Choosing new software is no small feat. There's a lot to consider when deciding on what tools to invest money in. With the average SMB spending 10%-15% of annual revenue on IT expenses, making an informed and educated decision on which software to buy is incredibly important for your business and budget.
But how do you go about making the right decision on what software to buy?
Whether you're looking to invest in a new tool or you're looking to replace a current product, here are 7 things to consider before buying software. Use these tips to help guide the software buying process so your team feels confident when making the final decision on what software to add to your tech stack.
1. How much does it cost and what is the value?
Pricing is integral to any business decision, but it shouldn’t be the only factor you consider. Basing your decision on price point alone may not ensure your business is getting the most value. Remember, a software's price does not always correlate with its value.
Purchasing more expensive software because it has a long list of extra features isn’t necessarily the correct move, as many of those features might not even apply to your business or be usable by your particular system. When considering price point, begin with a basic budget and decide on your "must have" features within your price point. Then make a "nice to have" feature list and a "don't need" list. This will help you get a better understanding of the value a software brings to your business.
When looking into products at the lower end of your budget, be wary of software that can't grow with you. Project what your business needs may be in five or 10 years, and see how the software costs will increase with an expanded number of users, processes, or products. You may find that the cheaper product becomes incredibly expensive compared to other options. Thinking ahead into the future when making a software decision will help your team choose a product that can be used long term.
2. Will you need assisted implementation?
You want to choose a software that your employees will be able to adopt quickly and easily. Choosing a highly complex model that takes a considerable amount of time to master will negatively affect adoption rates. Research potential software options tirelessly so you can make the most efficient and beneficial decision for your company and your team.
If you decide that a more complicated or extensive software is needed, look into what their assisted implementation looks like. This will ensure you're able to get the software up and running quickly and provide training to employees. If you have to commit to a large upfront cost for implementation, then make sure you have definite timelines and costs in place before making the purchase. Understand the software company’s satisfaction guarantee--don’t trust a company that doesn’t have enough confidence in their product to guarantee its success and your happiness through the entire implementation process.
Did you know? Formstack has an entire Professional Services team dedicated to helping customers implement their dream projects with Formstack.
3. Is the software company prepared to fix bugs?
Every software has bugs. When it comes to purchasing the right software for your company, you need to be aware of the software company’s procedures for fixing those bugs when they arise. Understand how the issues you may potentially run into will be addressed. Make sure that the company will address the problems that are unique to your company’s use of the software, and not just the big problems that most of the software’s users run into.
A great way to investigate a company's service and overall customer satisfaction is by reading customer reviews on sites like G2 and Capterra. These reviews will provide you insight into any common software issues, how the company responds to issues, and a high-level picture on strengths and weaknesses.
4. How often do they push updates?
The best software companies are continually updating their product. When talking with software vendors, ask them to provide details on how often they push updates to their product and how those are communicated. It's also important to note if service is every restricted or limited due to product updates, since those could impact your business and operations.
Pro Tip: Ask software vendors to provide a product status page to review past communications on any product issues and updates.
5. Is the system customizable enough to meet your needs?
Customization, on paper, sounds great. Who doesn’t want their system to fit their needs to a T? Customization, however, is a tradeoff, especially when it comes to your company’s particular software needs. A highly customizable software system could also mean a cumbersome and complex system that is difficult to adopt. Price may also rise the more you customize.
Similarly, simplicity might also have a price. The less customizable the software is, the harder it can be to modify the system to suit your company’s needs. It may also be more difficult to use the software as your company's needs and systems change over time. At the end of the day, you have to look at the trade-offs and the sophistication of the team that will be using the software to decide on how much customization is needed.
6. What kind of support do they offer?
Support can play a huge role in whether a software is a success or failure for your business. This is especially true if your IT team is small, the software is complex, and/or the software is being utilized by all employees. In these situations, you may need to lean on the software's support team for extra help.
Be sure to note the support hours for all software vendors you are considering. The question of support hours should include not only the timeframes during which you can get support, but how you can do so. Can you get phone support, or is everything done by email or ticketing system? If you will be using a ticketing system, what is the anticipated response time for a request? It is important that your software company’s support department is available when you need them.
7. What kind of security does the software provide?
The way data is collected, secured, stored, and shared is a crucial part of any software. Make sure to review the security page for any software you are considering purchasing. You may also want a compliance officer or lawyer to review security documents before signing any contracts. Compliance regulations depend on the product use case and your industry, but you may want to consider PCI, HIPAA, Section 508, GDPR, and WCAG.
When evaluating software, the most important thing to keep in mind is your company’s particular needs. Software should help make our jobs easier and more efficient and not be difficult for your staff to adopt and utilize. By keeping the seven tips above in mind, you'll be able to fully evaluate all the software options you're interested in and make the right choice for your business.
The key to choosing the right software is taking the time to plan, prepare, and implement. Use this digital transformation checklist to guide you the next time you need to evaluate new software for a project.