Buying software for your business: avoid a bad buy

You bought a hugely expensive CRM system, but your staff do not use it. Or your software turns out not to interface with another programme you use. Your investment can then suddenly turn out to be a big mis-sale. Entrepreneur Martijn Verspeek explains how to avoid this.

Verspeek runs an installation company. Although he had no technical knowledge or large budget, he bought a large software package years ago. That paid for itself handsomely. "Digitalisation in business is indispensable," Verspeek believes. "In 10 years' time, all your competitors will also have digitised. If you have not done that yourself, it is hard to survive." These 6 tips will help you buy software safely and responsibly. 

1. Ask fellow entrepreneurs

Ask fellow entrepreneurs what software they use. "A fellow entrepreneur will give a more honest assessment than a software supplier," says Verspeek. He also recommends looking outside your own region. "A colleague in the same region is not so quick to share what software he uses, for fear of competition." You can find a fellow entrepreneur through sector organisations or a search engine.

2. Test the software

Ask for a demo or trial period or buy the software in modules. A module is a part of the software. "Don't buy the package right away but try out a module", advises Verspeek. "If that proves successful, expand."  Do you have HR software in mind? Then, for example, first buy only the module that allows you to create pay slips. 

3. Pay by subscription

Do not pay for a complete software package in one go, but opt for a subscription model. This allows you to spread the costs. Does something unexpected change in your business? Then you can stop the subscription. This way, you do not spend thousands of euros on software you no longer use. 

4. Choose a complete software package

Choose a software package in which you can perform several business activities or to which you can link several programmes. Think of accounting software to which you can link inventory management, so that your accounting software automatically sends an invoice when an order is delivered, for example. "The more business activities you can add, the more you can automate," Verspeek explains. "That saves time. Then you do not have to enter an address 4 times, for example." He himself chose a software package from a larger supplier. "A larger party often develops new functions and has an ICT department to help you with problems." 

5. Check the server

Always check where your software's server is located. Is the supplier an American business? Chances are the server is in America and the software is developed according to US privacy laws. Which is different from the Dutch one. So, if you work with company-sensitive information, it is best to choose software that runs on a Dutch server. 

6. Train your staff

Make sure your staff understands how the software works. Expensive software that is not used optimally will not pay for itself. At Verspeek, a software representative spends half a day in the office once a month. "He used to come only to put out fires. Now that he spends half a day in the office every month, everyone asks questions. The questions are only getting fewer, because my staff understand the software better and better. And because the representative shows tips and new features that have been added to the software, my staff are more productive." 

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