Selecting Software for SMEs: How to select the best software for your business

A series of articles helping you to improve your business performance through technology

The common problems faced by SMEs when selecting business software

System selection is a monumental task; made harder for small-to-medium-enterprises (SMEs) with the over saturation of the market and the wealth of marketing which is poured out by companies. Depending on your requirements there are a huge range of products which may fit your criteria – and sometimes it may feel that there are none at all. After all, there is a lot of moving parts to consider.

Through this series we will look at three key points;

  • The common problems SMEs face when trying to select business software

  • Detail the key points any business should consider before selection

  • Provide some insight on the solutions you likely already have at your fingertips, with Office 365.

What problems do SMEs face when selecting software?

Over the course of 2018 the United Kingdom saw a sharp decline in the business confidence of SMEs, falling by roughly 19%[1]. Many companies cite Brexit as one of their concerns, with added financial and competitive pressures on SMEs through every sector. As technology advances there has been an explosion of devices and the production of data. This has both affected and been affected by the changing tastes of consumers and client expectations.

The surge in external pressures has watched companies such as House of Frasers, Giraffe and Ed’s and thousands of others forced to close their doors.

Moving forward, a key factor to the success of businesses will be their ability to be efficient, productive and competitive. Established internal processes will be greatly beneficial.

It’s important to keep in mind that many SMEs face similar problems when approaching software selection. So, what are they?

1. Lack of time and expertise

The average SME rarely has the bandwidth, in time or money, to test out various software and applications to aid with the day-to-day running of their business. With so many moving parts and considerations, it is hard for any business to begin the process of sorting through competitors. Few SMEs will have internal staff with the expertise needed to tackle these problems.

Furthermore, the difficulty of this task has grown exponentially with the surge in software vendors and the noisy media coverage surrounding the options. There is an overwhelming choice of solutions to choose from and often advice is based on bias, particularly due to sponsorship by software vendors. It’s easy to be distracted by the ‘shiny new toy’ – it’s harder to determine whether this is truly the right choice.

2. Price v. Value

A new system to tie your business together, through collaboration, reporting, customer relationship management and internal businesses processes will no doubt provide value to your customers and your employees – but at what cost? It is likely that you have a range of needs, often covering a breadth of departments or functionalities, and there may not be out-of-the-box software which meets all of your requirements. Should you spend extra for particular features? Or cut costs and find new processes to circumnavigate the aspects which your software lacks? Additionally, you may consider undertaking several different systems to meet all of your requirements. This can be costly and difficult to manage depending on the integration capabilities of the software and the abilities of staff to develop dexterity between systems.

3. Poor or insufficient reporting capabilities

If you have experienced difficulties in finding adequate reporting capabilities, you are not alone. Many SMEs find reporting tools difficult to set up, use and integrate with their current business processes. This problem is often overlooked by software re-sellers, particularly if SMEs do not already pay particular attention to reporting tools. Nonetheless, reporting can play a fundamental role in bettering your business and if your reporting tool is not easy to manipulate and share, it can cause significant problems further down the line.

4. Where to start

One of the biggest challenges faced by SMEs in selecting software is where exactly to start. The ability to develop software is becoming increasingly more common and there is now a wealth of software vendors to choose from. It is hard to cut through the noise to determine which solutions suit your company best.

As best practice, it is wise to begin with an internal assessment of your own businesses’ requirements. This can be done internally, or with the help of external consultants, to determine your business processes and essential criteria.

In next week's article we will cover which factors to consider when choosing your software, which may help you begin your journey.

[1] Dun and Bradstreet, UK SMEs Brexit and Beyond November 2018

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