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How to Find the Latest Software for Your Business

How to Find the Latest Software for Your Business

There are three steps how to find the latest software for your business.

Ask Around

Ask partners, competitors, and ‘techies’. This will help you see what other companies or organizations are using to solve the same problems that you have. Talking with partners can also be a great resource. The value in talking to ‘techies’ is to get the latest software advice. They are also more knowledgeable about free alternatives and how else your problem might be solved. It’s very important to explain why you need this type of software, who will be using it, and what functionalities you need and want.

Ask where they buy their software. Then ask how they decide between the available software choices. Do they have a favorite review website for software? Can you watch them use their software to compare against the others? Is any functional freeware that will serve the same purpose?

Search Online

This is a combination of search engines and review websites. Use the review websites to see what others think about the product. Also, it can be important to see how reputable the company is. For example, if you are looking for enterprise software for your large business, the company offering the service and support must be one that you want to work with. They should have good customer service reviews and plentiful support online. Make sure to ask what types of support are offered. For example, if you are more comfortable with telephone or internet chat support, make sure that it is offered by that company for that software.

Use your favorite search engine and type in each phrase (without the quotation marks): “_______ review” “_______ software review” “top ________ software” “best __________software” “free __________ software” “______ software 2013 [or current year]” “top 10 _______ software” “online ______ software”

Review Websites

Review websites: CNet.com, Amazon.com (often the cheapest option,) PCmag.com, PCworld.com, Softpedia.com, Squidoo.com.  Make sure to download from a reputable website. Also, do not click on any ads on these websites. They often look like more reviews but are not useful and possibly dangerous.

Research the Company

Research the company that built the software: BBB.org, maps.google.com, yelp.com, yellowpages.com, plus.google.com, citysearch.com, local.yahoo.com.

Look for a Free Trial

Look for a free trial. If the switching costs are not too large, you can look for a 7-day or month trial of using the latest software. If you are looking at an enterprise-level software, contact the company asking for a trial even if they do not offer one. Tech companies are often very forward-looking and often make exceptions like that.

  • Enterprise-level software companies can offer an exclusive free trial.
  • Simple and basic software often have free trials available for anyone to try.
  • Search online for “________ coupon” or “_________ discount”

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Latest Software for Your Business, latest software

Latest Software for Your Business, latest software

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What is Microsoft Dynamics?

See Also:
How Do You Know When It is Time to Buy New Software
How to Choose New Software
Microsoft Dynamics Great Plains Functionalities
How to Choose a Software Dealer
How to Obtain a Microsoft Dynamics Licensing Agreement

Microsoft Dynamics

Microsoft Dynamics is the brand name of a group of business management solutions from Microsoft. These solutions provide functionality that address business needs in the following areas:

Companies of various sizes have successfully implemented these solutions in most industries. Furthermore, the strong points of the Dynamics product line lie in deep functionality in the above mentioned areas, ease of use and the full integration with the other Microsoft products. Good examples include the following:

  • The very familiar ‘look and feel’ from Microsoft Office
  • The usage the business intelligence functionality of Microsoft SQL 2005
  • The usage of Windows Workflow Foundation (which comes with the latest version of Windows)

Microsoft Dynamics Functionality

Business intelligence functionality is very useful for reporting and analysis of trends in the performance of an organization. Most of this functionality is tightly integrated with Microsoft Excel because it is the main tool financial analysts, controllers and CFO’s alike use.

Workflow functionality also helps organizations cut back on the paperwork and paper handling resulting in very fast and efficient processes. Good examples include the following:

  • Expense claims
  • Timesheets
  • Purchase order approvals

Dynamics Products

The Dynamics products Microsoft offers that at least cover the business needs in the area of Financial Management as well as Business Intelligence and Reporting include the following:

Each of the products offers additional functionality in one or more of the following areas: Supply Chain Management, Project Management, Manufacturing, and Human Resources Management. Dependent on what flavor of the product has been licensed, the customer will receive a smaller of larger subset of functionality offered by the product. In addition, each product will have functionality available that will need to be licenses separately if the customer has needs that would require that functionality.

As Microsoft sells the Dynamics products through their partners, it’s important to make sure you select a partner that has not only the requisite product knowledge but also has ample resources with skills in financial accounting, business processes and information technology and has a track record of successfully delivering implementation projects on time and on budget. They will also help an organization determine what modules of functionality are needed to solve their business needs.

If you want to create the roadmap for your company’s success, then access our free Internal Analysis whitepaper.

