No matter what business you’re starting, you want the right mix of software and tools. Better tools allow you to work more efficiently and productively.
But as you start searching for software solutions, one thing that immediately becomes clear is the sheer number of options available. For example, there are hundreds of different tools for project management alone.
So how do you choose the right software, and what should you look for?
In this article, we’ll do a deep dive into how you can identify the best software and tools for a new business. We’ll also cover the essential types of software that every business should have.
Table of Contents
- Choosing the Best Software and Tools For a New Business
- Essential Types of Software For Every Business
Choosing the Best Software and Tools For a New Business
Running a business isn’t easy, but the right software can streamline your processes and make things manageable for you and your team.
Follow these steps to choose the best software for your business.
1. Consider Your Stakeholders
Your efforts to adopt new software will be more successful when you involve stakeholders who have a vested interest in your business and the process you want to improve.
Here are the stakeholders you’ll want to consider:
- Employees: Employees will be the ones using the software you implement, so make sure that you involve them in the process. This will also help increase buy-in and adoption rates.
- Managers: Any software that you choose should make it easier for managers to support and communicate with their team. It should also have the right reporting capabilities, so they can identify areas of improvement.
- IT: Your IT department or IT partner should also have a say in the software selection process as there may be some technical considerations. For example, if you’re installing on-premise software, they’ll need to make sure that it meets certain requirements.
- Customers: While your customers won’t be directly involved in the purchasing process, they should still be at the forefront of your decisions. Get someone from the customer success or support team to provide feedback.
Put together a small team to help with the decision-making process. They will be responsible for researching and testing the new software.
2. Pinpoint Specific Problems
Only add new software to your business if there’s a viable need for it. Overloading your team with a barrage of tools can negatively impact productivity.
The next step in the software selection process is to identify specific problems that your company is facing. This will help you narrow down the kind of software that you need.
For example, let’s say that your team struggles with document management. They’re spending hours every day searching for the documents they need to do their work. In this case, you’d look for software that can help you centralize your documents. Or if you manage a public fleet and need to leverage the data in order to improve your services, a government fleet management software might be a good addition to your set of tools.
Pinpointing problems will help you choose software that fits your specific needs. Make sure that you’re as specific as possible to help narrow your options.
3. Survey Your Team
Survey your team to help you choose the best software for your startup. What bottlenecks get in the way of their work? What adds more time to their processes? What steps are they performing manually? The responses you receive can help you determine which software you should add.
For example, if managers are having a hard time keeping track of the tasks they’re assigning, then adding a task manager to your technology stack can help them stay organized.
This is just one example. Be sure to get input from the rest of the team to identify the challenges they’re facing and ask for their feedback to help with the software selection process.
4. Establish a Budget For Business Software
Work with your finance team to determine how much you can allocate for software. You can either determine a budget per tool (e.g., $100 per month for accounting software) or establish a budget for software in general.
As you set a budget, make sure that you factor in costs for:
- Customizations (if necessary)
- Customer support
- Product upgrades
Many software solutions also charge individual licensing fees, so budget based on the number of people who will need access.
5. Narrow Down Your List of Software Solutions
Once you’ve pinpointed a specific problem and established a budget, the next step to choosing the best software for your startup is to compile a list of software solutions. Get input from your stakeholders to help with this step.
Ideally, you should only have a list of three to five vendors. Any more than that, and you’ll spend too much time evaluating each option.
Here are some factors to consider to help narrow down your choices:
- Functionality: Does the software have the functionality you’re looking for? While it may sound obvious, the most important criterion for selecting any software is that it helps you solve the specific problems that your company is facing.
- Accessibility: Can everyone on the team access the software, or is it restricted to a handful of people? As more work gets done remotely, another important consideration is whether the software has a mobile version. Projects may stall if your team can’t access the software while on the go from the mobile devices.
- Customization: Does the software offer customization options? Every business has unique and special needs. It helps to find software that you can customize to fit your processes. Examples include the ability to add or even remove features that you don’t need.
- Scalability: Scalability refers to a software tool’s ability to handle large workloads. While you may have a small team now, that can change as your business starts to expand. Choose software that can meet your needs now and in the future.
- Integrations: Can the software integrate with other applications? Make sure that any software you choose can integrate into the applications you already use. That will improve overall efficiency and enable more seamless communication between different software.
- Support: When you depend on software for essential processes, you want to ensure that you can get help when a problem arises. Choose software that has reliable customer service. Ideally, it should have 24/7 support available via phone or live chat.
Finally, protecting sensitive company data is a must. Your methods for storing and protecting data may vary depending on the size of your organization and the type of work you do. A large manufacturing company using an edge data center will need to operate by different standards than a startup Amazon dropshipping business. Make sure that any software you choose complies with international security standards to keep your data safe.
Of course, you can never be too cautious. Having identity security software is strongly recommended as it ensures that only authorized individuals can access internal systems.
6. Take Advantage of Free Software Trials
At this point, you should have narrowed down your list to a few vendors. But just as you wouldn’t buy a new car without a test drive, the same concept applies here.
While reading software reviews can help with your purchasing decision, testing software for yourself is really the best way to find the right software for your business.
Fortunately, many software providers offer free trials. Take advantage of these if they’re available. Just make sure that you carefully read through the fine print before giving any of your information. You don’t want to get stuck or pay a subscription that you won’t end up using.
Here are some tips to help you get the most out of software demos:
- Pace your trials: It’s tempting to sign up for free demos all at once. But you’ll want to give yourself some breathing room here. For example, if you’re selecting project management software and you’ve narrowed down your choices to five vendors, don’t sign up for free trials for all of them. That can be rather overwhelming for your team. Instead, sign up for two or three trials at a time to help you evaluate them.
