Choosing software used to be much simpler and more straightforward. But if you’ve ever been in the position of selecting software for a business, you know that decisions are much more challenging these days. So why is this the case? And is there anything you can do to make your software selection process easier?
The Complexities of Choosing Software
There’s no denying that choosing software for your organization is a difficult and time-consuming decision. These are just some of the reasons why this is the case in the modern era:
The emergence of niche solutions.
Over the past couple of decades, we have seen an explosion in different types of niche software available. No matter what your organization needs, there’s probably a solution that’s been custom designed and built to serve that purpose. Perhaps even a lengthy name and acronym for that specific type of software.
For example, do you know the differences between CMMS and EAM software in the asset maintenance space? For the most part, this is actually a good thing. No matter what your business needs are, there’s probably already software that can address them.
Even better, there’s probably competition in the space, so you can choose between multiple different platforms serving the same function. But this also introduces complexities to the decision.
First, should you choose individual niche platforms for all of the different services you need? You can also choose a comprehensive platform that simultaneously accomplishes many different functions. Second, how niche is too niche? Do you really need a specific software platform to handle this minor problem, or is it something you can tackle on your own?
The sheer number of options
Software development is a lucrative space. If you create the right platform for the right audience, you could make a lot of money. This has attracted millions of entrepreneurs and developers to the business. Which, in turn, has created millions of options for other business owners.
Even if you’re looking for a specific type of platform, you’re probably going to find dozens, if not hundreds, of competitors to choose from when beginning your research. While we tend to think of more choices as a strictly good thing, this can ultimately bog down our selection processes and make us less satisfied with our final decisions.
Apples and oranges comparisons
How do you compare two platforms that attempt to accomplish the same goal with totally different approaches? If two platforms are functionally identical, but one costs 20 percent less, it’s easy to decide to purchase the less expensive of the two. But what if they have totally different user experiences, totally different features, and totally different price levels? When comparing apples to oranges, you can never be confident that you’re selecting the superior option.
Bureaucracies and decisions by committee
Organizations sometimes box themselves into more difficult and time-consuming decision processes because of entrenched bureaucracy and decisions made by committees. On some level, this is understandable.
Purchasing software for a large organization is a significant move, so it makes sense that multiple people shouldn’t be involved. This is also a decision that will affect many different people and many different departments. It shouldn’t be made in a vacuum by a single leader. However, it’s difficult to please everyone with every decision, and sometimes, group decision-making takes far longer than it should – and it still results in an uncertain outcome.
Security and potential vulnerabilities
Businesses need to consider the security risks involved with acquiring new software and the potential security vulnerabilities they need to address when acquiring it. This piece of the software buying puzzle is especially complicated and risky, and businesses can’t afford to gloss over it. Many businesses now have dedicated risk assessment teams whose sole job is to evaluate the potential security risks associated with software.
Contractual agreements and legal concerns
Signing a contract for a software service can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re locking yourself into a 3-year agreement. While many software platforms are happy to have you in a floating, month-to-month agreement, an extended or complicated contract is necessary for more significant arrangements and specific platforms. Reviewing this contract means your decision will take more time. In addition, the stipulations of the contract will make your decision more complicated.
Uncertain futures: business needs
You may have a good grasp of what your business needs now and for the next few years. But, now, what is your business going to need a decade from now? Are you confident that this platform will be able to grow with your business? How can you be sure that your business won’t change in some fundamental way that eventually makes this platform irrelevant?
Uncertain futures: software development
Today’s software products are constantly growing and evolving. Software developers add and remove features as necessary, and make UI updates to improve the experience for users. Are you sure this software is headed in the right direction? How can you be sure?
How to Make Software Selection Easier
If you’re struggling to make software decisions for your organization, there are a few steps you can take to make things easier on yourself.
Start with a needs assessment
Before buying anything for your team, start your journey with a needs assessment. Too many entrepreneurs and product purchasers venture into the market with only a vague idea of what they need. They believe that shopping around will clear things up, helping them identify pain points and visualize what type of solution they need.
However, this can end up complicating things, introducing new ambiguities and new considerations that weren’t on your mind previously. Instead, focus on what you and your team actually need at the ground level, document those needs, then start looking for a solution that addresses them.
Narrow the scope of your decision
As much as possible, narrow the scope of your decision. If you’re choosing a software platform for a specific purpose with no real restrictions, you’re going to be overwhelmed with possibilities. Instead, try to eliminate at least some options immediately; for example, can you set a strict budget for yourself to eliminate all software options that exceed this budget level? Are you only going to be considering software platforms with specific features in place?
Optimize for flexibility and adaptability
Whenever you can, optimize for flexibility and adaptability. If you’re struggling between the two remaining software options, choose the one with more integrations and more customizability. Because the future is uncertain in many different respects, you’re often best off giving yourself as many future options as possible.
Compare apples to apples (however, you can)
Blockchain-based platforms aren’t all the same simply because they rely on the same type of fundamental architecture. Don’t assume that every software product within a given niche is going to perform at the same level, even if they have wildly different looks and features. It’s not always easy, and not always possible to compare different platforms in a fair and direct way – but try to compare apples to apples as much as you can.
Find developers you can trust
Rather than looking at the product only, look at the development team and the brand behind the product. Generally speaking, you’re safe making decisions based on trustworthy and competent developers, rather than the superficial appearance of a software platform.
Take a look at the leadership on this project and the skill level and experience of the developers working on this team. Is there a roadmap in place for improving this product in the future? Do the devs seem to stand by their work?
Choosing software for your business may never be easy or straightforward, but it doesn’t have to be a logistical nightmare. If you use these strategies and you’re willing to remain adaptable and continue learning skills related to software selection, eventually you’ll be in a much better position — and you’ll choose your software with confidence.
Image Credit: Vlada Karpovich; Pexels; Thank you!