Software Selection: So Many Options…So Little Time

One of the most important decisions you will make for your business is which software to run it on. Software selection can also be a daunting, stressful tasks. One of the most difficult questions is: “Where do I start?” Like many other important decisions, it’s important to ask someone who has already gone through the process.
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The information presented here was originally part of a study done by Deloitte & Touche. In this study, companies that were evaluating accounting systems for their businesses were asked to name the “Top 10” criteria they used to select a solution. The criteria were ranked in order of importance and those who were in the process of selecting their accounting software for the first time were ranked separately from those businesses that were selecting their second software solution. Below is a comparison of the importance of various criteria used in evaluations. Notice the change in rankings for second-time buyers who were looking to change from an existing system to a new one.

First Time Buyers – Here are the rankings for those businesses looking for their first accounting system:

1.   Price of Software
2.   Ease of Implementation
3.   Ease of Use
4.   Software’s ability to fit the business
5.   Functionality of software
6.   Software works with existing hardware
7.   Growth potential of software
8.   Level of support provided by the local firm
9.   Quality of documentation
10. Developers track record of performance

Companies who have evaluated accounting systems know how challenging this task is because there are a lot of quality accounting systems available with loads of features. Since no one wants to “overpay” for anything, the price is very important. In addition, no one wants the pain of a complex implementation or hard to use software. So, it’s natural to see these criteria at the top of the list. Closer to the bottom of the list are local support and the developer’s track record. Since first time buyers have never gone through the evaluation process, they typically do not properly evaluate the importance of these two items.

Second Time Buyers:  Here are the rankings of the same reasons, but this time for businesses selecting their second system:

1.   Level of support provided by the local firm
2.   Developers track record of performance
3.   Software’s ability to fit the business
4.   Growth potential of software
5.   Price of Software
6.   Quality of documentation
7.   Functionality of software
8.   Ease of Use
9.   Ease of Implementation
10. Software works with existing hardware

Major Differences:  Some of the rankings stay pretty similar, but others jump out with significant changes as follows:

1st Time 2nd Time
Buyers Buyers
Level of support provided by the local firm 8 1
Developers track record of performance 10 2
Price of software 1 5
Ease of use 3 8
Ease of implementation 2 9
Software works with existing hardware 6 10

Second time buyers typically have a better evaluation strategy because they have the experience that first time buyers do not. Logically, their rankings are a better guide for those evaluating accounting software. Important points to note:

•  The critical role that a quality local consultant plays is much more important to firms who are evaluating a software solution for the second time.

•  The Developer’s track record is a far more important factor than first time buyers think because it increases in importance from last to second highest in importance.

•  Price of Software drops from the prime reason to number five because price,although important, is not the ultimate factor.

Interesting to note is the fact that this study was done about 12 years ago.  Some things have definitely changed since then.  Certainly with advancements made with connectivity and Internet access, having support that is “geographically” local is a non-issue. In fact, with the use of tools such as GoToAssist and Webex, support can be instantaneous, much faster than waiting for a local support representative to be onsite. But the level of support is just as important today.  In fact, with the business world being more dynamic than ever, reliable ongoing support is crucial.  Your business is dependent on the software you use, so Support continues to be #1 on everyone’s list.            

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