For many organisations, the key questions of what to consider when investigating new technology and software present an unfamiliar challenge. As a result, changes are made for the wrong reasons, in an ineffective manner, or to a new system that still doesn’t meet all of the basic needs and wants of the organisation – and sometimes all of the above!
But while making the correct decision can seem like a daunting task, it doesn’t need to be. Below are some simple tips and advice that should considered when investing in new technology which should hopefully make the process a whole lot easier.
What Do You Need Your Software to Do?
Almost every organisation, no matter the size, needs a number of software solutions in order to remain as efficient as possible. This software can range from a simple content management system, to a full e-commerce solution, to an extremely powerful, web-enabled, business critical work-flow application.
The temptation many face is to look over the fence for greener grass, and dive straight into purchasing or investing in the development of a comprehensive, often complex, software solution fit for every possible purpose (except their own, funnily enough, in many circumstances).
It’s good to take a step back and review what you actually need your business software to do. Often people are tempted by technology features they’ll never use, or that are widely available and vastly improved by the time they are in a position to use them – so why pay for them?
But before you make that leap, it’s good to take a step back and review what you actually need your business software to do. Often people are tempted by technology features they’ll never use, or that are widely available and vastly improved by the time they are in a position to use them – so why pay for them?
Think through how well your current system supports both your day-to-day operational needs, as well as your strategic goals. Where are you struggling? What are the exact tasks you’re unable to do, or that require great effort? Which are the particular data segments or reports that are especially difficult to generate? What takes up most of your time?
On the flip side, in an ideal world what are the key capabilities or system features that would make your life that much easier, or better yet, add a new dimension to your organisation’s service output?
Thinking longer term, consider your strategic plans for the next three to five years. Does your current software and processes have the flexibility to fulfil those strategies – or at least adapt to them over time?
The main purpose of introducing the right technology and software is to help your organisation to cut costs, increase sales, increase productivity of your staff, help the environment and/or achieve greater efficiencies throughout your entire business.
Remember, the main purpose of introducing the right technology and software is to help your organisation to cut costs, increase sales, increase productivity of your staff, help the environment and/or achieve greater efficiencies throughout your entire business.
So when assessing shortcomings, it’s best to be specific and exactly pinpoint your current failings so they can be addressed moving forward when investing in your new solution.
Off-the-shelf or Bespoke
So you have determined a need for a new business software solution, and what you actually need that piece of technology to do. The next key question centres on the decision to purchase a ready-made solution or to have software specifically developed.
Of course, for the majority of deployments, off-the-shelf works – there is no need to recreate the wheel.
Generally speaking however, off-the-shelf systems are produced to meet the perceived needs of a particular market or sector. They have, in effect, a one size fits all set of generic features with limitations, many of which you will never use. So unless you find a new software solution that meets your exact technology requirements identified, you may end up going down a costly road and end up with the same troubles you started with (duplication of work, performance limitations, bending of business operations). So while an off-the-shelf system might be helpful, is it likely to be helpful enough to be worth the expense?
As Damian touched on in his blog Open Source Business Software for Not-for-Profits last month, not-for-profits are confronted with a whole range of other issues, including many off-the-shelf business software packages of any available type still failing to even address the specific needs of not-for-profit organisations.
The beauty of bespoke systems on the other hand is that they are tailored to the exact requirements of your organisation, allowing the software to fully integrate and thus helping to meet key business objectives.
The beauty of bespoke solutions on the other hand is that they are tailored to the exact requirements of your organisation, allowing the software to fully integrate and thus helping to meet key business objectives.
Scalability is also a positive factor, with bespoke systems able to accommodate business growth and contract with any necessary downsizing. The system can essentially evolve with the company to provide an ongoing perfect fit.
Is it worth the investment?
Ultimately the decision of whether to invest in new technology and software comes down to an analysis of the return on investment (ROI). What will the technology add to your business? What can’t you do right now that you’d like to do? What will the expense be in terms of pounds and pennies?The only way to determine this is by detailing out the benefits and the costs.
When reviewing this, is it clear that new technology is the answer? Sometimes the answer is a resounding “Absolutely!” More often, it’s a qualified “Yes, if…”
The most important point is not to get carried away and perform a cold analysis of the business case and come to an objective conclusion.
Spend some time doing research, know and understand your options and determine exactly what you need and want. Once you have done this, speak to an expert and go ahead and implement a solution fit for purpose.