The Wrong Software Is Worse Than No Software: Tips for Choosing Well

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Before making your final purchase decision, follow these tips to avoid ending up with the wrong software for your needs.

a person making the right software decision

After months of endless meetings, research, and demos, you and your team have finally narrowed down the possibilities for your company’s new software system to just a handful of options. All that remains is to make a decision and finalize your purchase. This is the easy part of the process, right?

Well, not quite. When we asked 1,000 small business decision-makers in Capterra’s Great Software Match survey* about their most recent software purchase, we found that they got a Great Match—a purchase that meets or exceeds expectations without compromises—only 27% of the time.

The odds of making the wrong choice at this stage are surprisingly high. This could lead to a few frustrating headaches if you’re lucky (e.g., missing features, extra workarounds), or if you’re not lucky, a worse situation than if you didn’t have software at all (e.g., frustrated users, corrupted data).

To ensure you’re making the best decision for your business, here are some tips for selecting the right software to buy at this final stage.

Tip #1: Go back to your original problem

Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” If you’re having trouble deciding between a few different software options, it’s a sign you should go back and analyze the original problem you’re trying to solve with software in the first place.

Who is the primary end user of this software? What are the pain points with our current methods that we’re trying to fix? How are we measuring success with this software purchase? Revisiting your team’s answers to these questions could give you the “aha” moment you need to make a purchase.

Tip #2: Separate your wants from your needs

You come across an ad for a software system that’s sleek, feature-rich, and, frankly, really cool. Less impressed by other offerings, you make the decision to purchase it only to discover six months down the line that your company is paying a premium price to only use half of the system’s features. Ultimately, the decision is made to cancel the subscription and go with something more affordable.

We see this scenario play out all the time, and it happens because companies become too infatuated with a system that offers features beyond what they really need. As tempting as it is to go for that premium offering, sometimes the best decision is to pull back. Remember: You can always scale up to a more fully-loaded product down the line when you’re ready.

Tip #3: Sometimes all-in-one isn’t the best choice

If you have a lot of needs with your next software purchase, an all-in-one software suite that checks all of your boxes is an enticing option. One solution, one contract, one interface to learn how to use—what’s not to love?

However, just because a software system does a lot of things, that doesn’t mean it does them all well. Instead of settling for one system that’s “good enough” for all of your needs, your company may be better off purchasing and integrating two or three solutions with their own unique strengths. All that to say, don’t shy away from more software if more software is what you really need.

Tip #4: Consider your existing tech stack

Software doesn’t exist in a bubble. It’s more than likely your new system will need to play nice with something you already have—be it a customer relationship management (CRM) system if it’s a customer-facing system, a human resource information system (HRIS) if it’s an internal system, or even a business intelligence tool if you want to pull data from your new purchase for deep analysis.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) have become so sophisticated that integrating two systems together isn’t the near-impossible task it used to be. Still, it’s a good idea to ask your vendor if they have any known issues integrating with any of your systems. Better yet, you may learn that a vendor you’re considering has a special partnership with one of your existing vendors that could give you a discount or extra features. Either way, it could tip your decision toward one product over the others.

Tip #5: Use usability as the tie-breaker

You’re down to two software options. They have the same features, they both have good reviews, and they’re about the same price. Which one do you go with?

If it really is dead-even between two options, go with the one that you and your team think is easier to use. Ideally, you will be using this system for years to come, and any blemishes in the user experience—on a computer or phone—will wear thin on your company quickly.

Are you ready to make a decision?

Sometimes, solving one problem can create entirely new problems. That’s the risk you run when purchasing the wrong software.

The tips we’ve covered here should help you avoid this scenario, but if you’re still undecided on what software is the right one for you at this stage, here is some final advice:

  • Resist adding to your shortlist unless absolutely necessary: As tempting as it can be to go back after creating your shortlist and consider additional software options, our research shows this usually results in a lower-quality purchase. Trust the work you’ve done so far, and avoid bloating your shortlist with products you already dismissed.
  • Find reviews from users like you: Even if a software product has stellar reviews, it can be hard to tell if those reviews come from businesses similar to yours. Luckily, if you go to any product page on Capterra, you can filter reviews by company size, length of use, frequency of use, and even what role the reviewer is in to get a better idea.
  • Request another demo: If, after an initial demo and a free trial period of your own, you still have questions or concerns about a certain product, ask the software vendor to do another demo. They may show something new that you hadn’t seen before, which could influence your purchase decision.

If you’re still on the fence about your next software purchase, check out additional resources on our Software Buying Tips blog. And if you’ve made a decision, congrats! Head to our home page and find the product you’re ready to buy for next steps.


Survey methodology

*The Capterra Great Software Match Survey 2020 was conducted in October 2020. We surveyed 1,000 workers at U.S. businesses with two to 500 employees and $1-$250 million in annual revenue who: 1) have a significant influence on technology purchases for their organization, and 2) have made a software purchase for their organization costing at least $500/year in the past 24 months. We worded the questions to ensure that each respondent fully understood the meaning and the topic at hand.

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Brian Westfall

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Principal Analyst @ Capterra, covering the latest in HR and recruiting software. BS in Marketing and Economics, Trinity University. Published in Forbes, SHRM, and TechRepublic. Based in Austin. I love corgis, baking, and rooting for my hometown San Antonio Spurs (Go Spurs Go!).

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