How to Choose Business Software?

Software is supposed to make it easier to run your business, but too often it is a source of frustration and expense. The proper program will help you manage cash flow, analyze sales and improve efficiency while the wrong program can throw your financial records into a tailspin that will cost you both productivity and money to recover from. It is important to have a game plan to select software that will work for your business without breaking the bank. There are hundreds of products available and they come in a myriad of configurations and technologies, so here is a simple guide to finding the right tools to get the job done.

  Get the big picture

What are your reasons for shopping for new software? Make a list of the challenges you'd like the software to address and separate it into two categories; Needs and Wants. Your Needs list should be very brief and should consist only of the features absolutely necessary in order for the software to work for your company.

  Determine your budget

Calculate how much you can afford to spend, including any new hardware needed as well as first-year implementation and support. The cost of the software is important, but it is equally crucial to know what your recurring costs will be.

  Narrow the playing field

Once you are equipped with your Needs list and a preliminary budget, you should be able to quickly eliminate many products based on a lack of features or too high of a price tag. There are many sites listing available accounting software packages and allowing you to search by features or platform. Many of these sites also include pricing information, making it much easier to quickly whittle down your list of potential vendors.

  Evaluate the features of the semi-finalists.

Which packages offer the most features from your Wants list? Even if they are not within your budget now, you may be able to purchase add-on modules down the road. What product enhancements are planned? Are they features that will be useful to you and how quickly will they become available? Often you can negotiate a discount on additional modules prior to their official release.

  Select your finalists

Most software companies will allow you to download demos of their software or request a demo on CD. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with the interface and see how some of the key functions work. Look for good design and clearly marked functions. Is it easy to figure out how to enter an order?

  Make your final selection.

Before doing so, make sure that you feel comfortable with the product as well as the vendor. If the salesperson is too pushy or you feel that they are not able to provide you with the information you need, don't be afraid to ask to speak with someone else.

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