When You Need Software, Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of our quick guide to finding the right business software for your company.

Let’s give a little thought to the people who will be using the new software.

What’s the “mental environment” of the people who will use the new software?

Software? Me?
Software? Me? Nah!

You’re buying software for your small business. If the main person who will be using it is convinced they’re a “computer idiot,” then you need to know that before you buy, and adjust accordingly.

On the other hand, if you have highly competent people you may be able to “up the bar” in your selection standards for new software.

You know this is true: attitude and competence will have an effect on adoption of new software, and on its eventual success, or failure.

So, before you buy (or get free) software, take a look at who will be using this new toolset. Knowing this will help you

  • Make the best decision for your software purchase
  • Successfully implement that package

Grab a piece of paper and a pencil, and spend 15 minutes reviewing

The overall company “inclination”

Does your business use software now? Experience with existing software will “set the mood” for new software.

Has software been a tad disheartening?
Has software been a tad disheartening?

Is the prevailing opinion that software is good, and easy to use? Are people looking forward to a new experience with new, or updated, software?

The answer to that becomes part of your baseline; it’s a key element in your selection process. If things have been bad, it’ll be particularly important to plan things well.

Make a quick list

Make a list of the people who will use the software package. In a small business this might be one or two or three folks. (For a larger company, limit the names to critical staff and their key backup people.)

Attitude

Attitude is the result of a combination of factors, and you don’t have to be a psychologist to get a pretty good sense of things.

Think about each person in relation to software, and to computing in general:

  • Do they see themselves as basically competent on computers, or not?
  • Will they be happy or unhappy (or even resentful) to get new software, or somewhere in between?
  • Do they avoid computer time, or look forward to it?
  • Overall, do they enjoy learning new things, or no?
wooHOO! New software!
wooHOO! New software!

You’re building a picture of the “mental environment.” Now let’s take a look at the other “mental” half, the actual skills.

Competence

Some people seem to be naturals with computers and computing. For others it’s like oil and water, or maybe cats and dogs, or a bull in a china shop.

If some software is in use now, you’ll be able to make concrete observations. If not, if this new software purchase will be your first, you’ll need to go to your staff and ask these questions.

Competence can be measured. There are probably a million possible questions, but what you’re looking for are measureable indications.

For each person who will use the software:

  • Do they type slowly, with one finger of each hand, or quickly?
  • What software packages do they use now? When questions about that software come up, can they answer correctly?
  • When using the computer, do things go smoothly and as expected, or not so much?
  • When something goes wrong on the computer, can they fix it themselves, or does work stop while someone else finds a remedy?

As you gather information, the picture becomes more clear and you gain just a little more control over the future, because you know more and can make better decisions.

A final word about doing surveys like these…

Always be as honest and accurate as you can when you do these assessments. Be wary of giving someone too much of “the benefit of the doubt,” or at least be aware of the frequency and degree to which you have to rely on it.

In Part 1 we talked a little about the pain of bad software and the benefits of the right software. Now you’ve taken a reasoned look at the folks who will use it. Part 3 will guide you to answer the question: What do we really need this software to do for us?

Photo credits: striatic; A National Acrobat; Mike Baird