How to Choose Integrated Business Software to Boost your Business: 10-point Checklist
A fundamental challenge that you may be facing as a business owner in response to the ever-changing dynamics of the markets is the need to reduce your overheads and increase efficiency and productivity. Amidst the COVID crisis, it becomes even more critical to lower operating costs by 50-80%.
You can achieve this by streamlining any inefficient process, ensuring cohesiveness within the various departments through efficient communication and an agile business workflow.
As a business owner, you understand that each department would require its own specialized software to automate its workflow, processes and manage data. However, for the overall business to function efficiently as one unit, the smooth and accurate exchange of data between departments is critical. If departments work in silos, it can drastically impact your business by cutting down productivity, reducing data accuracy and consistency, hampering visibility across the organization, and increasing costs.
Over 80% of enterprise Business Operations leaders say data integration is critical to ongoing operations. They can see how due to scattered and disconnected data streams, workers are on average spending more time searching or moving data (8 hours per week). This time could be better utilized for strategic activities and taking decisive actions on that data (7 hours per week).
This is where integrated business software comes into the picture. Integrated business management software helps to manage the data of all departments and automates the workflow of each area. Such a system eliminates manual errors in data or information, duplication of work between departments and simplifies business processes. As a business head, this enables you to have a real-time view of all components of your business workflow in an instant - thereby allowing you to analyze any gaps or patterns and accordingly modify your business strategies.
As your business grows, it becomes critical that your valuable data is consolidated from different sources and teams, so that you may draw relevant insights and base them to form essential business strategies and decisions.
With so much at stake, the selection of a suitable integrated business software requires serious deliberation. There are several types of integrated business software available in the market, and not all of them may fit in with your specific needs.
In September 2020, McKinsey conducted a survey of 800 executives, representing a range of industries. Approximately, half of the respondents were based in the United States, and the remaining were from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Spain, China and the United Kingdom. Around 85% of the respondents reported that their businesses had increased implementation of technology to enable employee interaction and collaboration digitally. Approximately half of those surveyed said growing digitization for customer engagement channels through e-commerce, mobile apps and chatbots. Some 35% have further digitized their supply chains by connecting their suppliers with digital platforms in the supply chain.
If such a dynamic environment, if your business does not take advantage of such technologies, it will not only adversely impact your business but will also lead to your failure in the long run. This is why you need to carefully evaluate your choices and adopt the correct business integration software.
However, with such a range of options available in the market, how do you choose the most appropriate one to address your organization's critical business areas?
Here's a quick checklist of the 10 most important things to consider while choosing an integrated business software to manage your business needs.
1. Analyze your Requirements:
The first place you should look is within your team and relevant stakeholders – and gather what areas they are seeking to improve or streamline. Their feedback and approval of the software must be factored in, as they would be the ones using it. Your team needs to be confident that the new business software will be able to deliver the expected results and in the long run, boost the company's performance.
You also need to assess the overall purpose of opting for specific business software.Are you planning to use the software for short-term or long-term? Consider if you would like to use it only for automating certain processes or tasks which will be specific to a team or function. Or would you like to extend it to different teams across the organization? Clarity on your data integration plans and business goals will hasten your purchase decision.
2. Scalable as per Business Growth:
When you invest in new software that impacts your entire organization and the business outcome, you need to be sure that the new software can keep pace with the growing requirements and also be adaptable to any future business changes. So, when you foresee your business' expansion in the next 5, 10 or 15 years, you need to consider if the software you choose would be capable of handling increasing volumes and scale of business and customers, and if need be, of customizing the modules and features to suit future market needs.
3. Ease of Use:
The UI/UX interface and features should be simple and user friendly for your team. The users should be able to easily navigate the system within a few clicks, thereby reducing time and complexity and without having any dependence on IT support. You would also need to check factors such as ease of installation, its maintenance and the loading performance of the software.
When assessing the total cost, consider the additional charges you need to factor in. This could include the cost of product upgrades, subscriptions/licences, other hardware and so on. At times, there are hidden extra costs involved, such as customized reports, additional modules that are not covered by your licences. Also, make sure that the payment structure and schedule is flexible and compliant with your financial processes.
5. Software Configuration:
Get full details from the vendor regarding how your business software will be installed. Get your IT support team involved to confirm if there could be any significant software compatibility issues with your current internal systems and software during the migration process. Have a meticulous contingency and back-up plan in place, regarding the data and the workflow, to ensure a smooth transition with minimal disruption on your business workflow. This way will ensure that your business and customers do not get adversely impacted due to any technical issues.
6. New hardware required?
This is one area which usually the vendor may not touch upon, but you would need to check if you would need to purchase any new hardware before installing the software. And if it is required, how logistically feasible it would be for you and what would be the additional expenses involved.
7. Software Upgrade:
Does this new software take customer feedback as a guide and regularly update their platform? Check which kind of technology this software uses and how frequently is the software going to be updated. By using technologically updated software, you can be confident of making your business future-ready, without having to spend any extra time or money to get your systems updated.
8. Subscription-based software:
Subscription-based software means that you would need to pay an annual subscription fee to use the software. This enables the software developer to upgrade the product and keep providing newer and improved versions of the software. As a result, you get the benefit of using software that is regularly updated (usually twice a year), at no extra cost.
9. Training and Customer Support:
Check the kind of training your staff would require to install and run this software. Does this require an extra investment of time and money? Also, what kind of after-sales customer support does the vendor provide? Which is the closest service centre and how responsive are they? Ask around and get some feedback from existing customers and peers.
10. Credible and Trustworthy brand:
While you do your due diligence, always opt for a brand that has been performing consistently. Check testimonials and customer reviews on some credible sites. It would be best if you could talk to some of your peers who use this software to get an insight of the user-experience starting from the installation and migration process to the support and maintenance issues. Speak to at least a couple of customers to get a clear understanding of the pros and cons of the new business software.
The choice of the right business software will depend on your identified business goals and needs, as well as your business limitations.
Now that we have gone through the ten major points, you need to keep in mind while choosing integrated business software, we hope that you will find it easier to finalize on the most appropriate software that will help propel your business to newer heights.
To get a first-hand experience of the product, go for a demo and trial version.
We provide a wide range of solutions to cater to your business' changing demands. Contact us today to know more about our offerings for small business software to help you with your growing business demands.