Choosing the best internal productivity software for your organization is an important business decision because software solutions are the backbone of many businesses.
Due to the seemingly infinite number of options on the market and strong marketing tactics used by all software vendors, searching for the most cost-effective software solution is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Fortunately, there are easy to follow procedures for evaluating different software options before picking the best one.
Let’s see how to set up an efficient internal review process, as well as a team that can handle this activity on an ongoing basis - in other words, whenever your company is shopping for a new software solution.
Eight Steps to Consider When Selecting the Right Software for Your Company
- Select the members of your review team
- Define your business needs and preferences
- Assign a leader for the process
- Decide where to search
- Investigate online reviews
- Arrange for demos
- Create a checklist
- Discuss the finalized plan
How to Set Up an Internal Review Team for Software Selection
There are several factors that will determine the success of your software selection process. One of them is having the right internal review team. In this section, we’ll look at the structuring and focus of this team.
Step 1: Select the Members of Your Review Team
First, consider the size and composition of your review team. This depends on how large or dynamic your organization is and how many different types of employees will use the software. Regardless, it’s always good practice to include:
● Representative(s) of employees who actually be using the software
● Someone from the IT department to track whatever system changes may be required for seamless deployment of the new software
● A member of the finance or accounting to approve funds and payment options; especially if we are talking about a hefty investment
Organizations should always look out for staff that demonstrates objectivity and integrity and are committed to quality and continuous improvement in the company.
Step 2: Define Your Business Needs and Preferences
The focus of this team is to gather information, analyze features and software reviews from various sources, and test shortlisted solutions. To be in the best position to achieve that, they will need to note the following:
- Major challenges with the old software that the new one will address. It may not be possible to eliminate every issue with one software so let them decide the features and functionalities that are paramount (must-haves) and those that are optional (nice-to-haves). This exercise provides a solid reference that will help them to avoid getting distracted by other seemingly appealing features later on.
- A ballpark figure for the new software. At this stage, they will likely have a rough estimate if not an exact amount and that’s fine for now. This will also help you filter out solutions that are too expensive right off the bat.
- Any physical requirements and system changes should be figured out now. Especially with regards to changing or upgrading the current IT infrastructure.
Figuring out your business needs will force you to think about what you want in a software solution. Having a clear picture will significantly speed up the entire review process.
Step 3: Assign a Leader for the Process
At this point, you have a list of staff that will work together to select a new software but it’s advisable to appoint someone who will lead the process and be accountable for ensuring that every team member reaches their set targets.
Another advantage of appointing a team lead is that in cases where you have a large team, as it can become difficult to track who is doing what, when they’re expected to complete tasks, and how they are turning in their results and observations.
It can quickly become messy when you have 5+ people from different departments trying to communicate and send in information gathered from different sources about different software options.
To simplify the process, an option that works well is to empower the leader with a project management tool like Asana or Trello that they can use to track things like comments, questions, updates, progress reports, documentation, etc.
Now that the team is assembled, the next stage involves setting up a review system.
How to Organize the Review Process
Your team is ready with an extensive list of required features and specifications. The actual selection process can now start.
Step 1: Decide Where to Search
There are several sources for getting reliable information and reviews about enterprise software today, although some are more likely to meet your needs better than others.
Below are the major places to look:
Use Google to your company’s advantage. Start by searching the “top x…tools,” like in the screenshot below.
There are a bunch of results that come up. After this, review the top-ranked posts and see which names appear more often.
Industry Trade Magazines
Practically every industry out there - from manufacturing to healthcare, travel, and accounting - has its own trade magazine. Because they cater to a particular industry, it’s easier to get information and value for every niche.
The companies in your industry that are the most influential, that have the best products, and the highest levels of sales are likely doing many things right. With some digging, the team can find out what kinds of software these organizations are using and why.
Software Review and Comparison Sites
They often feature balanced B2B ratings along with very detailed information about each software (often even video reviews).
Most reviews are accompanied by a select scoring range as well as pros and cons, as seen in the screenshot from EmailToolTester.
Users can look through different services, like email marketing shown in this example, to compare pricing and other elements.
Step #2: Investigate Online Reviews
It’s now estimated that up to 84% of people trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations.
Yet, that doesn’t mean every online review is trustworthy. Users question numerous things like authenticity when looking through an online review.
The technology market is very competitive and some businesses will do anything to get ahead - even paying for reviews that end up being much kinder than they should.
This is something you should always have in the back of your mind while reading online reviews. The good news is that people are catching on.
In 2018, users commented that only 33% have read a bunch of fake reviews. Users older than 50 are less likely to come across a fake review.
To avoid the risks of being stuck with expensive applications that don’t serve your purposes, what should one look for when reading online reviews?
Here are a couple of things to concentrate on:
- The wording of the review – Watch out for reviews that focus on praising the product and continuously downplay any negatives that they mention (if they actually decide to mention any).
- The comments section – A quick way to detect potential biased/bought reviews is if the commenting function is disabled. Some review sites do this to silence negative or angry comments or feedback from users about some disadvantages that they “forgot” to mention.
By looking at online reviews and comparing available features vs your list of must-have and nice-to-have features, it’s easier to gradually eliminate software solutions that don’t meet the company’s requirements.
Aim for a final list of about three to five options. The next step is to see each software in action.
Step 3: Arrange for Demos
Now it’s time to test shortlisted solutions through demos, walkthroughs, and free trials. This is vital to confirm what each one can do for your business and how good of a match it is.
Make sure that the testing is done by the people who will actually be using the software. There’s no point in doing this otherwise.
If it is not a walkthrough and they are just testing the software through a free trial, a good practice is to write down any feature-related questions that come to mind during testing and discuss the details later on with the software provider.
After all, you don’t want to pass on a decent software just because you think that a certain feature is missing, not realizing it is just implemented in a different way than you’re used to.
Step 4: Create a Checklist
Here are a few final questions to ask the software providers (alongside the ones you noted down during the review process) before you make the final decision:
- How much maintenance will the solution require?
- Will there be on-going after-sales support and for how long?
- How easy is it to reach the vendor when there’s a problem?
- Are there any ongoing costs? What of recurring renewal or upgrading expenses; do they offer custom pricing if that is needed?
- What of other expenses such as staff training, and extended warranties?
Answering these questions makes it easier to avoid over-enthusiastic sellers that lack proper after-sales support services.
Step 5: Discuss the Finalized Plan
By now, your team has all the necessary information and they are in a great position to wrap up the selection process. They just need to sit down and discuss everyone’s favorites until they agree on a solution.
They should consider critical factors like pricing, the pros and cons of each option, and how each tool aligns best with the company’s objectives before arriving at a final decision.
Keep in mind that some tools can have a pretty complicated pricing plan that changes based on the payment type you choose.
Last but not least, think about scaling. Many software solutions these days offer free basic plans and very inexpensive starter plans. The problems are when you start to scale and notice that the next package is vastly more expensive than the starter package. So it definitely pays to look ahead.
Select the Perfect Software to Increase Business Productivity
Finding the best software for your business is not a process you want to rush. There are so many choices that may look like a good fit initially but they could cause you problems later on. As a site that reviews software solutions for a living, we have met a fair share of unsatisfied users in the comments of our reviews that regretted their hasty decisions.
By setting up an internal system for thoroughly reviewing what's out there, you are assured of a systematic process that can be used at any time and results in quality software selection you won’t regret 6 months later.