How to Evaluate Your Business Needs Before Selecting a New Software

Selecting the right software tool for you and your firm is critical. You know it. I know it. Your cash cow boss knows it.

There are literally hundreds of options in every product category.

For those joining us from the Search Engines, this article is part of an eight segment series for professional service firms. However, this chapter has been written to be applicable to all companies, though, because, well, picking software is some serious shit.

So kick back and take a seat. You joined late, so there’s no more refreshments, but we do have some knowledge bombs coming your way.

Previously, we have mentioned this before but it is imperative that the tool you select for whatever problem you have outlined within your business is an equal match to solving those core business problems.

You want to know what your problems are and be certain this tool will solve them. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Buying bigger software for the “just in case” scenarios is how you waste resources and get tools too large.

A quote to emphasize our point

Author Rudolf Melik elaborates;

"The true measurement of the effectiveness of your tool should be noting whether or not it is reducing costs or your increasing services revenue on a per project basis. To gain full benefit from installation, it is likely that a PSO will have to evaluate its internal processes.”

What this quote is saying is that through one way or another, the ultimate bottom line benchmark for the success of your new tool should be a measurement of how effective it is going to be at growing profitability or reducing costs. That’s it. No riff raff nonsense for what if situations.

The best way to determine if your business has room for improvement with either of those two benchmarks is to evaluate your processes and identify weak links.

Here is how.

How to evaluate your internal business processes

The best way to start is to map out the communication structure of your organization and to interview key members of your team.

Big companies should definitely do this.

If you are a small business under 10 employees, mapping this out usually isn't too complicated but it’s still worth doing.

For solo ventures, there is still some value to gain from the questions in this section that you can ask yourself. So you should also do it.

Keep this in mind while mapping your team

  1. Start with an open mind

    1. By beginning an evaluation with a biased assumption of where you think the problems, you are setting yourself to perceive items as issues that are not issues. Keep an open mind, listen to employees and listen to yourself. Sometimes the problem is something you never even imagined.

  1. Begin with interviewing your team (or yourself if you are solo)

    1. Use employee interviews to determine how well individuals are trained for their jobs. This is key in discovering that maybe the inefficiencies aren't in your tools, maybe it is the people. Maybe it is both. Both need solving. The interviews can also shed more light on how well you are educating your employees. As an employer, employee capabilities is always a two-way street.

  1. Questions to ask your employees (or yourself)

    1. What do you think the number one objective for our business is?

    2. What role do you play in achieving that?

    3. How well prepared do you think you are for this?

    4. What resources do you need more of?

    5. What stops you from doing your job?

    6. How do you know when your job is done?

    7. Can you describe the latest analysis of your core business process?

    8. What have you done on your own to improve your normal job functions?

    9. What are the customer requirements for an order that moves through your process system?

    10. What is the most common difficulty you face with customers?

    11. What part of the job do you wish could be done by someone else?

    12. Who do you communicate with most?

    13. How is the communication between you and customers?

    14. What 20% of daily activities do you do that gives you the most stress?

    15. What 20% of your activities gives the most return?

  1. Study Critical Processes

    1. Based on these questions, you will likely find a few items that will stick out. This will give you something narrow in on. Next, we recommend watching from afar and trying to confirm any issues you have may have spotted.

    2. To do this, start by determining a study.

    3. Identify the critical business processes that need to be reviewed by breaking down and rating the perceived risk in each problem. Rate these 1 - 5. Watch those with the greatest risk.

    4. Determine the availability of continuous data for those risk areas.

    5. Ask yourself how will you measure something as inefficient or not.

    6. Ask yourself how will you observe it without introducing a bias to the scenario.

    7. Are there any special rules or parameters necessary to examine this?

  2. Have a team meeting to discuss your findings

    1. Regardless of whether or not you buy a new solution, you will discover lots of valuable information for yourself from studying your processes. Let your findings marinate.

    2. Speak with your team and discuss what you found.

    3. What are the problems?

    4. How can they be solved?

Once you have reviewed your processes, if a new software seems right for you, it is time to evaluate the tools available.

For our professional services people out there, if you pains like the ones listed below, a PSA could be for you.

  • Scarcity of skilled resources and technological innovations

  • Too much pressure to maximize revenues

  • High project costs

  • Difficulty producing more measurable results

  • Low productivity

  • increasing customer satisfaction

  • increasing amounts of administrative tasks

  • Increasing technology issues

  • Too much-unmanaged workloads

  • lack of decision making information

Be sure to consider the important non-important items

Evaluation of a new software solution should not be focused on features and functionality alone. This will not yield the most effective solution for any organization; nor will choosing solely on the basis of price or ROI.

The most effective solution will depend on various factors. Thus, basing a decision on any one or two factors will lead to a less than optimal result.

What to consider:

    • Functionality: Do the features match up with your greatest needs?

    • Consistency & integration: Automation of business processes is not enough; all modules within a new solution must be tuned and integrated to meet the needs of the organization using the application. Be wary of tools grown via acquisition as their solution may be modularized and integrate poorly.

    • Affordability: Cost is always a consideration. Proper industry research will uncover cost considerations, including license fees, support, hardware, consulting and customization costs.

    • Usability: A system is only as good as it’s usability. Users, managers, and executives will adopt applications that are straightforward and intuitive to use. Tools that require little to no training for the average user have an advantage. The quickest most powerful solutions will not be effective if they are too cumbersome to use.

    • Vendor viability: evaluate whether the vendors will be around in years to come to ensure they are always supporting and developing their solution.

  • Other important things to look out for:

    • Consider IT support requirements

    • Make sure that agreement clauses meet your needs and not just the software vendor's needs

    • Consider what exit strategies you have

    • Know exactly what you will be paying

Evaluate the company making your tool


Consider not just the product you will be buying, but also consider the people you will be working with, those who will be answering your support calls and assisting with billing issues.

This is not to be forgotten as issues are inevitable in any company.

Ask questions like this:

  • Who is your normal customer?

  • What are their reviews?

  • When is a time your company did not deliver on what you promised? (this happens to everyone, they are good if they can own up to mistakes)

  • What makes your tool different?

  • Should I buy this tool?

  • Who else should I look at? (good companies are confident enough to show you who else is out there)

  • Are integrations and customizations efficient and cost effective?

  • Does the company provide an SDK/API? (software dev kit/app programming interface)

  • What databases does the vendor support?

  • What levels of support from this team can be expected?

  • Do you have an in-house IT staff?

  • What is the average time for reported bugs to receive fixes or workaround?

  • Are you on the cloud and who is your provider?

  • What happens if your servers go down? (they will say it's rare, this is not an answer to your question)

  • What type of security is built into the system?

  • Will my data be safe?

Each tool has its own strengths and weaknesses. It is all about evaluating what is more important to you when measuring costs, benefits, risks etc.

Careful evaluation of technology must be performed prior to any investment in such applications. Many businesses make claims that their technology will satisfy businesses’ long-term needs; however, there is no silver bullet.

If you have any difficulties with this, certainly reach out, if not, let's move onto the final segment of our series.

How to implement your new software into your business.


Click to get the entire PSA series in an eBOOK TO-GO

This is part of our eight chapter series on Professional Services Automation.

See the rest below.

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Andrew Frawley
By Andrew Frawley

Writing stuff that helps people grow their business