Small Business Trends

Software Needs Versus Software Wants: How To Conduct a Software Needs Assessment

Published by in Small Business Trends

Make every dollar in your software budget count by investing in new tech that will serve your business’ needs. Here’s how to map out your business’ software needs to get you started.

One man discussing his software needs and a woman describing her software wants

Technology can help your business improve its processes and efficiency, but how do you know which parts of your business can benefit the most from software? Conducting a software needs analysis can help you separate your software needs from your software wants.

Our research found that only 27% of small businesses buy software that meets or exceeds their expectations without any compromises. No one wants to waste their business’ money on a platform that won’t meet their needs. Carrying out a business needs assessment will help to ensure you understand your business’ priorities and how technology can play a larger, more critical role in your business’ growth.

If you take the time now to find the perfect software, you’ll reduce the likelihood of needing to switch to a different system sooner than expected or learning to live with a system that your team doesn’t like to use.

Here are some ways you can assess your business needs and ultimately, separate software needs from software wants.

Use SWOT analysis to answer critical questions about your business

One way to get started would be to conduct a SWOT analysis, which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Because it is so open-ended, this type of analysis can be hard to start. However, the real trick to writing a good SWOT analysis depends on your ability to answer critical questions about your business.


  • What is your team really good at?
  • What do you offer employees and customers that others can’t or don’t?
  • For example: We have a strong, capable team of employees and a unique product/service.

  • What are some areas that your organization could thrive in that it isn’t currently taking advantage of?
  • For example: We could make a more robust training program to help employees build on the skills they’ll need to excel while working remotely, starting with a training needs assessment.

  • What are some things that your team is not very efficient at, that others do much better?
  • For example: We haven’t done a training needs assessment in years, and it is overdue. Our employees seem disengaged, and our website is outdated.

  • What external factors, such as competitors, consumer demand, or economic conditions, could make it more difficult for your team to succeed?
  • For example: More businesses are catering to their employees’ needs to work on skills needed for remote work and are adapting processes to remote work.

For example, if during the SWOT analysis, your team reveals that your employees could benefit from more training or that your business’ website is outdated, you might want to look into training software or website optimization tools.

While a SWOT analysis can be a one-person job, it is best accomplished as a team activity. Gather representatives from different departments that will use the new software to get a more holistic look at your business.

Think about the past, present, and future of your business and industry

Thinking about your business in terms of its past, present, and potential in the future can also inform your business needs analysis.

Use the past to inform the present

Even if your business is relatively young, do your research to understand the history of your industry.

For example, the communications industry has changed drastically over the last several decades. To give some perspective, the very first email was sent 50 years ago in 1971. Now, businesses across industries rely on email as a main avenue for both internal and external communications: In 2020 alone, 306.4 billion emails were sent.

Businesses in different industries have needed to adapt to communication technology as their customers grew to expect businesses to adopt new technology. Can you imagine a business not using email? Probably not.

Businesses back then, perhaps even those in your industry, had to adapt to new technology to meet customer expectations. Those that did not adapt ended up not being able to keep up with their competition.

Ask yourself:
  • What has impacted your business or industry in the past?
  • What caused it to struggle, and how did it prevail?
  • What did businesses in your industry do in order to come out on top?
  • What role has technology played in your industry?


Understand what’s happening in the present

Presently, businesses are still faced with the challenges brought about by the pandemic.

For example, when many businesses went remote at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, people thought it would be temporary. But now, people think remote work is here to stay with many people preferring to work from home. This shift will permanently change how businesses operate.

Reflect on what’s happening in your business today and how current events are affecting it to reveal your business’ most pressing needs.

Ask yourself:
  • What are the biggest challenges facing your business today?
  • What are the key components of your business?
  • What is your business’ main goal?
  • In which areas is the business not performing well?


Use the past and present to prepare for the future

If 2020 taught people anything, it was that you cannot predict the future—but you can try to prepare for it! You’ll never have all of the information but you don’t need to know everything to make an informed decision.

For example, Catherine Traynor saw her business strategy crumble during the pandemic. As an architect, she would meet with people face-to-face to discuss blueprints, but when everything went digital, she had to adapt. She didn’t know what the future held, but decided to embrace virtual reality during this time, recognizing its long-term value.

Ask yourself:
  • What does your business and industry look like in the future?
  • What’s the same, and what’s different?
  • In the future, how will your business be different from its competitors?


Consider the trends that have potential to change your industry

There are always trends currently impacting your business and ones on the horizon, and if you want to assess your business needs, you’ll need to be aware of both.

Oftentimes, trends are defined by technology such as emerging technology, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality.

Think about how these emerging technologies might impact your industry and how you can take advantage of them.

For example, AI has practical applications in small businesses such as improving cybersecurity, boosting eCommerce sales, answering customer questions via chatbots, and recruiting talent for your organization.

Ask yourself:
  • What trends are currently impacting your business and industry?
  • What trends have the potential to impact your business in the future?
  • What trends might prevent you from achieving your long-term goals as they currently stand?
  • How could you take advantage of these trends?


Pick a priority

Strategies such as the SWOT analysis will reveal to you a list of business needs and areas that could benefit from the implementation of new software. Your next step will be to prioritize them. There are many prioritization methods out there and one might be mapping your business needs based on effort and impact.

A priority matrix can help you visualize which projects will have the highest impact (Source)

For example, needs that are high impact and low effort might be a good place to start, while those that are low impact, high effort might not be critical business needs. Once you pick your priority, align with key stakeholders and your team before undertaking new technology.

If you’re ready to find new software, here’s how to make sure you get a great match



About the Author

Toby Cox

Toby Cox

Senior Content Writer @ Capterra covering software trends and stories of small business resilience. B.A. in Foreign Affairs and Middle Eastern Languages from the University of Virginia. Beekeeper and bookworm. Virginia native. I love yoga, getting lost in new places, and being outside.


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