Whether it’s called digital transformation or software implementation, selecting the right core software for your business is an essential task for businesses that want to grow, compete and become more profitable. But how do you know when your business needs to select new software, and what should you look for? Learn more from Tolar Systems.
Whether it’s called digital transformation or software implementation, selecting the right core software for your business is an essential task for businesses that want to grow, compete and become more profitable. But how do you know when your business needs to select new software, and what should you look for?
Step 1: Define Your Processes
The best way to figure out where you need to go is to understand where you are now. That’s why the first step toward selecting your core software solution is to understand your current processes and systems. Define these by analyzing and documenting the processes currently used to complete your critical business tasks. Questions to ask include: what processes are handled manually? Which processes are handled using technology or tools? How many applications are used to complete each task?
Many organizations find that they use a combination of tools to complete their business processes. For instance, invoicing might require users to toggle between bookkeeping applications, Excel and manual entry to get the job done. This requires more time and effort than processes that can be managed within a single system.
Employee input is important in these assessments to discover the processes that are actually used in your organization. Software selection is a team activity, both to ensure that the solution you select is a good fit, and to ensure buy-in and cooperation later, after the solution goes live. Another benefit of employee involvement is discovering any “rogue” applications employees might be using – these are a sure sign that current applications may not be meeting the needs of your business.
A few questions to consider include:
- Marketing and CRM – How are you managing customer information? How does customer data enter the system and how is it maintained? Is your current system mobile-friendly? Is your CRM integrated with marketing tools that can help you grow your business?
- Accounting – How are you tracking financial data around payables and receivables? How accurate is that data, and are any manual processes required to enter data into your systems?
- Procurement and Supply Chain – What processes and solutions are you using to purchase parts and supplies? How are those supplies transported and stored? How accurate is the information your organization uses to plan inventory and logistics? Do you run out of stock or have excess stock?
- Manufacturing and Production – What systems are you using to manage your manufacturing and production processes? Are you keeping up with advances in automation?
- Human Resources, Payroll and Recruiting – How do you find, manage and retain new employees? How is employee information gathered, managed and maintained? Are your payroll processes efficient and accurate?
Another key question is, if you are using different solutions for each of your business processes, how well integrated is the data in those solutions? Data silos – a situation where the same or similar information is maintained across multiple systems – are a major source of inefficiency even for small businesses.
Step 2: Define Your Desired End-State
Once you’ve defined what you’re doing now, start thinking about what you’d like to be doing better. What isn’t working as well as you’d like, and what would be your ideal outcome? If you’re like most business owners, your initial process definition likely uncovered some areas that aren’t as efficient as they could be. There also could be some areas where the way you do things may be out of step with current best practices.
Generally speaking, at Tolar Systems we believe that businesses should select software and tools that support their processes. Put another way, businesses should NOT have to change their processes to meet the needs of their software. However, there’s an exception to this if your current processes do not meet regulatory requirements, or otherwise don’t meet the standards you’d like to apply to your business. In that case, your desired end-state should reflect how you want to do business going forward.
Step 3: Consider Your Options
Now it’s time to take your current and end-state analysis and start looking for the software and tools that will meet the needs you’ve identified. The solutions you will select may depend on a variety of factors, such as business size and industry. We suggest creating a short list of applications in each business process category (such as financials or CRM) that are most likely to meet the needs of your business. This narrows the pool and prevents having to consider too many options.
The types of applications most likely to meet the needs of your business include:
- Bookkeeping solutions like Quickbooks or Sage, which are simplified accounting applications primarily used by small businesses;
- ERP solutions like Microsoft Dynamics 365 or NetSuite, which combine more sophisticated accounting and human resources applications to meet the needs of larger, more complex businesses;
- CRM and automated marketing solutions. These might be standalone solutions or integrated with an intelligent ERP solution like Microsoft Dynamics 365.
- Productivity solutions such as Microsoft Office 365 are the everyday applications that are used to generate documents, analyze data, communicate and collaborate with all the members of your team. Most businesses use these in conjunction with other core software such as ERP or bookkeeping applications to complete their business processes, so some degree of integration is a beneficial work- and time-saving feature.
- Industry-specific solutions that meet the needs of your business. One example we commonly see here in Texas would be WolfePak, an accounting solution used in the oil and gas industry.
Another aspect to consider is whether a cloud solution is the right fit. Many leading core software applications your business might select are available as a lightweight cloud solution. These offer a low upfront cost and minimal IT footprint, making them an ideal solution for many small businesses.
In our next post on this topic, we’ll outline a process for evaluating and selecting the right solution for your business, including questions to ask and how to determine which delivery platform best meets your needs.
At Tolar Systems, we specialize in helping organizations identify, implement, integrate, manage and maintain core business solutions so that they can operate more efficiently and profitably. We help organizations ask the right questions, so they can identify the solutions that are right for their business. Contact us today to learn more about how we help businesses like yours leverage technology for growth and greater efficiency, while reducing the amount of time you spend dealing with IT headaches.