Computer software for business
How to choose software for your business
If you are thinking about investing in software, it's important to consider a few key points that can help you choose the right solution for your business.
You should not only review your current business requirements, but also keep in mind what your business will need in the future. Consider how software can help your business to adapt to the changes and grow.
Before making any purchases, it is generally a good idea to carry out a technology needs assessment. If you haven't already, you may also want to develop an IT strategy. Both the strategy and the needs assessment will help inform your choices when it comes to new business software.
Document your business processes
Diagrams can make documenting your business processes easier - for example, using boxes for processes and arrows to show documents, invoices etc move between them.
Documenting your business in this way will help you:
- identify areas where new software could improve your business processes
- explain your business and its requirements to potential suppliers when buying software
Shortlist software solutions
Compare your list of requirements with the information that you have about each package. Reject all packages that cannot meet your 'must have' requirements. From the rest, select the one that delivers the greatest number of your advantageous and 'nice to have' features at a price your business can afford.
As well as the price of software, you should also consider support costs, future upgrade costs and the need for hardware upgrades to use your software to full effect.
You should also try to determine if this software would still be suitable as your business evolves. For example, the system should be able to handle an increased workload should your customer base grow.
Make sure you buy licensed software and keep safe your proof of ownership, such as the original distribution CDs or hologrammed certificate of authenticity. See more on different types of software licences for business.
Get help with assessing your software requirements
There are many ways to get advice and support when choosing software, including:
- professional and trade associations
- software or business consultants
- software vendors - but keep in mind these might not give unbiased advice
- the computer press - magazines like Computer Weekly and Computing can be a good way to get information on the basic issues, so you know the right questions to ask
For expert ICT advice, businesses in Northern Ireland can also contact Invest Northern Ireland's ICT advisers on Tel 0800 181 4422 or read about Invest NI's ICT support for businesses.
In addition, through the UK government's Help to Grow: Digital Scheme, small and medium-sized businesses can access free, impartial online support about how digital technology can boost their business performance. If your business is eligible, you can also access a discount of up to 50 per cent towards the costs of buying approved software, worth up to £5,000.