In this two-part series, I’ll discuss best practices when selecting new software systems for your business.

Like car insurance, it’s a good idea to re-evaluate your needs and get quotes from competitors every few years. Technology systems that are used in business are no different but the amount of work to make the change occur can be a daunting task; I’ll provide a framework and mentality to help you find the right fit for your business.

1. Identify Key Stakeholders

First things first and that’s to start with the people. Without the sincere support of key players in the organization, this new system is already starting life on the wrong foot. Identify individuals that would have to interact with the system both directly and indirectly. For example, a salesman may use a system to logs his sales (direct interaction). His Manager uses the system’s reporting feature to communicate sales performance the owner. It’s critical to fully understand the direct interactions (the salesman and the manager) and also the indirect interaction of the owner. By considering both, it keeps the purpose of the system at the forefront.

Don’t be fooled thinking, “well they have to help, it’s their job”. People are inherently resistant to change and often have their egos and emotions intertwined with their jobs. To try to curve this effect, next you must identify the core competencies this system must fulfill.

2. Identify Core Competencies

Now that you have the key stakeholders identified and in the room (or video call these days) it’s time to hash it out. These things can get pretty heavy, especially if people feel emotionally charged over the problem the system is meant to help solve or are resistant to change. Allowing each of the key stakeholders an opportunity to express his or herself allows for a more open dialogue. The goal of this meeting is to get down to the core issue(s) and their effect on business.

There will be a lot of ideas thrown out that start with: “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” . Now these things are great and are important to the conversation but be weary of scope creep and people’s tendency to try and assume whats possible with the technology. At this point it’s not about the how but the what. Having a qualified technology advisor, like at Dane Systems, is a huge help in keeping the conversation focused, meaningful, and positive.

3. Go Shopping

Now it’s time to head out into the Wild West of Google and find that fancy new system for your business. Be creative on your searches to try and find the best options. Talk to colleges, co-workers, and fellow business people to see if they have any experience with the problem you are trying to solve. Guaranteed, you aren’t the only business with this problem or opportunity. When you’re looking for software, especially on your own, be sure to ask for a demonstration from the vendor. These demos can really tell you a lot not only about the system but also your overall experience with the vendor.

Selecting a new software for your business is a lot like any business partnership where you want to be able to depend on them when things don’t go as expected. Vibes are important here – if you feel shoved off or pressured by a vendor while you’re “window shopping”, I’d suggest looking elsewhere. You can probably expect to not get great support when things don’t work properly. Notice I say when not if – no technology is perfect and having great customer support is just as important as the software itself.