Let’s just jump in, both feet first and get started…
So, you’re researching new software prospects. What an incredible opportunity your company has to engage staff and the effect will be better than you bargained for. The Workplace Research Foundation reported that “highly engaged employees were much more likely to have above-average productivity, to the tune of 38%”[i]. Show your staff that you are listening to their needs & stay engaged with those who make your world go ’round. All too often, I see companies ignore their most important resource, their staff. Those who spend their days working with the software are your biggest and best resource, they have first-hand knowledge of the do’s and don’ts and the have’s and have not’s. According to Dale Carnegie, “Companies with engaged employees, outperform those without by 202%”[ii]. It’s important to consider all input when making company-wide changes. Asking your end-users their opinions does MORE for your bottom line than saving you from making costly purchase errors.
Your Future Needs
Forecasting is a part a business and your software is a very large piece of your business. This is an all-inclusive statement; whether you currently have software or not, this applies to you. All businesses require forethought and yours is no different. Why waste time and money purchasing resources you truly don’t need & won’t use in the future. After speaking with your staff/employees, you should now have a beginning list of must-haves and wants. Comparing this list with the current and future needs of the company will help you to narrow things down a bit.
Easy Transition Path
Let’s set real and proper expectations here. Having a transition path doesn’t mean that you won’t have any hiccups while integrating. What it does mean is your new software should have utilities that will transition the information from your database(s), i.e. vendors, customers and general ledger accounts from your old software to your new software or, at least, have the ability to code one for you. This saves time in transition and helps to alleviate some of the stress.
With the ease of use, I see $avings! Who doesn’t like a stronger bottom line? If your new software is easy to use, it will likely be easy to learn, manage data entry errors, and increase productivity. The effect of this is seen in the strength of your team and, of course, your bottom line. Training should be flexible and meet the needs of your company. Do you want in-person training? Do you want led training classes? Do you want the software company to train a team of your employees on the processes so they can train the rest of your staff? There are options and it is up to you and the software company to navigate what the best option is for your company.
With this type of purchase, there will, without a doubt, be a need for post-sale support. It is best to inquire at the beginning which types of support you will require and which types of support the software company will require you to have. Will you designate someone in your office to get trained in the entire system to help manage future inquiries from staff? Will the software company offer post-sales training? After the agreed upon personal training is completed, will there be additional support available if needed? Will tech support be available & to what extent will it be available? What if you need to add additional users? The truth is we don’t know what we don’t know; the answer is to research & know your position.
Budget + Additional Costs & Fees
As with any purchase, it is important to fully understand what you are agreeing to. As with many software providers, the contract will indicate the initial costs and any (foreseeable) additional potential costs and fees. As always, it is your responsibility to read and discuss the contract, in full with the software architect and/or company sales representatives. I encourage you to discuss, at least, the following: initial software purchase price, if there are additional items needed, (post support) what are the associated hourly costs, cost of any standard updates, costs of any additional code or programming you may want, adding additional users at a later date and the cost of training. Frequently, changes to the service provided, additional items above and beyond the principal software offered will involve additional costs. These are not necessarily considered hidden fees. Things to watch for are after the contract is signed, are you being asked to pay an increased amount for items within the contract itself. The goal here it is to research your purchase, engage current customers of the prospective software, understand what your needs are and what you are actually purchasing. The best way to protect yourself is to be informed.
Know Your Partner
Once you have your list of possible companies narrowed down, it is time to learn all that you can about this company with whom you might do business. Can they fulfill all of your needs and most of your wants? Since this is, in a very real way, a partnership, it is important to consider the values of a company. Do they fit within your value system? This may seem like a small thing to some but, trust me when I tell you; this is a very critical step. You are about to partner with a software development company to change the inner workings of your company. It’s vital that you take the time to learn all that you can to ensure that they will work well with your company. It is a hard and expensive lesson to learn after the contract is signed and the software is installed that your new partner’s values indicate a lack of trust, focus, and reflection. Save yourself the additional stress!
Speaking of stress – taking your company through a software transition is stressful regardless of how much you prepare or how great the software company is. The best way to ensure the least amount of stress is by following the steps outlined above. Make sure to encourage employee engagement, know your needs, research and build a viable plan for transition, research, implementation, and training. It is equally important to know your software companies value system, processes for post-sales support and to get to know what is expected to be provided and where additional costs and fees can appear. If you follow these steps, your transition will be as stress-free as one can possibly be.
Written by: Rachel Hedrick – Rhedrick@rdb-solutions.com
RDB Solutions – Crafting thoughtful business solutions since 1998
We Listen. We Collaborate. We Deliver.