Step 4: Buy software with confidence

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Once you know what you can spend on software, it’s time to talk to suppliers, get quotes and trial some products.

Understanding exactly what each supplier’s products offer is vital to ensure you buy the one that best suits your business needs.

If the technology is entirely new to you and you have contacts in your industry, talking to them can be a great place to start. If they’ve bought similar software before, they may be able to tell you about their experiences – both the challenges and successes.

Always do your own research and try to use a broad set of resources to get a more accurate idea of the software you’re considering investing in.

To help you stay focused on what you’re looking for, check back to Step 1 Set objectives for new software and your checklists from Step 3 Calculate your software budget.

When you’re ready to start talking to suppliers, following our 4 steps below will help guide the questions you ask.

Top tip

Comparison tools give a great overview of the market. But be aware that they’re not always independent and don’t necessarily give the full list of pros and cons.

1. Fully explain your needs and budget

  • Tell them exactly what you need from the software. They’ll help you confirm which product best suits your needs, based on your budget.

  • Check they understand your business needs. The right supplier will understand your specific needs, and how their product can offer practical solutions.

  • Can the software be adapted to suit your needs if necessary? Find out what their software can and can’t do for your business. Can it be tailored to suit your business operations? If so, find out what the costs would be.

Top tip

If suppliers are using jargon you don’t understand, ask them to explain more clearly. If they can’t, it could be that they don’t fully understand whether the product is definitely right for you.

2. Get quotes and identify all software costs 

Get a quote from each supplier. This will give you a more accurate idea of what you’ll need to pay, rather than relying on what’s on their website.

Pricing can be confusing, so it’s essential that you understand what you’re paying for. For example, there may be an initial one-off payment, subscriptions (such as monthly or annual), and perhaps set-up fees to consider. Suppliers also often offer add-ons that cost extra – before you pay, make sure that you need the extra features.

3. Trial the product

Trialling software before you commit to buying is a good way to understand how the product will work for your business. And it means that your team can give you valuable feedback. Trying out the technology may answer some of your questions too, such as exactly how many people will need to use it.

Make sure you:

  • Test the right product. If you’re interested in buying the basic version, make sure you don’t trial the premium option. This avoids you getting used to functionality that wouldn’t be available in the version you’re considering.

  • Get feedback from your team. Test the system using your business’ data and find out from your team what they like and don’t like about it.

  • Understand how suppliers can support implementation. It’s worth getting an idea at this stage what support and training the supplier can offer, to help with installation, integration and training your team on the new software.

4. Final questions before you buy

Based on all the information you now have, it’s time to ask yourself a few final questions before committing – to make sure you’re making the right choice in terms of features and value for money.

Here are some things to consider based on the information you have from the supplier:

  • Are you happy with the agreed payment term? Whether it’s annual, monthly or a one-off payment.

  • Have you read the fine print on any package deals on offer? Make sure you only pay for what you need. For example, licences may offer support packages and extra features – but do you need them?

  • If software extras and add-ons are at a discounted price, how long is the discount for? Consider whether they’re worth the full price. If not, avoid being tempted by a bargain.

  • Are you buying a basic package now, with a view to perhaps upgrading to a premium version in future? If so, check the terms of the contract and what the costs would be to do this.

  • Is the software scalable? Does it provide your business room to grow over time?

  • What (if any) IT support is included with the software licence? Is support offered outside normal office hours, 7 days a week? How long are response times? Is support offered via phone, email or in person?

  • If other support is included as standard, what exactly will this be? For example, it could be:
    - installation and configuration
    - integration with other software or systems
    - user manuals and workshops

  • Can you haggle a better deal than what they’re offering? This could include the supplier waiving set-up charges, for example, or including free installation support.

What’s next?

By the end of this stage, you should have identified a preferred supplier and product that offers what you’re looking for. When you have all the answers you need and feel confident in your decision, you can feel confident buying and installing your new software.

Once you've bought the software, it’s time to introduce it to your team. Find out more in step 5 of our 6-part series of guides Make new software work for your team.

Help to Grow: Digital guidance

Step 5: Make new software work for your team

There are lots of potential challenges when introducing new technology into your business. Here are some tips to help ensure that getting buy-in from your team isn’t one of them.

Step 6: Get your money’s worth

With your new software in place, it’s time to review whether it’s achieving everything you wanted it to, or whether it needs improvements. Here’s how to do it.

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