Buying software isn't easy. Out of all the different types of digital products, software is one of the most important digital purchases you can make.
In the last 10 years we've seen an explosion of cloud-based and software-as-a-service companies.
Many are well-designed, easy-to-use like ringless voicemail
and have strong marketing and sales teams working to accelerate their growth.
In this environment, how do you know which software products are right for your company?
A Simple Checklist for Software Purchases
We recommend making a list of guidelines you can use any time you need to buy software.
Here are 7 guidelines we recommend adding to your list. Think of these as a starting place. Feel free to add others as needed for your business.
1. Does the Software Solve a Problem or Provide a New Competitive Advantage?
It happens to the best of us. You go to a trade show, see a flashy software demo, and get caught up in the excitement of a bunch of new features. Before you know it, a sales rep is signing you up for a long-term contract.
Before you sign the paperwork or pull out your credit card, stop to ask yourself: does this software fix a problem I'm facing or give me a new competitive advantage? Or am I just buying something because it's "new"?
To justify a purchase, a software product should provide an obvious benefit to your company or an upgrade over what you're using today.
2. Is the Software Designed for a Business Like Mine?
Most software companies design products to help a wide variety of businesses. It makes sense. That way they can maximize their revenue by selling their product to a variety of industries.
That’s good for companies that make software. But it can be a problem for you because you’ll often be considering a product that wasn’t really designed to work within a business like yours.
At Krow Software, we make a project management tool that's specifically designed for consulting and professional services organizations, especially those using Salesforce for their CRM.
By focusing our efforts on a narrow group of companies, we’re able to make software that’s better suited to their needs.
Whatever your business needs, look for software companies that are focused on your industry or your type of business. That’s where you’ll get the best value for your purchase.
3. Does the Software Work Well with Our Other Software?
As more software goes into the cloud, you have to ask, "Does this integrate with the services I already have and pay for?”
For our part, we've chosen to build our software on the Salesforce platform, in part to get the best integration possible with the most number of other services.
4. Is the Software Stable?
Cloud software runs on servers. Some cloud companies have their own servers and their own hosting environments. Others rent space in third-party server farms.
In our case, we chose to build software on the Salesforce platform, which is one of the most stable cloud platforms in the world today. As long as Salesforce is up and running, our software will be up and running too.
If you're working with a company that has chosen another path for it's servers, just make sure you know where those servers are and how stable they have proven to be.
No amount of flashy features will make up for a system that's constantly down when you need it.
5. How Difficult Is the Software to Learn?
Every tool has a learning curve. But it helps if the software you're buying is relatively easy to learn. It’s even better if it shares a familiar interface. This is another reason we chose to use the Salesforce platform. Our software looks and feels familiar to anyone who’s used Salesforce CRM, which makes our software easier to learn than some other project management tools.
Another thing to look for is training courses or materials that are available for your team members after purchase.
6. Is It Compatible With Our Existing Hardware?
Tech specs matter. Some software requires specific hardware for it to work.
100% cloud software makes this process easier, since all you need is a web browser to access the software. All updates and maintenance happen as part of your subscription. That means you won't have to buy additional hardware just to buy the software.
Remember to consider mobile access. If your team is remote or travels often, you may need to ensure they have access to this new software from their mobile devices.
7. Is It Within Our Budget?
Finally, after you've ensured everything else is in place, consider the price.
Remember to look at more than just cost. Will this software make you more efficient or more profitable?
If so, then it's more of a cash flow question than a true cost question. But even still, if you have to convince your boss or a purchase committee to fund the purchase, it's good to have cost and expected return on investment numbers to present to them.
Buy the right software for your company and you’ll be a hero, helping everyone get more done and make more money in the process.
But make a poor decision and you’ll be stuck with a product that makes everyone’s life more difficult. Or at the least, you’ll be stuck paying for a product no one uses.
Keep these steps in mind the next time you’re looking at a new piece of software.
And if you’re looking for a professional services automation tool tool, we invite you to take a look at ours.