Photography by Hillary Ehlen
Every business must make a decision about the software tools they will use to get the job done, and it’s not always an easy task. Most people probably know the high-level steps such as gathering requirements and determining a budget, but there are some steps that often get forgotten.
1. Test, test, test.
Most vendors offer a free trial or time period to evaluate their software or service. If the product you’re evaluating will require a significant investment, use an internal pilot program or proof of concept to help make the best decision. Some vendors, e.g. Microsoft, may even provide funding for a proof of concept.
2. Get buy-in from top to bottom.
Get buy-in from all levels of the organizational ladder. It doesn’t matter how quickly and easily a manager can generate a report if the end users tasked with entering the underlying data on a day-to-day basis hate the new system. The ideal solution is to test a small group of users or, at the very least, gather some feedback. Even if that feedback is not the deciding factor, adoption of the new system will go more smoothly if employees feel like they’ve been heard.
3. It takes a village so take time to meet the neighbors.
These days, the developer community is as or more important than the “vanilla” product. Does the product you’re evaluating have an API (application programming interface)? Is there an app store or marketplace where developers can publish their enhancements to the application?
A robust developer community means more features, sooner and at a lower cost. Without it, you’ll be forced to wait for the original manufacturer to add a desired feature or hire a developer to custom-build the feature. Look for add-ons, extensions and modules that could make a difference in your final decision.
4. Consider out-of-the-box integrations.
The cost of integrating two applications is significant so look for solutions that are natively integrated with the rest of your environment such as Microsoft Office 365, Google G Suite, or SalesForce.com
This is also a good time to look into whether your current platform already offers the service you’re looking for. For example, Office 365 and G Suite both offer a similar service to Box.com and Dropbox but are natively integrated into your email and office applications.