Adopting New Business Software? – A Brief Guide for SMBs
Do not ‘shoot’ blindly! Read this and help yourself and your business.
While selecting and adopting new digital tools can be enlightening and massively beneficial for a business, it can also be a very challenging undertaking, which is also discussed in: Need business Software? Single-Purpose vs. Business Platform.
Many business owners draw unfair ‘similarities’ between consumer apps that we all use every day, which are typically designed with a single functionality, and business applications, which usually, are focused around a set of features that support one specific area of the business, or business platforms which offer more robust and comprehensive features focused on more than one area of the business, even potentially supporting the entire business.
Business owners expect these different types of applications to be equally easy to implement and use regardless of the fact that consumer apps are usually designed with a single user in mind, whereas business applications are typically used by business teams and even entire companies. This is why these two types of apps should never be placed in the same category.
There are however, a number of consumer apps that have a bit more complexity to them than others. For example, Star Walk is a popular mobile stargazing app which can be enjoyed by anyone including those with no expertise in astronomy at all. On the other hand, SkySafari is a more complex and in-depth astronomy app which requires a much deeper understanding of the topic to get the most out of it. This becomes apparent quite quickly while trying to set it up properly.
The same is also be true for Business Applications as it is possible for one to sign up for a simple single-purpose application designed to do one thing only, and try to ‘make it work’ for their business without even thinking, “Why?”. That approach might work but in the grander scheme of things, it often does not, and not because an app in not adequate or is difficult to ‘deal’ with. No! The real reason is usually that the rationale for this app to be used in the business was not clearly understood, or there was no business case set up for it at all.
This is even more apparent when a larger, fully integrated and more comprehensive business application is considered and tried, as more frequently than not, companies fail to properly engage with these solutions. In the end, business owners often leave greatly disappointed, blaming the solution as being inadequate despite not putting their best foot forward to explore its full capabilities.
Companies which fail to adopt the right digital technology for their business mostly do not do so because the software is ‘bad’, but because they are not paying enough attention during the selection process, and fail to identify their own needs as well. They do not ask themselves the right questions.
Where selecting the right software for the business is challenging for companies that have already tried or are using business software, it is even more challenging for businesses that are turning into adoption of the digital technology for the first time.
That is why it is essential that before even starting to look for different business applications for their business, there are several questions that business owners must ask themselves and their teams, such as:
- Do we need business software to support our business, and if so, what type?
- Is the current software arrangement working for our company?
- Are there any signs of limitation that necessitates replacing or augmenting our current software arrangement?
- Should we adopt multiple single-purpose applications and try to make them work together or should we opt for a single fully featured integrated platform?
- What are the perceived benefits or shortcomings of both?
- Can it be done in stages?
- Do we need software that will expand alongside our growing needs?
- Which departments should be integrated first?
- Can we make different pieces of software including our internal systems work together?
- Should we choose out-of-the-box solutions, or should we settle on bespoke development?
- What is our total budget for that?
- Do we have a ‘champion’ that can take responsibility for software selection and the adoption process?
- Do we need internal IT skills and, if required, are they adequate enough?
- What is our budget for software adoption and training (if required)?
- What could be our potential ongoing costs (subscription, maintenance, support, etc.)?
Assuming that these questions are being answered, a longlist of possible business software solutions should be considered. At that point, the general direction for the approach of software selection should be identified to decide on either a mix of single-purpose applications which can potentially be stitched-together, or one of a few available fully integrated business platforms.
At the same time due-diligence should be conducted to identify most, if not all, business processes and typical workflows throughout the entire business and pinpoint those that could be potentially augmented with automated workflows. This is the most important exercise for businesses at this point in the business software selection process, as it sets the stage for success or failure of future adoption of the chosen solution(s).
It is hard to believe that so many companies find it very challenging to define their business processes and are routinely utilizing antiquated ones which aren’t adapted into today’s business environment. The process of finding and adopting new business software is the perfect time to assess the effectiveness of existing processes and make appropriate improvements/adjustments when necessary, or to adopt completely new ones. A natural step in such an undertaking would be to create a checklist containing a ‘wish list’ of required features, which then can be shared with all software vendors identified in the longlist to help narrow it down.
Based on research into the longlist of vendors, and the matching exercise, a shortlist of potential software vendors could be identified. These vendors should be subjected to a much closer analysis, beginning with elements outside of the software itself:
- Website content
- Pricing structure and how flexible it is
- Frequency of Updates and Improvements
- Potential for Growth within the application
- Onboarding services offered
- Support services offered
- Blog Activity and their implied educational value
- Social Relevance and reviews
- Age of the vendor
After scrutinizing all of these and other factors the shortlist can further be narrowed down by eliminating the vendors that don’t meet preset expectations.
The next step would be to sign up for a free trial or free version/tier (if available) and explore the features, keeping in mind the responses from the vendor on the checklist request. During this assessment, ask yourself some questions:
- What is my assessment of the workspace home page?
- How it is structured? Can I easily find what I want?
- In general, is it easy to navigate and use?
- Are there any built-in onboarding assistance offered: Videos, Help, and Onboarding Checklists?
- Keeping in mind that most business software is ‘loaded’ with features which can only work if properly setup, how difficult would be to properly set it up?
- Are any free or paid onboarding services available?
- Is the vendors support team responsive?
- Are they offering us any additional help?
- If in doubt, can we request a walkthrough demo?
- How easy is to try different features?
- How does my checklist compare with the vendor’s response and the reality presented in the actual solution, are there any discrepancies?
- Can I see this solution evolving alongside our growing needs?
- How difficult will it be to gradually implement all of the features throughout our company?
- How long can I expect for onboarding process take?
As every business’ individual needs and requirements are unique, it is expected that additional questions will be asked. However, we would consider these as the minimum information needed to steer any business decision maker into making a right decision.
If this appears to be an overloaded and exhaustive process, it is, but for good reason.
Taking the time to properly assess and make the right choice in selecting and implementing solution(s) for any business will result in less headaches, less frustration, less lost time and effort, and definitely greater financial benefits. Experience tells us that those who are well prepared are succeeding at a much higher rate when adopting new software because they know what they are looking for and why.
What is unavoidable though, is that some business owners are looking, and will continue to look for software that fits perfectly within their existing business processes without realizing that it is very likely such software does not exist. They will tirelessly continue to search for and try different business solutions without changing their strategy, while failing to recognize that they are falling behind, which is something no SMB can afford. Like Voltaire said, “Perfect is the enemy of good”.
It is better to spend some time defining ones needs to make a correct and well-informed decision instead of ‘shooting blindly’ and hoping for the best. You wouldn’t buy a new home recklessly before mapping your personal needs and expectations of a new dwelling, or researching the neighborhood.
Do the right thing and commit some time to analyze your needs. Both you and your business will benefit from your action!
About the Author: Tomek Maszkiewicz is co-founder and CEO of BlueCamroo, a comprehensive business management software designed specifically for SMBs that combines many essential business services in a single, easily adoptable, and affordable business solution.