There’s a lot of services out there on the market these days. There’s software out there to manage your customers, finances, passwords, to-do lists, inventory, and on and on and on.
The sheer amount of choice on the market right now for various things is enough of a challenge to surmount for the average business owner, but that’s not the end of the story! Even after you make a choice, you will find that software changes.
Here’s a few tips for being sure that you are making the right choices for your business infrastructure and systems.
Don’t Start With Specific Features – When you are shopping, it’s very tempting to shop by specific features. While you do want to consider the features when evaluating a product, you might find that you are evaluating bad solutions that you could have eliminated from the running early on. Save your feature comparisons for the final part of your evaluation.
Look for API Availability – APIs are the way that a particular system can be extended. Its highly unlikely that you will find the all-in-one solution (more on that in a moment). When you have multiple systems running your business, you will save a lot of time if you are able to make those systems talk to each other. When looking for APIs, look in the footer for “APIs”, or “Developers”. These are common headers where you would find this information. Another quick trick for this would be to look for the system on Zapier.com (a popular API provider).
There Usually Isn’t an All-In-One Solution – It can be very tempting to look for that solution that “does it all”. Especially in niche industries like Realtors, Gyms, etc. You might find a service out there that claims they will “run your business” no problems at all! What you may find is they do not have exposed APIs and so they do not cooperate with other systems very easily. IF you CAN find the system that does it all (really does it all), it can be far cheaper to go this route, but you will be in a walled garden. This might not be a problem today, but keep your business growth in mind, and make sure you have a route to upgrade away from the walled garden if you need to.
Peek at the UI/UX – If you can get a demo of the system before you buy it, you should try to make that happen. Getting a peek at the internal backend system and administrative panels (live, not pictures) can tell you a lot about the quality of the product. Does it have a fresh “face”? Navigation between areas of the system is quick? Does it feel intuitive? Don’t fall into the trap of buying into a system that LOOKS great on the customer facing side, but is a nightmare on the administrative side.
Get References – Find people you trust, and ask them what they use and why! If you can find someone who has experience with the system you are considering, you might be able to get some insight into the “real” experience. If all you listen to is the marketing, you’d think all the products out there are PERFECT! 🙂 We all know better than that, right?