New business software implementation is a great opportunity to transform the way your organisation operates for the better. Often the decision to install a new solution comes about in order to solve a number of underlying problems in the current set-up, either when outgrowing a legacy software package or replacing outdated paper-based processes. Unfortunately, some of the benefits and competitive advantages that can be achieved through new business software implementation can easily be overlooked when preparing for or choosing a new system. That’s why we have put together this brief guide with some key things to consider before choosing and implementing a new business software solution.
The Business Objectives
Implementing a new business software solution should always be closely related to achieving your overall business objectives. To ensure this happens, you should list objectives for the new business software implementation itself which will help you to achieve the overarching objectives of the organisation. For example, if your organisation is striving to be a market leader in provision of excellent customer service for clients, then your business software solution needs to have all the tools to give your team the best chance of delivering such a high level of service. You also need to take into account the scope of the new software project. This could be for one specific function in your organisation such as a customer relationship management (CRM) system for the sales and marketing team or spanning multiple functions such as a full Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.
Your Current Processes
Before launching into the evaluation of new software solutions, it’s vital to have a comprehensive understanding of what you already have in place and how the current processes in your organisation work. There may be a mixture of different locations where data is currently held and processed. These could be on paper, in spreadsheets or held in old software packages. Consider how information currently flows between people and departments, where the gaps and inefficiencies lie and what can be improved. We recommend mapping out all of your processes so that you can see how well they would translate into any given software solution and which ones may need to be changed.
Current IT infrastructure
When choosing a new business software for your organisation, you will need to consider the IT infrastructure which it will run on. If you are going to be implementing a cloud-based software solution, you need to ensure that you have a stable internet connection plus a back up system should this be disrupted. If you are going to be installing the software onto your own network, ensure you have enough server capacity and regular back-ups. As with cloud-based software, you will need a plan to cover outages should your servers go down and a disaster recovery plan in place to protect against fire or flooding which takes out your IT systems.
Who will be using the software?
Many businesses like to enable as many staff as possible to work from one system, such as an ERP system, so as to ensure data flows seamlessly. However, even with a comprehensive software solution in place, there may be some members of the team who continue to use other software for very specific processes. Not only that, it is likely that users of a system will need to have different levels of permission for accessing or processing certain data. Therefore, it is vital to discuss with all users of a new potential software solution how they are currently working, their dislikes or inefficiencies of the current processes and what implementing a new business software solution should enable them to do. The chosen system should enable users to perform their roles more efficiently taking into account their needs, otherwise employees will feel frustrated with the new software and the project is more prone to failure.
Prioritise the needs of your business
Given the likely budgetary constraints of a project, it is unlikely that a perfect business software solution will be found to manage the whole business. Even ERP systems or bespoke systems built around a particular organisation often have their downsides. We recommend considering which features and functionalities are essential to the business in any new business software implementation project, plus those which it would be desirable but not essential to have. Then make a list in order of priority so that you can weigh up the pros and cons of each software solution under consideration against your requirements.
Will the new business software need to link to other software packages?
Although many organisations will streamline their processes around one central business software solution, quite often it is impossible to find a single package that manages all aspects of the business to the degree of detail required. For example, many organisations prefer to use an off-the-shelf accountancy package which is familiar to their team. This means it is important to find out how closely any potential software package(s) will integrate with existing solutions you want to keep, so as to avoid multiple points of data entry.
Assess your data
When implementing a new piece of business software in an established business, you will need to transfer some or all of your existing data. Before doing this think carefully about the format your data is in currently; for instance does the data exist on paper only and therefore need to be scanned in or typed manually? Is the data in spreadsheets which can be uploaded into the new software providing the columns are labelled correctly? Remember to give careful consideration to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). You will need to ensure that any data moved from one system to another is transferred safely and securely. Whilst the data you are holding should be reviewed on a regular basis, an overhaul of your business software could present a good time to establish if it is going to be necessary to continue holding all of the data you have collected.
Often managers, supervisors and those overseeing processes within your business will be used to calling upon pre-defined reports in existing software or collating information from team members in order to analyse key performance information. These same reporting mechanisms may not be instantly available within a new business software so it is important to set aside time to define the reports and train management how to use them.
Is the software able to cope with demand as the business grows?
Implementing new business software is usually a long-term investment. Given the lengthy planning process, inevitable (although hopefully minimal) disruption upon changing systems, plus the training to get everyone up to speed, you don’t want to be changing software packages too often! Hence when you choose a piece of business software it’s important to check that it will continue to serve the business well in meeting longer term objectives. For example, is there a limit to the volume of data that can be held? Is it easy to add on extra users? Can extra functionality be added to the package at a later date? Does the software vendor plan to keep maintaining the software with bug fixes and security updates?
Allocate training time
Don’t forget that following new business software implementation, each member of the team who needs to work with the system will likely need some training about how to use it. What is more, you may need to account for some teething problems and extra time for everyday tasks in the first few days or weeks as the new software beds in. Make sure that you know how much support will be provided by the software vendor and how much training management will need to carry out themselves. Remember that a bespoke software package which is unique to your organisation may require more investment in training upfront (even though the efficiency gains may be greater in the long term) versus an off-the-shelf solution, which some of your team may already be familiar with.
With so much to consider regarding new business software implementation and such a vast array of systems on the market, it’s no wonder that many businesses struggle to find the right package for them. We hope our guide was a useful starting point but recognise that many businesses need a helping hand to weigh up all the different options. With decades of industry experience and knowledge spanning a vast range of software options, the team at LBT can help you cut through the confusion with our IT consultancy service and bespoke software development capability under one roof. For a free, no obligation initial consultation contact us today on [email protected] or call 01763 275 400.