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How to Choose Business Software: The Top 5 Considerations

Are you looking for a new CRM for your business? How about something to manage your sales efforts, or track your projects, or handle your finances?

Searching the internet for “cloud based software” or “business CRMs” can be a daunting process; there are endless options, all with pretty websites, and all with big promises. What should you be looking for when picking a cloud solution for your business?

We have completed hundreds of software implementations, reviewed dozens of software systems, and have had our finger on the pulse of the industry for more than 5 years. These are our top 5 considerations for picking the right software for your business.

1. Security

A lot of systems promote “bank grade” security, but what does that mean? Generally, they are referring to the “SS-Enabled” nature of their web applications (with SS = Secure Socket); this is great as it adds an extra (and hard to crack) layer to the system’s security.

SSL is great, but it’s standard industry practice – the best software solutions go above and beyond that.

Does the software provide transparent information about their security, or just vague promises? Things to look for include hashed and encrypted passwords, data redundancy, IP access controls, robust permissions systems, and multi-step login authentication.

At the very least, do your homework and see how the company has handled security issues in the past, if any. Data security never matters until something happens to you – and in today’s world, it probably eventually will.

2. User Experience
Whether discussing social networks, video games, media sites, or business software, technology hacks like ourselves love user experience, ie the experience of using a product (iPhone = good. Clamshell packaging = bad).

Many business owners are attracted to management-driven software (see Salesforce and Netsuite). But before you’re drawn to a sales pitch that shows you nice bright graphs and category-based ROI, have an employee take the software for a spin. Software is only as effective as the people using it, so if the UI is a nightmare to figure out or use, then it’s likely not the best option for your business (and those reports won’t mean anything, because no one is using it).

3. Integrations/API
One of the main perks of cloud software is the ability to integrate your systems together using APIs (or, Application Programming Interfaces); basically, these are digital handshakes between systems, enabling your software to share data and information. This might mean viewing your customer service data alongside your sales data, or accessing your CRM from within your Google Apps mail account.

These type of integrations are only possible when the systems you use have open and accessible APIs. Do some research on the software and look into the integrations it offers. You don’t want to feel handcuffed by what you’ve implemented if the system’s API is lacking, or nonexistent.

Moreover, integrations aren’t all created equal. Make sure you read the documentation or find a Youtube video demonstrating how any given integration works – it might be a “lip service” integration, instead of something delivering true value.

4. The Vision
It’s important to take into account the software company’s future plans when deciding whether to onboard them for your business. In some instances the company’s founders just want to build a huge user base so they can sell the company to someone like Salesforce or Oracle. You, as the user, go from a SMB using SMB software, to a SMB using enterprise software; that’s no good.

It’s often times very difficult to judge or understand a company’s vision, though the amount and timing of their funding (if any), as well as the background of its founders are good places to start.

Are the founders engineers? Software industry guys? Or, are they entrepreneurs looking to flip their next company? Look for interviews, Techcrunch reviews, or blog posts that may hint at the company’s direction. You don’t want to be stranded a year after launch.

5. Features
It might sound obvious, but a solution’s feature-set should be a determining factor when you choose it for your business.

Just because something calls itself a CRM, for example, doesn’t mean it does the things you need it to. Take project management – most CRMs handle tasks very differently than a traditional project management tool. Whether or not that difference works for your business could be a make-or-break feature.

Moreover, solutions have different approaches to features. We’ve written previously on the Guerilla vs. Spider Web approaches – suffice to say, some software tries to do it all, while other software solutions specialize. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

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There are pros and cons with everything solution, and nothing is perfect. If you keep the above factors in mind when researching a new system, then you should be on the right track. And if you’re still confused? Send us a note, we’d love to help!

 

VM Associates is a New York City cloud computing consulting firm. We help companies transition into newer, better, smarter software. Contact us to talk about your business, the cloud, and how we might help.

The post How to Choose Business Software: The Top 5 Considerations appeared first on VM Associates.

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More Stories By Chris Bliss

Chris Bliss works at VM Associates, an end-user consultancy for businesses looking to move to the cloud from pre-existing legacy systems.