After years of trying different small business software suites and never really committing to anything, things came to a head in late 2012: Holony was slammed with work and the lack of structure was taking its toll. It was time to start growing up.
I knew we needed to begin expanding the team and getting our operating procedures in order, but before that could be addressed we needed to figure out how everything would work together.
Our software decision was priority number one
To me, it all started with the software and tools that would be used to power the business.
Although knowing what software we’d be using wasn’t a prerequisite to formalizing processes and developing operating procedures, it didn’t make much sense to organize a bunch of documentation that would need updated as soon as our software selection was made.
Technology moves fast and there will always be changes to how work is carried out, so I do feel that procedures should be the foundation and exist independently of software, but in this instance it seemed appropriate to get our tools in place beforehand.
Besides, if we tried to start with processes, where would we keep the documentation? There was no way to know whether it should be stored in Google Drive, Dropbox, WordPress, a Wiki, or one of the other two dozen options available.
Yes, it was painstakingly clear: we needed to decide on some software.
The challenges of small business software selection
I hate grocery shopping. The number of choices make even the simplest purchases a nightmare. It’s the Paradox of Choice: more choices, more anxiety.
Choosing small business management software is like grocery shopping times a thousand. Not only are there countless choices for each need (CRM, billing, help desk, project management, etc.), there are often minor differences between each that take significant time to discover. Plus, a given piece of software will often have multiple uses and integrate with other platforms, resulting in a dizzying number of combinations.
Narrowing the field and determining what was most important
To avoid the inevitable impasse that would arise from having too many choices, it was necessary to develop a good way of comparing options and narrowing the field. We had to set goals and really figure out what we were looking for.
We started with a list of core business functions that we needed to address:
- Collaborative project management
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Documentation / Knowledge base
- Help desk / support
Next we looked at specific features that were important to us, like:
- Google Apps integration
- Accessibility / mobile access
- API availability
- Task management outside of projects
This allowed us to narrow down the list to a few top contenders and ultimately make a decision.
Our tentative selection: WORKetc
I say tentative because we’re still in the process of getting acquainted with the software and haven’t made a complete transition yet, but at this point it looks like the all-in-one solution WORKetc is going to be our primary piece of business software.
At the end of the day, having everything under one roof was appealing (even though it meant abandoning some tools we’d become comfortable with) and the tight integration with Gmail was enough to seal the deal (you perform a variety of functions right from your inbox).
Beyond the functions and features we were looking for, WORKetc has billing and timekeeping functionality that we hadn’t even thought of addressing with this system. Until discovering it, we had all but accepted the fact that we would still be using a half dozen or more applications to run the business. Now we’re down to a handful.
It was a stressful journey, but I think we found a winner. Now we can move on to improving our operation and formalizing everything that makes Holony great.
If you have struggled with the software selection process for your business, we’d love to commiserate with you. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments!