As the CEO of a small business, there are a myriad of products for you to choose from when considering software solutions. What criteria do you use when trying to choose a new software platform or app? Will Reynolds, CEO of SecureDocs
(virtual data room provider) offers these four guidelines:
Quantify the Problem: When looking for software for our company, try to start with quantifying the problem you are looking to solve or the opportunity you want to pursue. Items that drive revenue will always be the most important (for SecureDocs, our marketing software is our biggest expenditure), while cost saving software and time saving software would follow behind. Some businesses may also have compliance requirements that can be met with software that are fundamental to their operation also, these may command a higher expenditure.
Beware of the Kitchen Sink, but don’t avoid it: For an SMB, the end choice tends to come down to a balance of usability and total cost of ownership. We have tended to shy away from large feature sets being the answer to all problems, complicated programs tend to add as many issues as they solve and, broadly speaking, tend to be more expensive in terms of license fees and expenses to implement and adopt. Be very wary of cheap programs with lots of features claiming to solve all your problems….if their claims were true they’d charge more! If we can solve a problem with a minimum of disruption, adopt a solution quickly and extract true value from the program in short space of time then we’re likely to be willing to pay for those benefits. Discounts are always welcome but would not determine a decision, whatever savings you make upfront could easily be offset by problems down the line if the wrong program is selected.
Aim for simplicity: Make sure that if it’s going to take a lot of time to implement and maintain the integration, you are solving a real and ongoing problem, not just creating something that looks pretty on paper. Trying to daisy chain a string of applications together can absolutely solve a workflow problem if you know how to do it correctly, but the room for error and a huge amount of wasted time is also a reality. Some applications are purpose built to go together and have detailed integrations. You may be able to install them yourself, but there’s a possibility you may need help. For example, at SecureDocs, we integrated our CRM system with an electronic signature system so we could generate contracts quickly and get them signed seamlessly. The fine detail of making the integration work required some consultant input (not much, a couple of hours) and it was a great move, the integration has been flawless for the last 2 years.
Find Experts and Use them: Integrating with legacy apps could be a daunting and complicated task. Some of the common challenges are that legacy apps, by their very nature, contain a lot of historical data that may lack structure, certainly contain inaccuracies, possibly contain corruptions and are unlikely to use the same formats and protocols to mesh neatly with more modern applications you are looking to implement. I am guessing that there are situations where legacy applications simply have to be integrated with newer applications but it wouldn’t be something I would want take on without expert advice if we were looking at CRM, accounting or ERP type systems.