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Microsoft Dynamics: How to Obtain Licensing Agreement

See Also:
When to Buy New Software
How to Choose New Software
Microsoft Dynamics Great Plains
How to Obtain a Microsoft Dynamics Licensing Agreement
New Microsoft Dynamics Licensing Program

Microsoft Dynamics: How to Obtain Licensing Agreement

Microsoft Partners sells Microsoft Dynamics but the licensing agreement is between Microsoft and the organization that licenses the software. The Microsoft Partners will help you determine what version as well as what modules you need to license to provide you with the functionality needed.

What drives software licensing costs?

The cost of licensing and using business management technology varies greatly among companies. The following factors have an up-front impact on the overall cost of your total business solution:

Business software components: The components you’ll need are influenced by the type of business you’re in, and the current and future software needs your company might have.

The number of people who will use the software: The size of your staff, the kind of tasks they perform, and the software access that each person needs will affect total costs.

The level of service that’s right for your company: Depending on your business and IT staffing structure you may choose varying degrees of software service, training, and more.

Depending on what your company needs, the type of system and level of service will vary. The only way to discover that is to conduct an internal analysis. Click here to access our Internal Analysis whitepaper.

Microsoft Dynamics Editions

Microsoft offers two editions of pre-selected (packaged) software functionality, as well as additional add on components. The pre-selected editions are licensed based on the number of concurrent users. Concurrent users means the number of users actual logged on to the system. You can create unlimited number of users but only the number of users licensed can log onto the system at any given moment.

Add on components licensed are mostly licensed aa a flat fee, and they are not related to the number of users in the system. The exception is the Payroll and Human Resources modules that are licensed based on the number of employees for which the module is used.

The following information outlines the functions available in different editions of Microsoft Dynamics.

Business Essentials

This edition addresses core financial management needs and includes essential features for integrated financial and business management. It is streamlined for ease of installation, rapid user adoption, and affordability.

Financial management includes the following:

Supply chain management includes the following:

Business intelligence and reporting includes the following: Microsoft FRx Desktop (1 user)

Basic configuration and development tools

In addition to core functionality, the Business Essentials Foundation Pack includes one full access user license. You can license additional full access users and partial access users. You may also license a limited set of additional components—such as payroll components— for this edition.

Advanced Management*

This edition addresses the needs of organizations that are looking for a solution with an extensive set of advanced functionality.

All the functionality of the Business Essentials edition is included plus the following:

Advanced Business Intelligence and Reporting

Customer relationship management, including Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional Server** (at least one user license must be purchased for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional to use this product)

Manufacturing

Advanced supply-chain management, including:

  • Bill of Materials
  • Requisition Management

In addition, the Advanced Management Foundation Pack includes one full access user license. You may license additional full access users and partial access users.

Advanced Management Enterprise: Extend Your Solution*

For organizations with even more complex needs, Advanced Management Enterprise components are available.

These additional components let you extend the Advanced Management edition by providing the following rich set of advanced functionality:

  • Advanced manufacturing functionality, including shop management, capacity planning and job costing
  • Field Service Management
  • Advanced project management
  • Advanced configuration and development tools including source code access

**Microsoft Dynamics CRM: Get It Separately or With Your Business-Ready License

In addition to being available with the Microsoft Dynamics Advanced Management edition above, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Professional continues to be available through the Microsoft Volume Licensing program. The Microsoft Volume Licensing Program uses the same licensing module in Microsoft Office, Windows and Microsoft Exchange.

User Access

Businesses also vary greatly in the number of people within the company who need to use specific software functions. In addition to licensing an edition, you’ll likely need additional user licenses to give your people access to functionality within the software. You typically have a choice of full or partial access users, depending on your needs.

Full access user licenses

A Full Access user license allows one user to access all functionality within the edition at any one time.

Partial access user licenses

Several types of Partial Access user licenses are available. Find a Partial Access user license priced lower than the Full Access user license. It is also a way of extending access to your Microsoft Dynamics solution to many more people across your organization. One example of a Partial access user license is the Microsoft Dynamics Client for Microsoft Office and SharePoint Server, which includes a number of self service applications that provide employees access to important business information and processes.

Service Options

Many Microsoft partners offer implementation and support services to help you implement and maintain the Dynamics solution and help you reap the benefits that the proper configuration and usage of these solution will bring you. Microsoft offers a broad selection of service plans that include support, training, and product upgrades.

If you are ready to bring on a new system like Microsoft Dynamics, then first conduct an internal analysis. Why? Because you may uncover some weaknesses or strengths that are will be exposed or not optimized respectively with the new system. Click here to download your free Internal Analysis worksheet to start developing and enhancing your strengths as well as start reducing and resolving your weaknesses.

