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What is the best business software? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Answer by Ryan Bonnici, CMO at G2 Crowd, on Quora:
Businesses lose billions of dollars every year by buying the wrong software. A study found that more than a third (37%) of the money U.S. business spend on software goes to waste, amounting to more than $30 billion.
Part of the problem is that businesses face an overwhelming number of choices. The software market is crowded, with thousands of products, and expanding rapidly. It’s expected to cross the half trillion dollar mark in the next few years.
To avoid unnecessary expenditures — and the waste of time that comes from having to buy new software when your first purchase doesn’t work out — every business should start by asking itself two key questions.
What kind of software do I need?
First, isolate what your team or company’s exact needs are. Most of the time, it will fall into one of several major categories, such as sales, marketing, CRM (customer relationship management), HR, etc.
But within each category, there are lots of subcategories. It’s worth taking the time to consider which is best for you based on the needs of your business. For example, if it’s for sales, are you looking to track emails? Do you need coaching software? Or maybe you need CRM software to keep track of sales that take place out in the field? Figure out as many of these specific needs as possible.
How many will use it?
Next, consider the size of your company and the size of the team that needs this software. Are you part of a small business, midsize, or large enterprise? There are different opinions about how to determine which category you’re in. But generally speaking, a business with less than 50 employees is considered small. And there’s broad agreement that a business with at least 1,000 employees is definitely a large enterprise.
The size of the team can be just as important. For example, if you have 30 people who work in marketing, then your marketing software tool kit can include various pieces of software to be used by people with different specialties — something you’re more likely to find recommended for large enterprises. But if your marketing team is just a few people, you may want all-in-one software that automates more tasks, in keeping with software for small businesses.
With this information determined, you’re now ready to start your search based on those criteria. And you’ll see why it’s so crucial that you took the time to whittle down what you’re looking for.
Recently, my team tabulated more than 4 million data points from the largest collection of reviews for business software — all from just the past year alone. We found that the most popular products were different for small, midsize, and large businesses.
We also found something that may change many people’s understanding of the software market: The fastest growing products are often from companies you’re less likely to have heard of. This shows that despite the advertising you may see from the tech giants battling to be your provider, and despite the many news stories that draw attention to them, the best software for your business just may be from a startup giving the big corporations a run for their money.
Don’t go exclusive
Once you pick a piece of software, you may be tempted to stick with the same provider the next time you need a solution. Software companies are generally doing a good job of listening to their customers to learn their needs and staying in touch on a regular basis. So your existing provider will be in a strong position to upsell you.
But it’s best for your business that you first look at all your options each time. Some of the most efficiently run businesses mix and match software from dozens of companies. This willingness to consider new brands also helps keep innovation going. Software companies want your business, and know they need to keep creating new solutions that work as new challenges arise in this era of digital disruption.
As consumers, many of us are used to a much simpler, faster way of making a purchase. If you’re looking for something on Amazon, for example, you type in the category, see what’s most popular, consider prices, and are often done within minutes. People in businesses today are busy, with numerous tasks on their plate. So taking a faster route to choosing software is tempting.
Don’t give in to that temptation. The more you drill down on your specific needs, find software that matches, and consider what buyers at similar businesses have to say about these products, the better off you’ll be — and the less likely you’ll be to see all that money go to waste.