Questions to Ask During the Evaluation process
1. How easy is the system to learn and use?
Your employees know how to use QuickBooks. You don't want to lose momentum training them on a new system while business is booming. Make sure you select a vendor who offers a solution with:
A simple, intuitive user experience. Nothing increases user adoption and lowers training costs more than a role-specific interface, personalized tasks and reports, and clear workflows.
Built-in productivity tools. Managing your business is much easier when your calendar, email, and business management software work together--and are delivered by one trusted source. A solution that can connect and integrate they system used to manager your finances, supply chain, and operations with the productivity tools in Microsoft Office with one single sign-on will simplify tasks and increase efficiency.
2. Does the solution support the new ways people want to work?
The consumerization of technology has blurred the line between personal and work computing. Users expect that the software they use, whether designed for business or for fun, will be intuitive, accessible from any type of device, and always available.
Inventory the devices--desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones--your people use to be productive, and then determine how the solutions you are evaluating can support those devices and the key applications used by your employees. A best-in-class solution will be accessible on the devices they use most, whether they're in the office, at home, or working from a remote location.
3. Does the vendor offer deployment options that fit my business?
As you evaluate a new business management solution, you may also want to evaluate the IT model needed to support it. If you're running an online version of an entry-level accounting solution, do you plan to invest in the infrastructure to maintain your new solution in-house? Or would you prefer to maintain a cloud-based solution? If you're using an outdated legacy system, do you want to move to an outsourced or a cloud-based deployment?
A cloud-based solution, for example, can eliminate large, upfront hardware investments and reduce staffing needs, while an on-premises deployment may give you greater control of where your data resides and future upgrades. The best solutions provide choice for cloud-based, on-premises, and hybrid deployments to accommodate the unique needs and demands of your business.
4. What is the vendor's service model after the sale?
Most companies don't fly solo through the deployment process. To ensure the consistency and predictability of your operations, you may require implementation assistance, system integration, or ongoing support. Does the vendor have a service and implementation ecosystem with providers in your local area?
And will the vendor provide innovative solutions to help you adapt to new market complexities? As a business owner, you understand the importance of delivering value to your customers. Does the vendor demonstrate an ongoing commitment to technology advancement?
Finally, don't forget about pricing fluctuations beyond the first year. Providers can offer low monthly payments that dramatically increase after your first contract expires. If they are holding your data hostage in a long-term contract, they could be putting your business at risk.
5. Does the vendor understand and focus on the needs of smal and midsized businesses?
Ideally, when you deploy a business management system, you'll achieve benefits that go beyond mere automation of manual processes. New business management software can help an organization:
Increase sales with fewer sales discounts
Improve sales-force efficacy and average order size
Increase inventory turns while reducing stock-outs
Reduce production costs
As you evaluate vendors, consider their track records for helping businesses like yours achieve the results they want. Ask for case studies that represent customers of similiar size and industry focus and be sure to verify references. It's a big decision. Do your homework.