Basic Business Software
You know that feeling. You have multiple business products that aren't communicating, meaning your employees are doing more work, uploading redundant data into different systems. The software is sluggish and can’t be accessed via browser. You’re paying per user, which is starting to get painful. In short, your business is growing, and your basic software can’t keep up. It’s taken you this far, but now you need to move on. So what’s next?
More customers, more employees, and more complex automation requirements all mean you need a more robust business management system. Implementing a new system can seem daunting, but there are some steps you can take to make the process a bit less painful.
1. Determine the return on investment
While you don’t want to wait until the system you’ve outgrown is bursting at the seams, you’ll want to break down the return on investment (ROI) you can expect from a new business management system. It is an investment, both in terms of money and resources. However, your current system may be costing you more in productivity, poor customer service, under- or overstocked inventory, and so on. In addition to fixing these issues, a new system may also automate tasks and provide better reporting, giving you a more comprehensive view of your business and allowing you to make more strategic decisions. You’ll want to figure out if your old software is costing you more than the price of a new system.
2. Get everyone on board
New business management software may affect more than the accounting department. Bring members of each department together to discuss their pain points. What tasks could be automated? Is there a way to reduce errors? Answering these questions will help you pinpoint which features are must-haves for your new system. Perhaps there’s a certain report that would make someone in customer service’s life easier. Keep in mind that your particular industry may have quirks that require special features, such as the ability to handle multiple currencies.
3. Narrow the field
Based on your must-have features and your industry’s special requirements, your list of potential vendors will shrink. You’ll also want to think about the size of your business — both today and in the future. What’s right for a Fortune 500 company might not be right for you.
4. Do a compatibility check
Your new system should fit your business; you shouldn't have to adapt to it. You may have some software in place that is essential to your business. Can you migrate your existing data? Will your new system be able to communicate with it? Quality business management solutions allow you to integrate everything from customer service to accounting to supply chains. As your business changes, can you add and remove features? You’ll want to understand the customizations available for companies like yours.
5. Think about technology
Whether you’re deploying on-premises, in the cloud, or through software-as-a-service, you’ll want to research which method works best for your company. There are positives and drawbacks with any, so it’s all about what makes sense for you. Does your vendor let you make the switch between these options? What works for you today might hold you back in the future. You’ll also want to keep in mind what databases and operating systems the solution supports.
6. Think about the future
Upgrades are going to happen. Talk to your potential vendors about how they handle the process, how frequently they occur, and whether you can decided to opt or delay an upgrade if it will be too disruptive.
7. Take stock of training and support
In an ideal world, all business solutions would be intuitive and easy to use. Until that’s the case, evaluate how closely everyday tasks align with your old system and inquire about training, classes, documentation, videos, and demos. After training is over and the check’s been cashed, will someone still be there to support you?
8. Look for flaws
No system will meet 100 percent of your needs, but you’ll want to know what a system can’t do for you before you go all in. Speaking of problems, how does the system handle errors? Does it flag unusual requests? What happens if a customer is entered into the system twice? You’ll want a good sense of how the software handles errors — which are bound to happen in the real world.
9. Go global
It’s a global economy; don’t let your business management solution stop you from taking advantage. Find one that supports multiple languages and currencies, while helping you keep track of local laws and customs.
10. Consider the cloud
If you and your employees are always on the go, you may want to consider a solution that lets you work from anywhere or simply helps you collaborate better. With cloud-based software, it’s easy to work on any device with a browser, even tablets and smartphones.
By Jon Roskill