Part 3: How to Analyze Software Features and Create a Comparison Chart
In Part 2 of our series, we went through how to run a software needs discovery and evaluated the importance of each requirement. Part 3 of our series will take you through the process of setting up a software comparison chart for finding the best solutions for your business’s needs.
Comparing the Software Your Business Needs
What are the main day-to-day processes of your business? What are they missing? And how do you envision them running more efficiently? Employing new software or tools can offer numerous possibilities such as streamlined or fully automated processes, integrated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems with accounting software like QuickBooks, or custom tools created from scratch to add or improve business specific processes. To find the software that will best suit your business needs, use the information we gathered in Part 2: How to Run a Software Needs Discovery or continue on to conduct a gap analysis of your business processes. You’ll use this information to come up with the solutions necessary in order to make your business process run better.
Finding the Best Solutions for Your Business with Gap Analysis
A gap analysis is used to compare the performance of your current business processes to their potential and desired performance levels. Conducting a gap analysis will give you a clear guide as to how you should approach finding a better business solution. To perform a proper gap analysis, you’ll need to identify the following for each core process of your business (for this example we’ll be analyzing the processes of an exterior paint services business):
- Your existing business process: Generating estimates by manually inspecting houses.
- The existing outcome: Up to 3 inspections per employee a day with a 3-4 business day wait time for estimates.
- Desired outcome: Up to 5 inspections per employee a day with estimates provided the same day.
- Analyze the gap: It’s a difference of 2 inspections per employee, plus saving additional time later in the estimation process.
- Processes needed to achieve desired outcome: An alternative method allowing customers to send photos and other information for pre-estimates. Employees would be able to access data through mobile devices, complete the estimation on-site, and send a final estimate to the customer.
- Solutions needed to fill the gap:
- Ability to load pictures ahead of time and have them available while on-site.
- Ability to save a partial estimate in the office and complete remaining details while on-site.
- Ability to store calculations for service so that simple information can produce a finished estimate.
- Ability to generate a nice-looking proposal document which can be printed or emailed while on-site.
- Bridging the Gap: Without their own internal development team, they’ll need to find a custom software developer.
In this example, the painting company wants to increase the number of potential customers they have and expedite their estimation process. Once they identified their current process and desired outcome, they contacted a software development firm for possible solutions. After listening to the paint company’s process and vision, the firm recommended implementing a customer service portal for photo and information submission along with faster quotes. They also suggested an on-site estimation application that can take data from customer accounts and use it to help generate estimates. Helping the paint business put together a software comparison chart, they reviewed several existing systems and a custom option. Ultimately, they decided it would be best to invest in a custom software solution based on comparing the options for their needs and choosing the right solution which had the best return on investment potential. Going ahead with the project, they’re now able to reach more customers each day and deliver live quotes when they get on-site. With faster service time, this has allowed them to close on more sales than in the past.
Once you’ve done a gap analysis for your business processes, now you can create a comparison chart of the features you want against the available software solutions with the features they provide.
Create a List of the Features and Solutions You Want
Depending on the type of business you have, your software needs may be more complex than others; however, just about all needs can be met using the proper software. Take a look at your data from your gap analysis. Make a chart based off of the requirements and features you need, rate their priority based on how many people and what areas of your business are being impacted by these needs, then list out your current software solutions and any other solutions you want to compare. Remember, getting halfway through a project before noticing that you’re missing features you need can be costly. Make sure you include all requirements you want to have now and ones you may need in the future. If you’re a pharmaceutical company, you may require a better database management software. If you’re a construction company, you might need better project management system. Follow this example chart as a guideline to create your own:
|Live Estimation Tool||10||X||X||X||✓|
One common desired feature for businesses is cloud integration with current systems, which allows employees to manage business processes outside of their headquarters. If employees constantly have to report back to headquarters to input information, they’re losing out on valuable time. Similarly, employees could be wasting time inputting the same data on multiple systems. Using software that communicates between the two systems can remove the redundancy of inputting the same information multiple times whenever an employee updates the system. The frequency and number of people this impacts (which could include your customers) will help you determine how this feature should be ranked. Creating a ranked list for your requirements will help you compromise on which software features should be implemented first. If you find that none of the softwares perform the exact functions you need, you may need to combine multiple products or opt for a custom solution tailored to your business.
Minimize Risks and Maximize Return On Investments
It’s important when integrating new software solutions that you minimize any risk of disrupting current processes and maximize its impact and ROI. Once you’ve completed your chart, you can work with your software consultant to determine which solutions fit your company’s budget and what ones are most important to achieve the desired outcome of your processes.
Using the painting business again as an example, imagine that in addition to their customer service portal and on-site tool, they also wanted online payment integration and a mobile application for quotes. The business isn’t fully convinced on investing in new technologies, but due to decreasing profit margins, they know they have to give something new a try. Setting a limited budget towards their processes, they need to minimize their risks and maximize their ROI. To do this, they should be looking at how many people are impacted by each of the desired software solutions. Investing in integrated online payments would make things convenient for customers, but it’s not absolutely necessary and can be added at a later time. A mobile application would also be convenient for customers, but the adoption rate of the new application may be slow, making this a riskier choice. Investing in a customer service portal for setting up pre-estimates will affect both employees and customers, so this should be the first solution considered. It cuts back on work needed to be done by employees and it greatly impacts the customer’s ability to get started with receiving a quote.
When focusing on software solutions and deciding which ones you need most, always look back to your gap analysis and consider each solutions’ importance to your end vision and the amount of people that will be impacted.
Pre-Made and Custom Software Solutions
There are many software solutions on the market today that can be used for automating and managing the bulk of common business tasks; however, these pre-made solutions may not meet all of your needs. Opting to build a custom software solution guarantees the system will be tailored specifically for your business’s unique processes and functions. If you already have valuable software solutions in place, new custom solutions can be integrated with them to add additional functions. Can’t decide whether to build or buy? Stay tuned for the final entry of the series, Part 4: Buy vs Build!