Before buying business software, look at your business aims and the benefits you want IT to bring to your business. You cannot choose the right software unless you know exactly what you want it to do for you.
For example, software might be able to help your business by:
- cutting costs by automating routine tasks
- improving customer service levels, perhaps by using an internet-based system that customers can access - eg allowing customers to renew their car insurance online or check the status of an order without needing to contact any member of staff directly
- increasing your profit margins by helping your employees work more efficiently
- enabling you to exchange information electronically with suppliers or partners - helping your business to communicate and collaborate more effectively
It might be useful to document your business processes to help you identify possible benefits of software investment. See the page in this guide on choosing and buying software.
Don't forget to ask your employees - they will have ideas for how your business processes could be improved by IT.
Once you have listed the key software investments you could make, prioritise them and work out which would give the best returns.
New software may need new or upgraded hardware to run properly. Try to choose software that will run on your current hardware. If this isn't possible, include hardware upgrade costs in your budgets.
Alternatively, look at outsourcing your software requirements, eg cloud computing - this will help reduce both your software and hardware costs. See the page in this guide on cloud computing - software as a service.
Planning for the future
Don't just focus on your current needs - look at your plans for the future and any expansion they might involve.
Ideally you should develop an IT strategy to cover your needs for new systems over a period of about five years. Part of the strategy should deal with how your software can cope with increases in customers, employees and/or your products/services.