Technology is nowadays a necessity to be competitive and efficient. Whether you are looking for an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), a CRM (Customer Relationship Management), a CMS (Content Management System) or another major software for your company, there are common criteria that you will need to focus on.
What are your needs?
First, you need to understand the potential improvements that a software will provide. And it starts internally with your team, make a list of all the functionalities that are crucial for your business and the ones that are nice to have. With this list, you will already be able to shorten the list of competitors to a handful. Do not trust blindly a third party on a specific software since they could be interested financially to get you to sign in.
Don’t be fooled by attractive promises, appealing marketing or buzz words like AI or Big Data that are very generic and usually gimmicks with little reality and/or usefulness. Get facts from independent sources online/offline and use their trial version to get acquainted with the interface and test the functionalities.
You need to spend time researching the features of the software online, look at the documentation and spend time on forums for testimonials and potential shortcomings.
Even if you don’t have a clue about technology, you will need to learn a minimum to make sure that you are not being taken advantage of. Because some companies are a million years behind in term of technology and you do not want to sign with them. I have seen incredible examples in the past few years of software companies who seemingly have been living under a rock for the past twenty years providing software only for Windows (eh the cool kids are now on Linux/Mac or usually directly work in their browser), with a UI looking like Windows 95/MS Dos, with local servers only (have you heard of the cloud?) and without any mobile/tablet version (because obviously who would need to work on the go nowadays?!). The worst part is that these companies have clients and charge a ridiculous amount of money for absolutely zero advantages.
This is where your productivity will shine and it’s usually the main motivation for getting a software. Automation is also something that is heavily dependant on the sector you are in, so it’s crucial for the team behind a software to be extremely knowledgeable and to have worked within this sector. I have seen countless example of projects designed by people who did not know enough about a sector and their software was inevitably deeply lacking in terms of automation. You should really focus on getting real life scenarios demonstrating automation features and involve your staff to ask specific questions.
Another way to save time and improve the usability of a software is the compatibility and integration with other software. What if your CRM is not integrated with MailChimp, your CMS does not handle SEO or your PMS (Property Management System) does not work with the electronic passes opening the hotel rooms? Usually it’s better to provide a maximum of integration to offer you the most choices and a smoother integration. But you also need to look at the quality of the integration, and see if all the potential is exploited between the different software.
You can have the best software in the world in terms of functionalities, automation or integration, if the interface is ugly with a confusing organization, you and your staff won’t use it. A great UI/UX is key to attract and retain new users. If a new user can quickly understand how to use it, he/she will be productive quickly and costly and time consuming training can be avoided. Having a natural flow for certain actions will also help rationalize processes.
Support is key, you don’t want to wait days or weeks when your system is down and your company paralyzed. Make sure that you get phone and email support with real IT people on the line and a strict SLA (service level agreement) with a certain number of days for fixing critical bugs (with financial compensation if failure to comply)
This is obviously important but should be taken in conjunction with the increased productivity delivered. Of course, if you just start your business, cost is more important since you don’t have a lot of resources to dedicate and the cost to quality ratio will be central in your analysis.
Now that you have found the perfect software, you need to implement it. Depending on the software and if you have the expertise internally, you might be able to do the implementation yourself. However, for an ERP or even a CRM, you will likely need external experts to come and help you. Also brand and size do not always equal to quality (sometimes it’s the exact opposite), especially if your company is not big enough for them, they will not dedicate enough resources and will still charge you an arm while you could find a small but dedicated consulting firm that is more knowledgeable about your sector or companies of your size will spend more time with you to ultimately provide a much better implementation for a lower fee.