If you’re alive right now, you are probably dealing with at least one problem.
In fact you are likely dealing with more than one problem. And you are likely trying to reduce, not increase, your number of problems. If some of your woes might be alleviated through automation, you may be comparing software solutions.
Unfortunately, choosing the wrong software can actually increase the number, and severity, of your problems. Instead, here’s how to select software that will be a net-positive.
1. Truly grok your problem
Easy isn’t always right.
Choosing any old solution is easy. Choosing the right software takes some thought. As Malcolm Forbes said, “It’s so much easier to suggest solutions when you don’t know too much about the problem.”
Before selecting a solution, you must first be sure that you understand the problem fully. Albert Einstein went so far as to say, “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 can better understand the problem you will be able to identify whether you need software, and if you do, which software will best solve your problem.
The first step to understanding is identifying. Ask yourself who this problem impacts. For example, if the problem impacts developers and marketers, what is each department’s specific problem? Not only should you be asking what problems currently exist, but what other problems may arise as you resolve the initial pain point?
Then you can being to imagine a best-case scenario for each variation of your problem.
2. Begin your research
Create a spreadsheet of your wants and needs.
Think as broadly as you can. But don’t start looking for software yet. This is important. You may find yourself attracted to well-designed, amazingly built, perfectly usable software. This software is sexy, and interesting.
You’ll find yourself falling for this software. Before you know it, you’re imagining all the problems you can solve with that software.
You might end up with some of the best software out there, for other people. But for you it will solve problems you don’t have and create new ones you didn’t.
As psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Unfortunately, solving a problem with a tool that was made for something else is often not only ineffective, but destructive.
3. Sometimes all-in-one isn’t the solution
You may need to consider using a combination of solutions to solve a combination of problems. Using an all-in-one solution can be tempting. But several products that each solve one problem well beat one product that fully solves none of your problems.
In Rework, Co-Founders of 37signals Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson write, “We’re just as proud of what our products don’t do as we are of what they do. We design them to be simple because we believe most software is too complex … That’s our line in the sand. When you don’t know what you believe, everything becomes an argument …But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.”
Find the solution that was built to solve a particular problem (a problem exactly like -or very similar to- your problem). A company or product that focuses specifically on that solution will more likely have nailed it. Drill down into specific software categories in order to find the best product for your needs.
4. Make sure you share goals
What a software emphasizes can say a lot about their goals. For example, my company, KioWare, focuses on device security, data protection, and browser lockdown. We make kiosk software for self-service and purposed devices.
But the features that solve those problems don’t solve every problem related to security. In fact, they create new problems when deployed in the wrong context. For example, if you use KioWare and want to be able to access the OS File system, that’s not going to work out well for you.
Sometimes needs differ according to department. Take a school, for example.
Computer lab machines must provide users access to applications and programs that provide extensive access to the OS while protecting user privacy, limiting access to the institution’s network data, and restoring the device to its original state when finished.
Office computers, on the other hand, must offer each administrative and support staff member and teacher their own log-in and access to the system files. These computers should be secure from a group policy perspective. Access to system files that may inadvertently cause damage should be blocked.
Computers in libraries must provide access to card catalogs, in dining halls they must provide access to email, and in other buildings they must provide wayfinding and/or departmental information and have their own permissions restrictions. They should only provide access to particular websites or cloud-based applications. They must have restricted access and be able to protect any private user data.
For each of these three computer usages, there is a different “correct” solution. For office and computer lab computers, the best solution for balancing security concerns with utility is tweaking the settings, updating regularly, training users on information security best practices, and good antivirus software.
But for public computers that are used for one particular purpose, you can restrict users to only the allowed applications or websites. And user data needs to be cleared in between each use since it is publically accessible. In that case you would want dedicated software to restrict access and protect both the device and user data.
Solving the wrong problem can create entirely new problems. If you’re looking into software, first map out what your real problems are and who they affect. Then categorize your desires into software wants and needs.
Consider whether software is what you need and, if so, whether you need multiple software products for multiple different problems.
Following these steps in problem identifying, researching, and software selection will give you the best chance to identify the perfect solution or solutions for your problems. And hopefully using Capterra to narrow down the list even further can make your search for the perfect solution even easier.
What are your tips for finding the right software? Let us know in the comments!
Looking for software? Check out Capterra's list of the best software solutions.