If you're searching for a new software application for your business and you’ve come to the GrassrootsIT blog to hear about the silver bullet of an application that no-one has heard of that will make all your business issues disappear (just like an unattended box of doughnuts left on the #nerdherd tea room) then I may have some bad news. It’s generally not JUST the technology that makes the earth shattering differences.
Whether you go with Microsoft 365 or Google GSuite, shiny silver HP or matte black Lenovo, you'll probably find some of these solutions are better suited to the way that you operate. However, when you really look into it, there are some critical factors to consider when selecting the right software applications to drive digital growth and transformation in your business.
Focus on your business first.
Let's start at the beginning. As the new financial year is now upon us, it's a fantastic time to reflect and review, to evaluate the effectiveness of your strategies so masterfully deployed in the year so far. With a sound evaluation completed, setting your sights on new goals and objectives for the rest of the year ahead can only help you to set yourself up for business success in 2018.
Technology tools don't solve management or communication problems in isolation, but they can certainly exacerbate them if underlying issues haven't been dealt with already. It’s important to figure out your processes and communication systems before starting to layer on tools. Inevitably, when you sit down and do the hard yards of documenting your processes new insights are often uncovered.
When have identified the pain points and real needs of your business, you may find that you don’t require a bespoke software solution. It’s a sound strategy to not purchase or build something before there is a very clear and documented understanding of what you need it to do.
For starters, see how much you can get done with what you have. It is entirely possible that the Microsoft Office 365 solution could do the job nicely - we find that there is a huge untapped pool of capabilities in the solution, but perhaps you could also find a consultant to help you customise an existing software package to the needs of your business.
If you find that an off-the-shelf solution simply won't solve the business need, then you can start to shop around. But don’t go for the newest, shiniest software on the block. Figure out what you need from a tool and then you are set with the knowledge to target your research and set yourself up for success.
Do your homework before making the switch.
If you pick the wrong software application, it can be incredibly painful to switch or, even worse, continue down the road using an ill-fitted system that staff and customers are forced to struggle using.
Doing your research up front will help you avoid the time and money pit of migrating solutions down the road.
The good news is that a good deal of the effort is already behind you. By now, you would have a documented understanding of what your requirements are, organisational charts, process maps and workflows that you identified when you looked at your existing business processes and goals. Now it's all about identifying the solution that is most suitable for your team, goals and workflows.
A good place to start researching is by having a look at what other companies like yours are using. Ask around. Your Managed Service Provider would likely be dealing with a wide variety of organisations, each with their specific quirks and needs, and may have experience with software applications in your industry. Leverage their hard-earned experience and get a head start on narrowing down the array of choices in the market.
Consider cost, but pay for value. Some software can be expensive but if it fits your business needs and helps your team to be more productive, then a sound and objective evaluation should illustrate that the system would more than pay for itself over time. When evaluating costs, don't forget to consider the time spent implementing the new system and training staff on the new software application.
Don’t settle on the first piece of software that you find. Ask for recommendations from your trusted technology partners, read independent reviews and make sure that you are constantly referring back to the key requirements you invested the time in nutting out in the first place.
Integrate all the things.
We’re all about value here at Grassroots IT. In the same way you get the most value out of a tight team working together in unison, there is no better way to get the most out of your software investment by having the new tools work together with all your other systems.
Automation. This is where the time and money lives. Now, to be fair, it's generally not a very sexy or exciting affair (hands up everyone that goes to bed dreaming about Workflow Management Systems? No one? Okay.) but trust me, it's worth it.
If you want to automate tasks, you’ll need to connect them. Hook your productivity suite into your CRM, and connect your reports into an automated dashboard so that your goals and progress are visible. The options are just limited by your imagination, if you choose the tools that work well together.
When it comes down to it, the reason you are implementing new software applications is to enhance your existing processes or to provide a new, hopefully transformational capability, so automation and integration are keys to this success.
Get everyone on board.
So, you’ve landed on the perfect fitting software application. Great!
The thing is though, it's all too easy to focus on the shiny new systems and boxes that go ping. It has been my experience over many years that a significant factor in whether a new business transformation project implementation will be a cracker or a stinker is in a far more complicated area - people.
If your team isn’t using the new software, there really isn’t much point in implementing it. Adoption is critical!
Where appropriate, involving the team in the evaluation and selection process of a new can be a very useful exercise in reinforcing the overarching direction of the company and crystallising the company goals that everyone is working towards. When the relevant people in the organisation are aware of the incoming changes and having direct input in the decision making, this will usually reduce the probability of pushback and have them more on board for implementation and training when the new system is ready to go-live.
The keys to success.
Identify the Business Needs
The most critical part of this whole journey in selecting the software that can best support your business growth and transformation lies in understanding and documenting the processes that drive your business day to day.
To be sure, it takes a lot of effort initially, but this really is where the time and money lives. The first step in understanding what data and processes your organisation is working with may just give you the opportunity to ask that critical question, Why?
Who knows, you may even get the opportunity to uncover some “because it’s always been done that way” opportunities for transformation and growth.
The Right Technology
By now you would know that it's not all about the technology. It’s also true though that regardless of the industry, technology forms a vital part of the mix in your transformational success.
Do you have the right tools necessary to deliver the results you are seeking?
Investing in the technology that aligns your IT and business strategy is a path forward to achieving your goals and differentiating you from your competitors.
Not only will you see benefits in terms of productivity and efficiency, but you may be pleasantly surprised at a more engaged and happy team. As Richard Branson famously says, if you take care of your employees then they will take care of your customers.
People and Culture
The key to success in implementing new software applications is culture, and this is where many businesses fail. It isn't easy to embed new ways of thinking throughout an organisation, but it really is essential to attaining the benefits that the new software applications have the potential to provide for your staff and customers.
At the end of the day, business is all about the people. People don’t do business with a computer or a web page. People do business with other people.
Are your people empowered? If your people are equipped with the right skills, the right tools, the freedom to crack on with what they do best and the belief that what they are doing is meaningful and significant, then you are on a rocket to where you want to be.
Choosing a new software application for your business may seem like the magic pill to challenges your company is experiencing, but just remember: it’s not the tool that makes the difference, it’s what you do with it. First document your business goals and processes to identify the business needs, do your research to ensure you find the right solution that integrates with your existing tools, and ensure your team is on board with the changes. If you have identified the business needs, chosen the right technology and brought your people on the journey, then you'll have the keys to a successful implementation of your new software application.