- Prepare your team: Going through individual trials yourself can be a time-consuming process. Involve your team to help with the selection process, but give them plenty of heads up first. Then have them assess the software based on any specific criteria that you have.
- Solicit feedback: Feedback is essential when choosing business software. If any of your team members are trialing a piece of software, have them jot down their thoughts and provide feedback. What did they like or dislike about the software? Did it meet their expectations? Would they recommend implementing the software?
- Ask questions: If you have a question about a particular feature, don’t hesitate to reach out to the vendor’s support team. This is also a great way to assess how responsive each vendor is. If a particular vendor is unresponsive or fails to answer your question in a timely manner, you may want to consider other options.
Going through free trials is a painstakingly long process, but doing your research ahead of time will save you the trouble of switching to another solution later on. Then once you’ve identified a promising vendor, you’re ready to make a purchase.
7. Provide Employee Training
Even after you’ve purchased a piece of software, your job isn’t over yet. Ensuring that your team knows how to use it is key to increasing user adoption.
Fortunately, many software providers offer helpful resources like user guides and video tutorials. Have your team go through any training manuals or even consider hosting a workshop that covers how the software works.
Any new software will always have an initial learning curve. Encourage your team to ask questions or reach out to the vendor’s support team for help.
8. Conduct Regular Software Audits
Whether you operate as a sole proprietorship or you decide to start your LLC, it’s important that you continually evaluate and audit any software that you add to your technology stack.
Has the software had a positive impact on productivity? What kind of results has it helped your business achieve?
Conduct regular audits of the software and tools that you use for your business. Don’t hesitate to cancel a subscription if the software isn’t delivering the desired results. The last thing you want is to waste your budget on unused software.
Essential Types of Software For Every Business
As a business owner, you already have a lot on your plate. Having the right software and tools can make a big difference in terms of productivity.
Here’s a look at the types of software that every business should have.
Accounting plays a critical role for every business, as it gives you a clear picture of your finances. However, manually tracking things like income and expenditures is time-consuming and prone to errors.
Accounting software is simply a must for every business. It helps you streamline your bookkeeping processes and maintain accurate records. With software like Zoho Books, you can even automate parts of the invoicing process and manage payments more efficiently. You can also use its reporting tools to get a high-level view of your spending and income.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Building relationships with your customers is key to long-term success. But managing customer data and keeping track of interactions just isn’t practical with spreadsheets.
CRM software helps you collect, manage, and analyze customer data in one location. It can deliver valuable insights that you can use to inform your marketing campaigns. What’s more, the right CRM software can help align your marketing, sales, and customer support teams.
Team Communication Software
Communication is absolutely crucial. Even a slight misunderstanding can cause details to slip through the cracks, which can affect project timelines and lead to costly delays.
Using team communication software will help your team communicate and collaborate more effectively. For example, Slack lets you organize conversations into spaces called channels. You can create channels for various projects to set expectations and keep your team on the same page.
Video Conferencing Software
Having access to video conferencing software has become increasingly important, especially with the increase in remote work and globally distributed teams.
Tools like Zoho Meeting allow you to conduct online meetings and even host webinars. If someone on your team can’t make a meeting, you can always send those recordings aftward.
Document Management Software
As many as 60% of employees find it difficult to find the information they need. Employees waste valuable time searching for documents they need for their work.
Using document management software can help you organize and manage your files in one place. These solutions typically include built-in search functionality, allowing you to find important documents in an instant.
You can even use document management software like PandaDoc to create automated workflows for your documents and collect electronic signatures — a huge time saver for any business.
Email Marketing Software
Email is one of the most effective marketing channels, delivering an ROI as high as $42 for every dollar you spend. Of course, doing tasks like creating and sending emails to your list isn’t easy without the right tools.
Using email marketing software can help you run more effective email campaigns. With tools like ActiveCampaign, you can run split tests on your emails to see which ones perform better.
Social Media Marketing Software
Social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can help you connect and reach your target audience. But manually managing and posting to your accounts can be incredibly time-consuming.
Using social media management software like Hootsuite enables you to manage all your channels from one location. You can even plan and schedule posts in advance.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A VPN is a service that encrypts and routes your traffic through a secure network, providing more privacy and anonymity to safely browse the web.
Using a VPN is important for the security of your business’s data, especially if you’re working with globally distributed teams. VPNs like Express VPN enable you to connect to thousands of servers around the world from different devices. Even if you’re working remotely on a public Wi-Fi network, your online activities will remain hidden.
Selling products online has never been easier. Even if you have little technical experience, you can build an eCommerce store and start taking orders in practically no time.
eCommerce platform software like BigCommerce provides everything you need to build and grow your online store. It also has 24/7 customer support, so you can always reach someone if you need help.
The list of software above is by no means definitive, but it offers a good starting place for selecting software for your business.
The right software can help you work more effectively and boost productivity throughout your company. But the sheer number of available options can make the software selection process overwhelming.
Follow the tips laid out here to choose the best software and tools for your business. Here’s a quick recap:
- Involve key stakeholders early
- Pinpoint specific problems
- Identify the challenges your team is facing
- Determine how much you can spend on software
- Narrow down your list of software solutions
- Sign up for free software trials
- Provide training to your employees
- Continually evaluate your software
Choosing the right software is by no means easy. But it can have a transformative impact on your company’s productivity and bottom line.
About The Author