Catching the wave of digital transformation, many SMEs are investing in technology and rolling out new IT systems. But particularly for smaller businesses, with limited budgets and internal resources, it’s critical to choose the right software and solutions to ensure a successful roll-out and rapid ROI. These are five questions that SMEs need to ask when negotiating software and IT roll-out.
1. What are the pain points your organisation is currently facing?
It’s important to define what pain points you are looking to solve. This will shape your key requirements for a new solution, as well as ensuring there is a business case for it. There’s no point getting shiny new tech just for the sake of it. Investment needs to be aligned to business goals and deliver a return.
For example, is order processing taking up too much time? Is the extensive admin time and human errors that automation might solve? Are you struggling to get accurate financial reporting? Do you need more visibility over your inventory levels, or are you losing business because you don’t have a clear, real-time view of what you’ve got where? By asking these questions you can better understand what problems you are trying to solve and what system or solution you need.
2. What is your budget?
It is surprising how many companies start appraising business solutions without a key handle on what they are willing to spend. When setting a budget, people also often underestimate what they will require. Remember to factor in budget for upfront and ongoing license cost, implementation cost and ongoing support cost.
SAAS (software-as-a-service) solutions can be more accessible as there’s no huge upfront cost. It also means you can scale up or down as you need, if your team or usage changes, and/or you want to add new features.
3. Is this solution built for businesses like yours?
Even if a competitor is using a particular solution (and it’s smart to research what industry peers are using) it may not be the best option for you. Ensure you find the right fit for your specific requirements:
- Are you an inventory led business? Find a solution built from the ground up to handle stock.
- Do you need a solution with integrations to popular third-party apps? Look for solutions with either built-in integrations or access to third party connectors.
- Is the solution localised for the countries you operate in? Local language/tax/banking functionality is vital to operate in certain countries. These requirements change regularly as well so pick a solution with an active development team behind it.
4. What is your strategy for upgrades/new features?
Traditional business software, such as ERP, requires significant expenditure to upgrade to later versions, and this can also be a complex and time-consuming process. It can also result in downtime while people’s computers are being upgraded.
More modern solutions allow for much more regular updating that occurs automatically, ensuring users can take advantage of new features much more quickly. With a cloud-based solution, updates are carried out by the provider.
5. How is your data protected?
Laws and regulations around data privacy and security are constantly changing and getting stricter, and become particularly complex for businesses operating in multiple jurisdictions. Along with this, cyber-attacks are on the rise. The Cyber Security and Australian Small Business survey found that 60 percent of respondents have experienced a cyber security incident.
Consider whether you really want to take responsibility for your data being secure and backed up. A lot of businesses work under the flawed assumption that their data is more secure on premise. In reality, a lot of the time SMBs don’t have the same pool of expertise available onsite to keep their network secure and their data backed up, let alone a full in-house legal department to help with compliance (and any breaches). Carefully evaluate what resources you have at hand, and what security and back-up options you can get from a solution provider.
Getting the right technology in place can really propel your business and give you a competitive edge. But do your research and planning carefully, so you ensure you’re getting the right fit and value for your investment.