These days, every small business needs software of some kind, whether it lives on a local server in an air conditioned closet or virtually in the Cloud. These software programs range across everything an organization needs to keep running, including accounting, finance, IT, e-commerce, marketing, sales and many more. It’s probably not a mystery to know when your company is ready for a new software (too much manual work, processes breaking down, too many mistakes), but many companies forget the investigative basics when they go hunting for new software to make their lives better.

These considerations are far from comprehensive, but they show you the top five things that you need to always keep in mind as you look into bringing on new software.

1. Whose software is it, anyway?

This is an essential step that most small businesses skip. These days, anyone can spin up an app or a set of solutions and call themselves a business software provider. And some are actually really cool. But if it’s something you want to rely on for the next 5 to 10 years, you need to investigate their foundation, market penetration, longevity, and security. This might sound complex, but you’re really just asking:

  • How long have they been in business and how much have they grown over that time?
  • How big is their business now and what are their growth plans?
  • How innovative are they and how much do they lead the market they’re in?
  • How many products do they have across how many areas/departments/industries and how specialized are they?
  • If it’s a cloud solution, what security guarantees do they provide? What measures do they take to keep you secure?
  • What are their sales processes like? Do they learn more about your business, too, or do they just sell an out-of-the-box solution?
  • What kind of after-sales support do they offer in terms of training, troubleshooting and product updates?

You don’t want to purchase something that may be obsolete or produced by a small operation that goes out of business in a couple of months. Plus—most importantly—you need to be able to trust the software vendor with your data.

2. What’s the market saying about them?

Never make impulse purchases when it comes to business software. Check out online reviews and ask the company to provide you with customer references and testimonials that you can cross-reference. Ask peers who have used the product or similar products.

Third party sites like G2Crowd, Capterra, and Software Reviews are good examples of “neutral” software review sites. Just remember to never take a single review site’s word, since some of them do have incentivized review programs. For the most part, though, they can be pretty reliable when cross-referenced heavily.

3. Ask for a free trial:

Ask your vendor if they can arrange a free-trial or sandbox version of the product for your team to play with before making the decision. This will help you get familiar with the product, see how much it fits your company’s processes, and then decide if it is worth signing up for in the long run.

4. How much will you be actually paying?

Tricky, tricky. There are various kinds of pricing models for software so it can be difficult comparing apples to oranges. You may have to pay per user, per device, or you may be offered a tiered pricing where certain features of the product are made available to you only upon subscribing to a higher tier. So, while the starting price of such software programs may be in single or double digits, actually using the software as you scale may end up costing you thousands of dollars. Be transparent with the software vendors you talk with and ask them for help with breakdowns so you can compare them more closely. After all, if the vendor isn’t willing to help you through the purchase process, they might not be a company you want to work with long-term.

5. Flexibility:

First things’ first: How well does the software fit into your current business process? As you’re mapping it out, remember that you are buying the software to make your existing process more efficient. If your processes are already set and working optimally, you shouldn’t have to make any drastic changes to fit the software into it or vice versa. Instead, it should make your processes even smoother without causing big disruptions.

Secondly, consider is how well does it map to where you hope to be in a few years? It’s true that no one has a crystal ball, but most companies have a few goals whether it’s more/fewer employees, outsourcing certain departments, expanding sales to different areas, or taking on new operational challenges. Knowing if this software can (and more importantly should) help you with these goals is a big key to getting a higher return on investment for a longer amount of time.

Lastly, let’s say you find it’s not a good fit. How easy will it be for you to walk away from their solutions? Do you end up paying a penalty for early termination of the contract? Understand your way out and make sure it’s realistic for you just in case the worst happens.

Whether you are buying from a value-added reseller (VAR)—like a software partner—or a software manufacturer directly, the list above remains the same. And many small businesses don’t have the time to vet every possible opportunity. That’s where a trusted MSP like HDCav can help you. We’ve been doing this for many years, we have strong bonds with best of breed solutions, and we can vouch for security and longevity. Let us know if you’re looking for new solutions. We can take both the guesswork and legwork out of the journey.