Here’s some pointers for when you know you need better systems and are looking at off the shelf cloud software. Using the new software is generally only a small part of making successful change – there is a lot more to consider.
Choosing Cloud Based Software
• It is exceedingly unlikely one nirvana of cloud software exists that will do everything you want. And even if it did, your needs are likely to grow or change anyway.
• It is quite likely that one or two cloud software tools exist that will do 80% of what you are wanting.
• It is very likely there will be multiple ways to achieve most of what you want all with their own cost and trade off implications.
• If you stick to popular market leading software, you are more protected from the software becoming obsolete. It’s a highly competitive market and leading providers compete by releasing new functionality to hold on to their subscribers.
• Understand who the software was developed for. Most was written by a business that couldn’t find what they needed for their own business so they developed it themselves, then decided to on-sell to others.
• Each software package has core functionality it does well, and other bits that may be no more than quick tack ons. Look for a solution with core functionality closely matching your needs.
• Minimise your capital investment. The cloud based software market is developing quickly. Some software available now for a minimal monthly cost may have cost tens of thousands or more in development even 5-10 years ago.
• Be prepared to invest in confirming the software is going to do what you think it will. The features advertised are a good start but there could easily be functionality you are assuming the system will offer, that it actually doesn’t. The devil is in the detail.
Check the Software Company Strategy
• Have they decided to target a specific industry group – and is your business in that group?
• If are they generalists – this will affect the type of new features they are likely to release and whether they will suit you.
• Is the software company in a stage where they are releasing new functionality, or are they focusing on marketing and building their brand?
• What is their strategy on support – Do they keep support in house and provide phone / email support or do they work through support partners?
• Do they have a local presence and does this matter to you?
• Is their product even targeting the NZ market?
Be clear about what you want from making change
• What are your top priorities to make change worthwhile?
• What takes up the most time in your business?
• What causes the most errors in your business?
• Where is the highest risk in your business?
• What would a future prospective purchaser of your business want to know?
• What are your ‘nice to haves’ that you would really like but might be willing to do without?
• What are your negotiables that you would be willing to have a bit of a workaround to achieve?
How change-ready is your business?
• Are you motivated to change, and do you clearly understand the reasons why you want to or have to change?
• Who is the champion/s in your business who loves process and change, and will inspire others?
• Do roles and responsibilities need to be more defined to clarify who will be doing what?
• Are there any members of the team who are going to be negative to making change, and if so, how will this be dealt with?
• Are the key people in your business willing and able to put in the effort to get over the implementation hump, before things get easier?
• If you as the business owner are already overloaded and working long hours, what is your plan to free up your time, or another key person’s time, to lead the change?
How will changes get practically implemented?
• Can you change systems in stages or does everything have to change on one day?
• Are there some changes that need to be made before others?
• Do you need to allow for a testing phase and running two systems alongside each other?
• Will you need to export and archive information from previous systems?
• Are you going to need a change in IT capability?
• Is the new system going to reduce duplication, or create it – does it work in with the systems you already have?
• Accept there are likely to be disappointments. Once you have ticked off your ‘must have’ list, you may start to look deeper and realise there are other things you would have valued.
If you need help – give us a shout. This is what we do.