Project delays of any kind can be frustrating, unproductive and costly, especially in a small business where budget and resources are limited. When it comes to a complex project with numerous moving parts like the acquisition of new business management software, things can quickly get off track and timelines can go awry for many reasons. Misaligned objectives, lack of communication between teams, budget setting are just some of the problems that can put your business management software search on the line.
Here are a few suggestions to avoid unforeseen delays to efficiently handle your business management software search.
Establishing a proper budget
One of the key aspects many businesses have difficulty with is setting a proper budget for new business management software. Many simply start off with an arbitrary cost estimate based solely on what they feel they should spend, and not based on any real world-frame of reference or, they compare today's costs to introductory systems such as QuickBooks, that they purchased numerous years ago.
So, how do you set a proper budget? First, you must determine the type of software your business can benefit from the most- introductory business management software systems, middle tier systems or top-tier systems. Each level of software provides different types of functionality and prices can range from $1,000 or less to millions of dollars for larger systems. Secondly, determine other factors that influence price such as the number of users needed, deployment method (hosted/cloud-based vs on-premises), maintenance requirements, implementation and training for employees - the cost of software will vary depending on the choices you make.
Understanding project complexity and establishing a realistic timeline
Acquiring new business management software is not like going to a grocery store to pick up a carton of milk. It is a complex process and cannot happen overnight. From data migration, employee training, customization requirements, software set-up, configuration to vendor availability, there are several steps to complete before a business can be up and running on new software which can often take months to complete depending on your unique situation and the vendor you choose to go with.
It is best to speak with a couple vendors and gain an understanding of realistic timelines instead of arbitrarily deciding on a timeframe. You also have to consider the human resources assigned to the project and their schedules/availability and when in the year is ideal to make the switch to new software - for example, if your peak season is in the summer months, it is probably not the best time to implement new processes.
Organizational strategy - prioritizing projects
One of the major reasons that businesses delay their business management software search is that other projects take priority over implementing new software. Acquiring new software can have numerous benefits to a company's bottom line and improve the daily tasks of employees, and therefore, it is important to make the software implementation a priority and schedule other projects around the search (instead of vice versa). Investing the time on the search now can have a domino effect on the improvements of other projects due to the many benefits of new software such as automating processes, gaining greater visibility of operations, robust reporting capabilities and more.
Inadequate coordination/ lack of co-operation by teams
Even if everything else in your software search goes smoothly, the project is still at risk of being delayed if you don't have the support of your employees. This is often one of the hardest hurdles to overcome, however, one way to tackle this barrier is to clearly illustrate the need to change and communicate the big picture. It is crucial to make clear and demonstrate how new business management software can benefit not only the business but also make daily tasks easier. Resistance from employees is less likely when they are clear about why the business will benefit from new software and how it will impact the longevity of the business.
Ineffective software search processes
Having a plan in place as part of your software search will help ensure you spend the time properly evaluating vendors in order to make the right decision. It is also important to stick to timelines for a successful business management software search. Here are a few checklist items to ensure a smooth search.
- Set priorities. This will be an on-going process throughout the search as you will need to determine timelines for each stage of the search in order to make it manageable.
- Evaluate requirements. Perform an analysis of existing business processes and determine what works well with your current software and where gaps exist in functionality. Establish outline of functionality requirements and determine the required software tier/segment.
- Research software vendors and create a shortlist. Many companies make the mistake of speaking with too many vendors and become overwhelmed trying to keep track of all the information and demos they have seen. It's best to research vendors then create a very short list of your top picks before moving on to the later stages of the search!
- Pull the trigger. Don't be afraid to commit to a vendor. Have confidence that you have taken the necessary steps to make the right choice and don't delay the implementation process. The sooner you give the okay to begin the implementation work, the sooner you'll be up and running on the software.
Check out our Software Buying Guide for more information on how to map out your search!