For a startup or small business with limited resources and IT know-how, shopping for software can be daunting.
J.P. Medved, content editor for Capterra, says that at one time he would have said budget was the biggest challenge facing startups, but now he thinks that is just symptomatic of a larger issue: lack of knowledge.
“Most small businesses don’t know what types of options are out there, how long implementation actually takes (hint, it’s longer than you think, even with SaaS offerings), or even the main benefits of a software system,” he says. “Luckily, some great work is being done now to make that information accessible to more people, and I think we’re seeing a lot software vendors embrace radical transparency with much of this stuff.”
Capterra has compiled a database of business software solutions to help business owners with the task of selecting the best products for their needs. Here, J.P. shares more about the company, offers advice on savvy software shopping and discusses the biggest industry trends today.
Tell us about Capterra…what services do you offer and who should be using them?
Capterra helps software buyers sift through the hundreds of different options to find the perfect system for their business. By using our free, comprehensive directories with filtering tools, thousands of reviews, and free one-on-one consultations, software buyers can save research time and create a solid shortlist of vendors that actually match their needs.
What seem to be the biggest frustrations or the most common questions business owners have for you?
With first-time buyers, the frustrations definitely stem from the limitations of the old ways of doing things. Lost records, things falling through the cracks, too much time spent on manual tasks.
With second-generation buyers, we see a lot of frustrations with things not working like they should have, or were told they would, or believed, for whatever reason, they would with their previous software. I think this frustration (and we see it in a lot of software reviews on our site as well) can be mitigated by better vendor communication (relating back to my first point about lack of knowledge) both during the sales process and after.
No one expects a software to be perfect, but being upfront about a system’s capabilities, and open about (and willing to fix) existing flaws or missing functionality can go a long way towards keeping customers around.
What questions should business owners or IT managers ask before shopping for software to run their business?
The biggest one is “will we use it?” followed immediately by “how will we use it?” Figuring this out (and actually writing it down) before looking at vendors, creating a shortlist or sitting down for demos or free trials means you’ll have a handle on your requirements. It will also make you less likely to pick something that your employees won’t use because it clashes with an existing business process, or being swayed into buying something for flashy features that aren’t part of your core requirements.
What do you think are the biggest mistakes business owners make when purchasing software? What could prevent these mistakes?
Aside from not doing a needs analysis like I mentioned above, I’d have to say it’s not doing any demos and just buying a software based on peer recommendations. If you’re not comparing at least two to five different software options, you really don’t understand who does what functionality best, what you may be missing, and you’ll likely end up with a software that’s not a great fit for you and be back to buying something else six months down the road.
What can startups do to reduce costs when shopping for software? How can they stretch their budgets most effectively?
Many software companies offer free trials and freemium versions that have more than enough functionality for small startups. These can be great ways to test out an option to see if it meshes with your workflows and employee habits. Make sure to test a vendor’s support during this time, however, to get a gauge for how well they treat and respond to customers. Otherwise, limit the number of demos you do (two to five is the sweet spot between not enough to compare and too many to remember) and the number of people making the final buying decision (too many people will make the purchase process drag on for months and months).
What do you think business owners are looking for when shopping for software to help manage their IT desk?
The biggest thing business owners are looking for is the ability to organize and prioritize service tickets and requests. I know this is the main functionality of IT help desk software, but the difference between doing it and doing it well, or doing it in a way that meshes with a business’s existing process, is big.
In terms of new things we’re seeing buyers look for in this type of software, live chat/24-hour support is huge, as is social media integration. Both, I think, are related in that customers and employees want issues resolved ASAP, and they want to be able to reach the IT desk through their channel of choice, not just a phone number or internal ticket system.
What are some of the biggest trends you’re noticing in business software?
What I’ve seen across all types of business software, not just IT help desk, are trends in social media integration, cloud computing, and mobile access. They’re cliches/buzzwords at this point, but that’s because they really are massive trends that are actually happening across a whole range of software industries and verticals. I mean, more mobile phones than computers shipped last year, 1.8 billion compared to 300 million, and we’re only going to see these trends accelerate.
What are the most common systems/software today that you think business owners need to upgrade now?
Personally, I think email is the biggest thing that businesses haven’t upgraded and need to. Our office switched from Outlook to a business Gmail/Google Apps account and it’s like night and day in terms of added functionality and productivity. Its ease of search, threaded conversations, and easy access and attaching of Google Docs/Drive files are huge improvements. The in-office G-Chatting also makes it super easy to quickly share links, ping someone who’s working remotely, and keep records of decisions that can be searched through easily in case you forget. Plus, I can log on from any computer and check it, so working from home when a freak blizzard hits is much easier.