Your job as the owner of a professional services firm can be made that much easier with the assistance of the right software program. However, with so many choices, how do you choose which program to use? Here are 7 tips for selecting the best software program for your firm.
Integrated or Non-Integrated
Do you want your software to organize your entire business, or just certain departments or offices? If you want the entire firm running on a single software program, then you might want to consider an enterprise resource planning (ERP) program that integrates every area of your business: accounting, sales, human resources, client relationship management, etc. If all you need is help with one area of your business, then shift your focus to a program that deals exclusively with that one department, such as tracking time and expenses, employee personnel documentation or sales funnel metrics. Knowing what you need will help you tremendously in finding the right software that meets the demands of your business.
Subscription Fee Model Becoming the Standard
How much money are you willing to invest in software? Many software companies are transitioning to a subscription model where you, the end user, will pay either a monthly or annual fee. While on the more expensive end of the spectrum, software with a subscription option usually offers a quick turnaround when you need to reach customer service. These software companies provide frequent updates, sometimes once a week. Software requiring a one-time, up-front payment can still be a good option if you have a limited scope for what you want the software to accomplish.
What kind of training does the software company provide? WordPress, for example, is almost exclusively self-taught through online videos and tutorials. This type of training is ideal for those who already have a mind for computer programming. Many ERP programs, however, have teams of consultants that can visit your office for several days or weeks at a time to walk you through every step of implementing a new solution.
Bigger Value with Smaller Software Companies
QuickBooks controls 80% of the small business accounting market. There are advantages to choosing a software program with the largest market share – for example, you can bounce ideas and problems off fellow industry members who may be using the same software. Many times, the disadvantage of choosing a market leader is that these software programs can be general in nature, without any customization features. Smaller software companies may offer better value and provide more useful information for your professional services firm with programs that are tailored for your specific industry.
Do you need a quick solution? Some software products let you log on and get going with no in-depth training needed (at least initially). BQE BillQuick has wizards that can get you up and running with the basics of tracking time and expenses very quickly. Decide if you want something simple to help get you started right away.
When working with programs such as WordPress, you need an understanding of many subjects which can include, but are not limited to, databases, security and domain name systems. For your professional services firm, however, Acuity Business Solutions said it best on its website: “The best software systems are supported by a single vendor with a standard platform, back-end database and user interface.” Unless you have an above-average knowledge of programming, you should stick to a solution that’s administered by one company.
Software companies should have several satisfied customers ready to tell you how much money they have made or saved by using their program. Don’t settle for a testimonial on the company's website or brochure. Actually talk to these happy customers on the phone and ask lots of questions about why they chose to do business with this software company.
BQE Software develops innovative practice management software for professional services firms. Its products, including BQE BillQuick, BQE ArchiOffice and BQE EngineerOffice simplify the way firms enter and use information for time tracking, billing, project management and accounting.