the cheapest, however first think about any differences in the amount of work you may need to do to get set up, any additional charges for training and support, how easy is a system to use, how much time would one system over another save you etc.

And I would suggest where possible to opt for subscription license model’s so that you have flexibility to switch to another system if for any reason you become happy with the service or you become aware of an alternative that may offer even better value.

Do get in touch if you have any comments on this or would like any help or advice.