Choosing the right tools for your company can be extremely challenging, not to mention expensive, time-consuming, and risky. There are hundred of solutions available for a variety of needs, and it’s often unclear if they’ll deliver on their promises for your specific organization and with your unique workforce.
To help you wrap your mind (and resources) around this difficult but necessary task, we’ve taken the liberty of creating a Buyer’s Guide to innovation management software. Plus, we touched base with the folks over at Software Advice, who research project management software, to see what they’ve discovered about successful software selection through experience and research. Below, the experts answer important questions that every company leader has when it comes to finding and implementing the right tools.
1. Recently, you released a report covering the best software selection tactics for small businesses. Can you give us an overview of the key findings, as well as how the research was conducted?
We found that SMBs should be checking vendor references and having their attorney review all agreements. These two tactics had a positive impact on both the outcome of a software selection project and buyer satisfaction. With the advent of sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and the like, buyers have become accustomed to using customer opinions to help make important purchasing decisions. Our research confirms that this is just as true among SMBs evaluating software.
Our research also showed that the majority of buyers are involving end-users in their selection process—a tactic we found to be ineffective. Buyers who involve end-users are more likely to report high levels of dissatisfaction in their software selection search. I’d attribute this outcome to companies being a victim of having ‘too many cooks in the kitchen.’ While it’s necessary to understand how the software will be used day-to-day, involving end-users could take the project in the wrong direction. End users won’t have the context of knowing the whole scope of the project; for example, they are unlikely to weigh important factors such as integration and project budget.
We collected 321 responses for this survey in 2013. We asked buyers 14 “yes” or “no” questions to determine what tactics they used during their software selection process. We then asked respondents to rate their level of satisfaction with their software purchase on a scale of one to 10, 10 being “extremely satisfied,” one being “extremely dissatisfied.”
2. Businesses of all sizes face challenges when choosing software of any kind. Are any of the approaches listed in the report also applicable to larger organizations? If so, how can they best be made scalable?
One thing that came out as having a low correlation in our survey, that I think is still important for enterprise, is having an IT person involved in the software selection process. In our survey it had a low correlation due in part to many small businesses not always having an IT person. Enterprise operations do have that IT person and that person is often the “tech liaison” that works with the users and decision makers. And it’s really that person who should be the driver of a software selection project to keep it moving forward.
For smaller businesses, it is often the business owner making the software decisions.
3. There are many types of software that businesses can choose to leverage, but some are more straightforward than others. What are some recommendations for small business leaders who are looking for lesser-known tools, like project management or innovation software?
I would recommend that small businesses leaders start with the problems they want to solve. Sit down and make a list of all the pain points your team is experiencing to determine what you need before you go out and say “I want project management software.” That’s something we hear a lot from buyers who think they need one kind of software but after talking to our advisors find that they need a very different tool based on their needs.
4. Give us some insight into the Software Selection Success Quadrant. How would this apply to choosing innovation or project management software, both of which are heavily reliant on widespread user experience?
The quadrant summarizes which tactics are important to ensuring a successful software selection project (“checking vendors references,” for example, was the top tactic). With innovation and project management software, it’s helpful to get a variety of perspectives on what it’s like to use the software. That’s because unlike a single-user system (like a content management system (CMS) where the web editor might be the sole user), large projects involve many users. So where can you get these perspectives on innovation and project management software? Software reviews are a really great place to see firsthand user experience with the functionality of the software and they’re a great way to connect people on your team with others who’ve already used the software. You can also read the vendor’s blog, talk to a 3rd party integrator or speak with one of our advisors.
5. What are the three biggest mistakes businesses make when selecting and implementing software? What challenges do leaders face as a result of those mistakes?
I think the biggest mistake businesses make is starting the process without first taking a good hard look at the problems they want to solve with software. Very often buyers zero in on the cost of the software without first defining their objectives. I recommend that they make a list of the pain points that they think software could solve in their business and talk to the vendor about the specific KPIs that can realistically be improved. Of course, price is a big determining factor, but what if the software actually causes inefficiencies because it’s not effective? That creates a cost that didn’t exist before and can negatively impact ROI.
6. What are the most critical success factors that developers need to consider when designing software, in order to be more appealing to SMB users?
The thing that buyers talk to us most about is ease-of-use. Buyers want software to have an intuitive user interface. Today, a lot of people research software by looking at demos and screenshots. Developers should keep in mind that if those images don’t have a sleek, modern look that conveys ease-of-use, chances are buyers won’t even contact the software companies, who could be losing more sales than they realize.