Digital workforce automation has reached new heights. A decade ago, the nature of software in business was quite different. Most software applications were installed locally on computers. The platforms used were limited to a selection provided by a small number of really big tech companies. The software provided was often difficult to learn and maintain.

Now, in the year 2016, software applications are in the cloud, comparatively affordable, and very easy to learn and set up. As for the availability of platforms, it has exploded.

Indeed, the shear amount of applications available can be dizzying.

There is software for sales, marketing, storage, customer service, finances, POS, legal, project management, content management, human resources and the list goes on and on. While much of these software applications were available a decade ago, there has been drastic improvements in both pricing and usage.

Software now can optimize an enterprises profits by allowing employees to be more productive and efficient. It cuts down on costs when it comes to IT and data entry. Software can help scale operations from a garage headquarters to a glass tower.

Software today is what machinery and robotics were yesterday

But, what does this mean for the small and medium sized businesses where software expertise could be limited? Even more critical, is where to start?

Infinite choices

The biggest drawback that software provides theses days is information paralysis. There are so many types of software promising to do all sorts of things. Within each type of software are many competitors trying to get your organization’s money. Knowing where to start can be hard.

It is tempting for someone to see all of the possibilities out there and embark on an ambitious program to use the latest and best software out there to make big improvements. There are a few major things to deal with however which makes things more difficult.

Pricing

Online software is not cheap even though it is often viewed as cheaper than in-house IT systems. Many applications can cost from a few bucks per user, such as business email, to hundreds of dollars per user such as in CRMs. For many small companies, it is obnoxious to think about the big price tag of software especially when many software companies demand annual payments.

Luckily, you can probably negotiate the pricing to a certain extent, but still, the big costs of software mean that small companies must be very selective in what they choose. They make big commitments when going with some software.

An alternative to expensive software solutions are opensource platforms which are starting to emerge as powerful applications that can be installed and controlled on premises. There are drawbacks however which make them limited wheb compared to the paid versions.

Integration

When companies adopt software into their operations, they will need to integrate the software with their current software systems and procedures. This can be difficult in some cases and easy in others.

A lot of the popular software applications today offer integration with other major platforms. Information can flow effortlessly between these platforms reducing the need for data entry. It takes some research however to make sure there is a seamless flow of information.

Many big enterprises will opt for big enterprise solutions where software is tightly integrated within a big framework. For the small and medium size companies, this option is not affordable.

When selecting software, a company needs to look at the big picture. How can they unite their teams with software without creating bottlenecks? A thorough plan will need to be made considering all uses with integration as a primary objective. When one piece of software outperforms and another underperforms they cancel each other out.

Operations

Software these days are easy to deal with and even easier to train for. However, many companies will dive into software platforms prematurely with little understanding on their proper use or how to get the most out of them.

While the whitepapers put out by many of these software companies promise unlimited productivity, they are looking at companies that have their operations set perfectly so that software is deeply integrated into their business model and operations.

ROI

The most important case for selecting software is ROI. If the current system, even if it is an archaic pencil and paper set up, has better ROI and using advance software, why should you change? This is a tricky question to answer. Often it is scalability which justifies the use of these software platforms. When a company will little sales enters a new market and experiences exponential growth when reaching the tipping point, software will help the company scale to meet demand.

If sales are down, it is hard to justify the use of expensive software. There are more critical and fundamental problems to address. Software is there to scale a business not validate it’s value proposition.

Digital Transformation

If your organization is growing and needs to increase its productivity, then  software is your friend. If your organization is running on an outdated system, then a digital transformation might be needed to stay competitive. Regardless of the reasons, going digital is a BIG project. Certainly, it is hard to start from zero. Depending on your type of organization, consultants and experts can be sought. Also, networking with other industry leaders will help tremendously.

While your organization undergoes a digital transformation, you should always be asking yourself if each piece of software will help contribute to the bottom line. There are too many business out their that over extend themselves by using unnecessary software. Don’t be one of them.