When starting a business, you may be overwhelmed with the number of software choices available to you. You will probably need a variety of different programs—from a customer relationship management (CRM) platform to accounting software to a project management app.


But how do you wade through all the options and choose the right ones for your business needs?


“Software is like getting a partner for life,” says Ramon Ray, small business technology expert and founder of Smart Hustle. “It shouldn’t be too cheap, it won’t be 100% perfect, and it should be able to grow with you.”


Here are five pointers for choosing the right software for a new business:


1. Figure out your needs.

You don’t want to waste valuable time trying out software that won’t suit your needs, so it makes sense to develop criteria upfront—then you can weed down the list to viable options relatively quickly. Spend some time comparing different software providers’ websites for the type of software you’re looking for, and put together a list of the most important features and functionality you need. This criteria list can help you more easily evaluate your options and price points between various providers.


Some software providers offer free versions for individuals or very small businesses, but be careful not to make a decision just on low price, Ray cautions. Paid versions generally offer the greater functionality and customer support that businesses will need.


2. Get software reviews.

There are several business software review sites, including Capterra, GetApp, Software Advice and PCMag Business Reviews. Also consider “asking your network, in Facebook groups, LinkedIn, and personal conversations, what they recommend,” Ray says. Once you have determined two or three options, move on to the next step.


3. Try them out.

Many software providers offer free trials or will provide a “demo” from a salesperson. While you may not be able to access all of the software’s functionality, you will get a feel for how easy it is to use and whether it will take care of your business needs, says Ray. And, if you have key team members who will be using it, ask them to try it out and give you their feedback.


4. Determine the level of support available.

Some software companies provide phone, chat and email support, while others provide only online tutorials. You want to make sure you will have customer support ready and available on short notice in case you need it. “Depending on your familiarity with the software, its complexity, and how you’re using it, support can be the most important consideration,” Ray says.


5. Make sure the software can handle your growing business needs.

Your business needs may be small today, but when you pick software, you also need to be thinking long term—because you don’t want to have to worry about switching software providers in a few years or when you’re in high-growth mode. Where could your business be in five years? If your business grows significantly, can the software scale with it?


Your business needs may be small today, but when you pick software, you also need to be thinking long term.


Here are some questions to consider:

  • What size businesses can it support? Many software programs have multiple tiers, allowing you to add more data and support more people as the business grows. Make sure you have the ability to “upgrade” in the future, if you need to.
  • Does it provide access to multiple team members? Most cloud-based and online software does this, even on the most basic tiers. Software that resides on a hard drive may not.
  • Does it integrate with other software? Many software programs today have built-in integrations with other programs. For example, your accounting software may integrate with your payroll, ecommerce or CRM software. That means, then, if you create a new invoice in your accounting software, it will automatically pull that information into your CRM so you don’t have to retype it. If your key software can communicate and share information, it can save you time, Ray adds. Keep in mind, though, that you can also connect the software programs you need using a workflow automation tool such as Zapier.


Don’t take your software selections too lightly. Depending on the type of software, it can be time consuming and aggravating to switch—and probably not something you will want to be worrying about as you look to grow your business.

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