Don't Buy Software Like Goldilocks
Business decisions are always a balancing act between urgency and thoroughness. By the time it becomes clear that a need exists, it needs to be solved as soon as possible. It's hard to avoid the temptation to leap into a fix--any fix--that will help address the problem, even though this approach usually prolongs the time it takes to find a viable solution. In this article, I discuss my thoughts on how to avoid a Goldilocks software selection approach in your next search.
The Goldilocks Approach to Software Selection
We have all heard the fairy tale about Goldilocks.
You know. A little girl named Goldilocks, goes for a walk in the forest. She comes upon a house where she enters and finds to her delight three bowls of porridge. The first one she tastes is too hot, the next too cold but the third one just right so she eats it all up.
After eating, Goldilocks finds the three different size chairs where she tries them out and finds the first one too hard, the next too soft, and then the little one just right but it breaks when she sits in it.
Goldilocks’ actions foster her perfectionism. After all, you would think Goldilocks would be satisfied with the first sample, it is not even her belongings, right?
As a software adviser, it's a regular occurrence to see many organizations seeking a solution go through a similar process of looking at 3 options before settling on a system. Further, I have even seen some organizations use three solutions before settling down on one choice. Suffice it to say, this approach is quite common in software searches.
For this, I have termed it the "Goldilocks Approach". While the approach isn't necessarily a bad thing all the time, it's certainly something that can be avoided. And, perfection is an elusive pursuit at best.
Identify the Problem Holistically
Recently, I had a client who was solely focused on finding a membership software program which integrated with Word Press, a content management software. After reviewing the various software options, she selected a solution which could do just that. After two months, she called to tell that me that she learned how important other features were when they weren't there. Sadly, three software options later, she still hasn't found what she is looking for.
Takeaway: If your current membership management software isn't cutting it, don't just rush out to buy a new one. Think about what your current system does well, and where it disappoints. Use this comparison to make a list of what you actually need your system to do, and use this list when you research your replacement options. This ensures that you won't just be switching one set of dysfunctions for another.
Focus on Software Value
Of course we all want the least expensive IT solutions that will meet our needs, especially in the service-conscious nonprofit sector. When it comes to buying software, though, it's important to focus more on value than on price. Using the list of requirements you developed in the previous exercise, make sure that any software package you consider will be able to do the job that your current software is not doing. If you settle for a replacement system that is equally inefficient, you will end up having to replace it too this is likely to cost far more than simply investing in a functionally suitable system up front.
Research Options Carefully
Don't just read the manufacturers' descriptions of what their systems can do. That's like buying a car after talking to the salesman over the phone. Treat software selection as a serious commitment to your mission; read magazine and user reviews, check out online tutorials and see if your vendor can put you in touch with satisfied customers. If your needs are more complex than your expertise (or you just want to take your expertise to the next level), contact us and let us do some of that research for you.
Commit to Training
No software package will meet your requirements unless you teach your staff how to use it well.
Taking the time to train and support your staff as they become fluent with their new tools will pay off many times over. On-site, hands-on training combined with robust manuals and support materials will give your staff the confidence to set your new solution in motion. If you skip this step, it will be impossible to tell which of your problems are the result of weaknesses in the software and which are the result of user error and lack of confidence.
Goldilocks eventually found what was "just right" for her. But she was lucky. In the business world it's important to be wise and proactive in selecting the tools we use, and to figure out precisely what we need before we buy. If we do this, then our resources, time and dedication can be spent pursuing our mission, not shopping for software.
Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.