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Entrepreneurs are wise to make use of software to automate and streamline day-to-day processes. But knowing which software tool to choose is challenging.
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Here’s a process that will help you decide which tools to add to your list of options and how to evaluate the ones you’re considering.
Decide who will lead the evaluation process
When you’re selecting new software, it’s a good idea to designate who on your team will lead the effort. This person may not be the final decision-maker, but he or she will be responsible for establishing the process for evaluating the software and for collecting testing data. He or she will also solicit input for defining goals and will present the findings along with a recommendation.
Identify which problems you’re aiming to solve
Before any evaluation begins, you need to determine what existing issues you’re looking to solve or what processes you’re seeking to streamline or automate.
Also, decide what your goals are for this new software. Do you need protection from a cybersecurity attack? Are you looking to reduce the time it takes to process your payroll? You need to know your goals in order to find the right software to achieve them.
Identify what users need to accomplish
Once you know the problems you want to solve, it’s time to talk with your team members who will be using the software. Create a list of requirements for the software and make sure you clearly distinguish between needs and wants in a prioritized list, as it will come into play when making the final decision.
Also, consider integration capabilities and whether or not your top picks will work with your current platforms and workflows. This new technology won’t be used in a vacuum and even the best options available won’t stand up if they don’t fit with your current processes.
Research and create a list of possible solutions
Find out what technology solutions are available to solve your existing problems or provide opportunities for improvement. Consider targeted solutions that focus on a particular problem or process, as well as all-in-one types of technology that will solve for not only the target problem but will also improve other processes or boost automation. Identify the pros and cons, especially focusing on integration capabilities and the flexibility of the software to scale with you as your company grows. Also, be sure to look at training and customer support options.
Narrow your options
In some cases, you may find several solutions that meet your needs. If that’s the case, you need to select a manageable number to investigate. Narrow down to five or fewer top picks based on the functionality and the fit, making sure that the chosen options meet the requirements you’ve just prioritized.
Take a look at reviews from current users and see what types of functionality they highlight as well as their overall experience. Is the feedback consistent among users? Do the reviews vary by user type?
This may tell you something useful. Consider both functionality and cost in your analysis and factor in up-front and future costs. For example, if the pricing is based on the number of users, you’ll want to consider this additional cost as your company grows.
Designate your testers
Select a couple of people on your team to go through a trial to fully experiment with the software. A demo is fine to start narrowing down options, but a trial is best for thorough testing and will provide more time to explore.
Supply each user with a form to help them map what they liked, didn’t like, what functionality is missing, and whether they would anticipate adopting the software if it was purchased. Ask them to consider how user-friendly the tool is and the effectiveness of the help options available. Make sure they replicate the same task with each of the options you’ve narrowed down to make sure they have a true apples-to-apples comparison as the basis for their feedback.
Collect the feedback
Once your team has completed all of their trials, collate the information and identify the best options. It’s helpful to create a grid with the top priorities and the aggregated feedback collected for each, as well as some comments with overall opinions.
Evaluate the options and make your decision
With the feedback grid and comments from the testers in hand, make a final decision. Whomever you selected to lead the evaluation effort should present his or her recommendation and the basis for their choice based on the collected data.
Early-stage startups typically have limited funds, so it’s especially important to use all resources wisely. Using technology to improve process efficiency through automation is a great way to make wise use of resources and having a methodical approach to evaluating options will help you make the best decisions for your business.