I recently received a call from a prospective client wanting to evaluate our software. He complained that his current software is just awful. He went on to describe how unstable the software was and how it always seemed to be in constant repair. “It’s not user friendly and it’s too complicated,” he said. I want something that’s stable, simple and that works well, a tool that allows us to make critical decisions to help us enhance our customer service.
Why do so many organizations have such a hard time selecting the proper software to run their business? Why are solutions implemented that create chaos, lead to a dramatic reduction of revenue and become an obstacle to closing new business? The following are the top five reasons:
- Lack of knowledge – Most organizations have no idea how to properly select the right software, nor do they know what questions to ask.
- Unreasonable budget and timeframe – Investing in mediocre software just to meet a budget has the risk of being a costly mistake and rushing through an unreasonable implementation schedule always leads to failure.
- Minimal management involvement and support – I find that many CEOs spend more time selecting, researching and purchasing their vacations, cars and homes than they do for their business software.
- No blueprint to implement and measure – When planning on building a home, the first steps are to outline the objectives and develop a blueprint. Selecting the proper business software is no different and not having the proper blueprint is a recipe for disaster.
- Fear and uncertainty of change – Most organizations prefer to remain in their mediocre comfort zone than challenge themselves. They fear pushing the envelope and selecting the best possible tools to control, improve and grow their business.
So what questions should you ask yourself in order to determine if it’s time to keep your software or possibly replace it? Here are twelve critical questions to start with:
- How stable is our software and how much downtime do I experience each day, month or year?
- When the software does experience downtime, long does it take to get it resolved and how responsive is my business partner?
- How often does my software business partner improve the software and how significant are these changes to my business?
- How often do we get these software enhancements and do I have to pay for them?
- How am I notified of these enhancements and their potential impact to my business?
- How do we train our staff and invest in their knowledge; how often do we do it?
- How do we communicate our individual software needs to our business partner, how do they implement those needs and how do they incorporate those unique requests into their future development?
- Can multiple users access all of the software modules at the same time, and when needed, can multiple users access the same identical record while protecting data integrity? Imagine several users in your organizations needing to access the same customer record for various reasons while some need to change it.
- How long does it take us to train a new user?
- Do all our modules integrate with each other while reducing data redundancy issues? Now I know that this is a loaded question, but make sure your software requires data to be entered only once. An example may be the integration between your business software and your Internet site. Are you required to setup customers and inventory items once in your financial business software and once again on the web? Are you required to change and duplicate your item prices and customer information in several places? This obviously takes precious time and increases the potential for human error and corporate embarrassment. The proper integrated software requires these entries only once.
- Are we able to make critical decisions using the software? This applies to decisions that require research as well as instantaneous ones.
- How much do we invest in fine-tuning and improving our software vs. fixing problems?
Just like driving a great car or flying an airplane, having great software to run your business should be flawless and seamless while the business outcome must be positively dramatic.