Six Steps to Select Software on a Shoestring

Traditional software selection techniques can be complicated and time-consuming. Few technology professionals would use extensive selection processes to pick a small software utility. Here’s a simplified six-step process that can help when you just need to make a simple choice quickly.

1. Quickly define your top needs

Make sure you know what problems you’re trying to solve. For instance, if you’re looking for a project management package, do you need to manage time, tasks, people, or documents? Or maybe you need features to help with all of those things. If other people will use the software, get their quick thoughts as well.

2. Check if you can do it with the software you already have

Do a quick check to see if you already have the functionality you’re looking for within your email application, office suite or content management system. Modern software is versatile and feature-rich, and few of us actually use or take extensive note of all the features available to us. If what you need to get done can be accomplished with something that’s already installed, you’ll save time, money, and the frustration of having to learn a whole new application.

3. Get a sense of what other people are using for similar needs

What’s worked for other people with needs similar to yours? Talk to colleagues at similar organizations, or post to a discussion list seeking input. Look for case studies online. If you can, have actual conversations with a few people to understand what tools they’re using, how they like them and what criteria they used to choose them. Understanding the things they found to be critical may help you discover criteria you didn’t even know you had.

4. Pick a package that sounds promising

Based on your conversations, pick a package that sounds like it might work for you — perhaps one a similar organization is using and likes. Get access to a demo. Many online software packages offer free trial versions from their Web site, or ask the vendor to organize a trial account or detailed demo.

5. Run the package through some scenarios

If you’re trying to quickly choose a tool, don’t get buried in feature lists and comparisons. Instead, imagine actually using the software for the needs you identified. What would you want it to do? If you have access to a demo version, spend some time hands-on, running through some scenarios.

6. Decide if the package is good enough

If the package you’re considering meets your top needs, and your mental simulations or demos confirm it should work, you’re done. Buy the software package, and walk away. This can be scary. It may feel like you should look at a number of alternatives, but that’s what takes so much time. Remind yourself that you’re not looking for the very best package for your needs — just one that will satisfy them. Better to save your time to more carefully weigh the packages that will transform your organization.

Want to learn more about each of these steps, or when this simplified selection process is the right one? Read the full article at:

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