As a business owner, you are likely aware of the overwhelming number of tools and software options available to help run your business. In today’s tech-driven world, there is an app or program for just about any business need and in most cases, multiple options for the same solution.
It can be difficult to determine if the cost of a tool will be worth it, or whether it will be the right fit for your business. Here are 5 tips to keep in mind when purchasing business software:
1.) Evaluate Your Business Needs and Available Solutions
Take some time to think about the challenges and inefficiencies your business currently faces. Chances are, there are software options that can help with them. In addition to productivity applications like Microsoft Office, helpful business tools may include:
- Payroll software
- Accounting software
- Time tracking software for employees
- Website management and hosting solutions
- Transaction software
- Point-of-sale payment solutions
- Email marketing tools
- Industry-specific tools such as graphic design programs, document encryption, and computer-aided software (CAD)
- Project management and collaboration tools
As you evaluate the tools available to your business, keep your business needs in mind. It can be tempting to want the “latest and greatest” technology for all areas of your business, but you don’t want to overcomplicate things either.
2.) Consider the Solution’s Potential Return on Investment
If you feel that a particular tool is not essential for your business operations, but more of a “nice-to-have”, you should assess whether the cost of it will be worth it in the long run. A business solution may not seem necessary, but if it can increase efficiency and reduce cost over time you could end up with a solid return on investment (ROI).
If the business solution you’re considering is subscription-based, be sure to evaluate its ongoing cost as part of your ROI analysis. If a non-subscription alternative is available, it is smart to compare the long-term pricing of each to ensure you are making a financially sound decision. The monthly fees of a subscription model might seem low compared to the upfront cost of a non-subscription option, but you could end up paying substantially more for it over time.
3.) Understand Your Ongoing Security and Support Needs
There are many web and cloud-based business tools available these days, and they’re often referred to as “software as a service” (SaaS). SaaS programs are often less expensive than installed enterprise software, but due their cloud-based environment they can be a target for cyberattacks. So, if you’re considering a web-based SaaS for your business, be sure to prioritize security. The good news is that with the right best practices in place, SaaS can be just as secure as on-premise applications.
Support for software is also an important consideration. The most complicated and powerful business solutions are typically the most critical to your operations. With some business tools, support may be included, but often a support package costs extra. Before committing to ongoing support, consider how much support you will need, and how often you will need it. Will you only need support during business hours, or will you need after-hours or expedited support as well?
4.) Determine Who Will be Using the Software
Another factor to consider is how many machines the software will run on. Dedicated software packages usually come with a license for a specific number of computers and/or mobile devices. This is called “site licensing,” and the costs associated with it can scale up enormously, depending on how many users (sometimes referred to as “seats”) will be using the program concurrently. Keep in mind that occasionally, seat license prices can be negotiated with the salesperson – it’s worth a try!
5.) Do Your Research
Before purchasing a new business tool it is best to get a demo of it. A demonstration can help you gauge how useful the tool will be, how difficult it will be to learn, and its potential for your business. This can help to ensure that you truly understand what you’re buying before you commit.
It’s also important to properly research business software before moving forward with a purchase. Websites like G2.com, Capterra.com and GetApp.com allow you to explore and compare various software options, and read reviews from real customers. Make sure you are purchasing software from a reputable company with a proven track record. You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on software only to have the company go out of business shortly thereafter. That could leave you stuck without support options or critical product updates.
At BankFive, we are committed to helping MA and RI business owners achieve their business goals. If you would like to speak with one of our business experts and learn more about business management, payroll solutions, and point-of-sale solutions that could help your bottom line, contact us today.