Certainly all of us have participated in a software trial, but have we really participated, or did we just provide a cursory glance? Could the solution have provided value? Would it have made my job easier, my business more productive or profitable, my life more organized?
Just like the advice we might give a child when trying a new food; “You’ll never know unless you try it.” It is much easier however to make that statement, or click on the link than it is to really “try” or evaluate the solution.
Few of us actually test software solutions for a living, so from a practical standpoint what is a good approach to sufficiently evaluate a software solution?
This is a question recently posed to me by a PT who was about to create a free account at InHandHealth.com and test our physical therapy telehealth solution. I provided a few ideas for him that I’ve also consolidated here to provide a roadmap for conducting a fair, and efficient evaluation the next time you consider testing a software application or solution for your organization.
Have a plan – and execute the plan!
I believe that we all approach a software trial with good intentions. In fact, we clicked on the button because something about the solution piqued our interest; the website, marketing materials, advertisement, or even a recommendation from a peer.
Before you click that button, think about what you would like to accomplish with the software, or how you might imagine using it. Have a need for which you would like to apply the trial – and make it “real.” Ask yourself, is this something I would do every day, or would need to do frequently? Provide yourself a series of tests, or steps (criteria) that you would like to try. Remember to make it as real as possible.
Once you have detailed the test criteria you are ready to take the next step.
Allocate the time – and commit it to your calendar!
We are all busy, and let’s be honest, a software trial is probably not on the top of our to-do lists!
We have all been guilty of reaching the end of a trial period and realizing we just never gave it proper time, even when our intentions were to do just that. Schedule specific blocks of time over the course of the entire trial to truly focus on testing your use case.
Remember “How to Eat an Elephant” (One bite at a time!)
Break your testing down into manageable components. Focus on the basics rather than jumping right into the deep water.
Examples might be “adding a client,” or “adding/editing content.” If you master the basics, extending into the higher levels of functionality will be much easier – and importantly, much more rewarding!
Take advantage of the tutorials, help content, demonstrations, and support services that are provided by the software provider. Investing in a solution is about much more than paying a license fee; you are forming a partnership and you should expect the partner/vendor that you select to be engaged in your success. In fact, your vendor should be highly motivated to help you succeed!
Keep your chin up!
You will get frustrated. Implementing a new process into an established practice takes time.
We need to rethink how we do things and initially it is easy to fall back into old and comfortable approaches. Resist the urge! Sure it may be a bit difficult early on but remember what it was like when you implemented any new process or procedure. Expect a learning curve for you and your team.
Spread the Love
Invite your team to participate in the process.
By including your team, they will have a sense of ownership, not only in the product, but importantly in the success of the overall business. To this end, make sure that you set team goals.
Using the solution for real customers, gaining knowledge/expertise, the opportunity to become a “domain expert” are all motivating reasons for your staff to be engaged. Use the testing process as an opportunity to find the people who really wants to differentiate themselves. Give them the opportunity to present what they learned to the rest of the staff/organization. Reward commitment; celebrate the change with a lunch or team outing.
Make the team feel good about the commitment of working towards a common goal of a better, more productive organization.
Form relationships where possible with the vendor.
Participate in online webinars and presentations. Attend conferences, schedule regular check-ins (quarterly is a good rule of thumb – maybe monthly when you are just getting started). Don’t hesitate to offer your feedback.
The good vendors welcome and cherish your involvement. It is what allows them to be better at developing the product and understanding your business needs.
Desire and Expect a Profitable Relationship
Your vendor has developed a solution with the intent to help you be successful. Don’t forget that the vendor too has a profit motive and that is not a bad thing!
Expect fairness in your business dealings. You want the vendor to receive a fair fee as this guarantees their long-term success and importantly their ability to support you over the long term.
Partnering with a company that has a sound business plan in place is extraordinarily important as by selecting their solution you are an investor and you should expect a long-term positive return on your investment.