5 Questions You Must Ask When Buying Software

Every business executive is charged with refining their operations to improve output while reducing costs. As a long-time manager for a global company, I have been responsible for personally developing and sourcing software for very specific purposes. As a result, I have developed a simple process for identifying what is needed while saving money.

If everything’s running smoothly with your business, you’ve probably implemented the right software to control the variables and costs. But you should occasionally challenge whether this software is still answering all the questions while keeping everyone linked with timely information. It might be time to check out new options.

Or, if your business is relatively new, perhaps you have been able to grow by simply using your experience and seat-of-the-pants management methods. To take it to the next level, a professional, software-assisted approach will save time while keeping everyone abreast of the situation.

In a growing company, for example, I have handled the full range of issues to connect the lines of communication between order placement, fulfillment, shipment scheduling and management, loading and routing to make sure that products arrive at their destination on time and in good condition. Without a clear view of how each piece is operating, one part can fail, leaving the rest to hold the bag. An effective Transportation Management Software (TMS) will solve this.

Searching for Software to manage Your Business

Today there is software that can manage virtually any type or phase of business. Whether you run a logistics function, accounting service, pet store, construction business or a coffee shop, some individual has developed a software system that can be tailored to fit any specific need.

In the area of Transportation Management Software (TMS), an effective program must be versatile enough to manage routine challenges while flexible enough to solve specific problems. The software should link each step of the order management and shipping process while also handling robust reporting and billing issues.

The cost of the software is, of course, an important consideration. These products can vary significantly in cost. So while it is important that you get what you need, it is equally important not to overpay.

To find what you need, I suggest an inexpensive and thorough process for finding software to make your business run smoother. You need ask only 5 questions during your search for the right package.

5 Questions to Ask When Buying Software

What do I need and what would I like to have?

It is important that the software fits your system, supports growth and solves problems. To address this, a “top-to-bottom” evaluation should be mapped to identify critical points in the operation. Chart how each function interfaces with others to determine where problems must be solved. Where are the soft spots? What steps can be improved to speed up the process and save money?

From this survey, develop a specific list of “Must Have” requirements and “Nice to Have” options.

Where do I start my search?

Go to Google to begin your search. Here you can find a slate of software products that are used within your specific industry. Look for ones that address you critical control issues and can improve the transfer of information from one point to the next. Don’t just pay attention to the leading search engine offerings, but also note the paid advertisements that pop up. And examine some of the software referral sites such as Capterra.com, SoftwareAdvice.com and business-software.com.

With your lists of “must haves” and “nice to haves”, narrow the list to a few “finalists” to explore in greater depth. Note that if the cost is not readily available on the website, you may assume that the product will be expensive.

How do I narrow the solutions?

Research the individual websites in greater depth. With your specific list of needs, determine which candidate software goes furthest to address your lists of requirements and options. Visualize the products at work in your business and determine which solution best fits. Good software companies will provide enough information on the website for you to be able to do this.

Can I give the software a free trial?

No commitment or payment should be made until the product has been tested. Too many times I have been burned by salespeople who promised performance only to find out the product did not work as promised. Request a trial with no obligation. Companies that have confidence in their products will support this.

Am I ready to buy?

Give the software a rigorous evaluation during the trial period. Organize trial scenarios to determine whether the system works under the most rigorous conditions.

If the software has answered Question 1, go with it.

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