The gentleman I met last night was looking for a paper free solution to his problems. He stated that their business simply could not expand with their current systems. They had an opportunity right now to grow but unless their internal process improved they could not consider going ahead with this opportunity. We therefore started with the question of “what are you looking for in your solution?” This was not something he could articulate so I asked him to “explain your current paper process and where you see this lets you down.” This was a much easier question for him to answer and the animation returned to his face as he relayed the details of their processes and its weaknesses. It was very clear that while we were not the best fit for his requirements, they definitely identified the need to find a solution. The prospect then asked us what we thought he should do. Below are the three easy steps to finding the right software solution for your business. This approach is relevant regardless of whether your business is retail, corporate, deliveries or trades related. It is relevant irrespective of the type of software you are looking for, whether it is payroll, client relationship management or job dispatching
Firstly, make a list of your requirements. Start with your “must have” items that are critical to your business for example, meeting statutory requirements. Then list your medium and lower level requirements and lastly, your wish-list items [bells & whistles]. If this approach is too difficult, go through your existing processes and write down the steps, in order to produce your list. Alternatively, try to look for inefficiencies or problems in your business and create your list based on alleviating the problems. Ask your team what they believe is needed. Still struggling? Then write a list using all the above techniques and then give each a priority number. It is essential that you are really clear about what you are looking for and which of these items are essential and which are just nice to have. Remember the KISS principle.
Secondly, do an internet search for vendors and contact each one with your list of requirements. If a vendor cannot help you, ask them if they know of a product which might. If you have friends in the industry, ask them what they are using and would they recommend it. Also ask why they make this choice and what did they compare their choices with? Whilst this may seem time consuming, investing the time now will save you heartache further down the track. When you have found a couple of vendors who are close to ticking all your boxes, ask them to demonstrate the software. You need to see how your requirements are going to be met. It is really important to see that you are not purchasing vapourware and also to check that the automated offering is simple and streamlined. Ask if you can trial the software. It is possible that while reviewing the available offerings or trialing software, that you may make changes to your requirements list. Be careful to determine that these changes are real necessities to your business and not part of your desire to hold onto existing processes or coming from what you see as being available once you start seeing what programs offered. For example I had a client once ask if our software would automatically allocate staff a number. I asked her if this was a big issue in her business and she said “No, but the other solutions I have looked at offered it.”
Finally, adoption. Many staff within the business will be resistant to change and this needs to be well managed for implementation to be successful. I am still amazed by the number of people who get to this point and say they are not happy with the software because this is not “the way we do it”. A customer said this to me once so I asked her why they had done it that way and she said didn’t actually know why. Therefore, she asked the business owner and he explained that when they kept the records manually, it was easier to update values annually as they simply did not have the time or skill set to pro-rata the amounts and to do it more frequently. Once they understood the origin of the process had no legal value behind it, then they accepted the change more readily.
While I am writing this, I am thinking this information is too basic to put into print. But then I have just had another prospect come through the door from a different industry and we have just gone through this process again – twice in two days!