Six Mistakes to Avoid When Purchasing Software for your Small Business

Today’s world is full of technological solutions designed to make our lives and our jobs easier. But the myriad of tech products, solutions, platforms and software programs in existence today make choosing the right option for your business needs hard. With so many options available, how do you know you are selecting the best software program for your company?

In an interview conducted by Sand Hill, Dan Miller of NetSuite, offered this insight. “My advice to young companies is to think ahead, closely analyze future growth scenarios and make smart investments in core software systems that will scale with the company’s growth.”

By avoiding these common mistakes small businesses can make when purchasing software programs for their organization, you can ensure you are selecting a product that best fits your needs, your budget and your company’s goals.

1. Living Only for Today: Many small and medium sized businesses are so focused on growing their bottom line, that they often focus on software programs that can meet their immediate needs but fail to consider future possibilities. What you need now in a customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), accounts payable, payroll or other type of software program may change within the next 18–24 months as your organization grows and gains additional employees and customers. Selecting a software platform takes time. You don’t want to have to repeat the search process within two years because you grew faster than you planned.

In addition, consider the future costs of the programs you are researching. A software package may seem affordable on the front end but include monthly or annual subscription fees, which could end up being more expensive than other programs with higher up-front costs.

2. Overlooking for Hidden Fees: Similar to not accounting for subscription fees, many companies fail to factor in the ancillary costs of the software programs they are researching. What is the cost of implementing the software? Will you be charged a fee for an implementation consultant or program manager? Make sure you factor that cost into your budget. Does the software company recommend a certain implementation partner or vendor? If so, conduct additional research to ensure that partner is viable and cost-effective for your organization. Lastly, make sure your existing hardware meets the system requirements for any software program you are considering. If you have to repurchase equipment to run the software you’ve chosen, you could be facing additional and unnecessary expenses.

3. Favoring Features over Functions: Another common mistake small businesses tend to make when searching for software solutions is using the wrong search criteria. With so many options available, it is easy to focus on a products features instead of the functionality it can offer your business. The shiny bells and whistles are great if they help address your business’s needs. If these features only make the program look pretty but don’t actually help you achieve your goals, you should consider a different program.

Another common problem when drowning in search results is to select a program based solely on user feedback. Crowd-sourcing for a second, third or tenth opinion on what you should purchase can be great. However, be careful that those whose opinions you seek have similar experiences and can offer advice that matters to your business. Just because everyone else you know has chosen a certain platform does not necessarily make it the best solution for your company. With so many unique options available, it is possible to find an option that meets your individual needs. Keep researching until you find that solution.

4. Opting for Too Many Options: Although we warned at the beginning of this article against selecting an option that is too small for your needs, be aware of choosing a program that offers too much for your business’s needs right away. Many popular systems are very robust, which is a great selling point for many of these products. However, choosing a program that is too complex for your needs could be confusing to your users. Instead of increasing efficiencies in your office, you could be making everyone’s job more complicated by implementing a cumbersome system. Not to mention, you could end up overpaying for something you will never fully utilize.

Just because an all-in-one solution exists, doesn’t mean this style of program is right for you. Sometimes, instead of buying a complicated system, it may be better to utilize several systems that serve specific purposes. Connecting these services through an API allows your systems to talk to each other and maintain consistent data across platforms. Companies like Bedrock can help you establish a connection between, say, your CRM tool and your invoicing software instead of purchasing a complicated all-in-tool.

5. Ignoring the Circle of Life: When selecting a software program, many companies do not take into consideration the product’s lifecycle. If the product is too new to the market, it may have too many glitches that need to be worked out (and often at your expense). As you work to grow your business, you will need a program that can keep up with your needs and not one that falls victim outages and errors. On the flip side, an older program will probably be replaced or updated by a shiner, newer, faster version in the near future. Most of the time, product overhauls result in a system so different from what users are accustomed to that it requires as much training as you needed to originally learn the program. This could negate the hours of research you’ve already done, which negatively impacts your time and your budget.

6. Downplaying Security: When planning your software purchase, it is crucial to consider your security needs. Does your company’s server need added security measures or firewalls installed? If you are utilizing a cloud-based solution, do you have backup solutions in place? Data security becomes more important every day. Failing to factor this into your software decision could leave you at risk for security breaches and loss of information, which will hurt both your employees and your customers.

Keeping these six common mistakes in mind as you search for a software solution will help you make an informed decision tailored to your business’s individual needs and budget. When you do make your decision and are ready to implement your new software, remember to back up any existing data and get employee buy-in into whatever new program you select to ensure a smoother transition.

Whatever program you choose, make sure you hold proper trainings for all users to ensure a smooth transition, a secure transfer of data and a correct implementation — all of which lead to a beneficial software program for your company.

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