Microsoft Dynamics

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Logistics Chain

See Also:
Supply Chain and Logistics
Value Chain
Porter’s Five Forces of Competition
Indemnity Clause
Commercial Agents

Logistics Chain Definition

The logistics chain, defined as the path of goods and information from a creator to an end user, enables any business to turn product into sales. Involving either tangible or intangible goods or services, it is the entire path which results in revenue for a company. Due to this fact, a firm must make sure to maintain a logistics chain which efficiently moves important materials from one place to another.

Logistics Chain Explanation

The logistics chain, explained by some as a simple function of modern logistics software, is a far deeper concept. Its management involves many essential sides to business: accounting, warehousing, packaging, handling, distribution, and even security. Due to the fact that many businesses entire operations can be summed into part of or the entire of the logistics chain, a profession has been created to complete the needs of these businesses. It is called logistics or supply chain management.

Essential to the process of logistics chain management is an understanding of the plan, materials, and employees needed to bring the logistics from beginning to end. This plan must be a part of all of the employees of a company: from the CEO, to an accountant, mailroom staff, and even the IT security specialist. Each of these players must understand the plan, their place in it, and the single goal of any logistics chain: turning materials into products which are eventually sold to a customer.

A complete business has 2 major departments: marketing/sales and operations. All-in-all, operations is another way to say logistics. So, the logistics chain comprises about 50% of almost any business.

Example

Alejandro is a supply chain management professional. Though his work is taxing, he loves completing the cycle which ends with a happy customer. Alejandro knows the power of the logistics chain because it brings him and everyone he cares about the tools needed to have a happy and successful life.

Alejandro, a consultant who resolves weak links in the logistics chain of businesses, has a large task ahead of him. His client, a food packaging plant, relies entirely on the chain of logistics. They need Alejandro to simplify the cycle they have created. This will be no simple feat.

First, Alejandro uses his logistics chain software to create a layout for the warehouse. The layout maximizes efficiency by placing items where they will be used the most.

He then prepares a training manual for all of the employees. Alejandro knows that he will encounter some resistance but is ready and willing to persuade employees that his method is most efficient.

Alejandro wraps up his work and prepares to meet with the company. He knows he can not change everything, so he resolves to work hard until he can make a significant change in the business.

Logistics Chain

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Choosing New Software

See Also:
Technology Assessment Criteria
How to Evaluate IT Systems
How do You Know When it is Time to Buy New Software
Technology Strategy for Small to Medium Sized Companies
Five Reasons To Pay Attention To CRM Software
How to Ensure Redundant Data Communications Links

Choosing New Software

Choosing new software is a big deal for any business – large or small. People agonize over the decision for weeks, months, and even years. As software dealers, we have first hand experience with helping hundreds of organizations make the software decision. Naturally, we have some suggestions that we hope will make this process a little less painful.

First, software isn’t the most important selection you’re making. It’s easy to start with what you think you want the software to do when, in fact, your most important choice is the dealer. For great information about selecting a dealer please take a moment to read WikiCFO article, How to Choose a Software Dealer.

Now let’s talk about choosing new software. Essentially you have two basic choices – industry specific or ERP software.


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Choosing Industry Specific Software

When choosing industry specific software, remember this software is designed to address some of the issues of your business. Usually, this type of software has great strengths in areas that are unique to that industry. The up side is this type of software does an excellent job at the tasks it is designed to handle. The down side is this type of software usually isn’t designed to manage the whole business. In other words, industry specific software is generally designed to perform limited tasks. Much of the time industry specific software will not integrate or “talk to” other types of software leading to the need for making double entries of data.

ERP Software

On the other side of the spectrum, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is focused on running a wide set of tasks that are necessary to manage a business. The up side of this approach is that the software addresses accounting, inventory control, manufacturing, order entry, purchase orders, and host of other modules. ERP software integrates all of the systems producing single entry for data, comprehensive business reports, and is adaptable for multiple industries. The down side is an ERP system tends to be more expensive than choosing industry specific software.

Selecting the Brand of Software

In the today’s marketplace, there are several excellent choices in software. We believe that researching the publisher is a great idea before choosing new software. Asking questions like:

  • How long has the publisher been in business? Longevity is important here. If the software is good, then the company probably has been in business for many years.
  • How frequently is the software updated? If the publisher is spending money on Research and Development, then that’s a clear sign that they will be supporting and upgrading the software for years.
  • How many installations are there of the software you are considering? With a large number of installations, the publisher is clearly aware of any glitches and has already fixed them or is in the process of fixing them.

Talk, Talk, Talk

The next step in choosing new software is to talk – a lot. Talk to people in your industry. Find out which software they chose and why. Ask how it’s working for them. Would they recommend the dealer they used? While you’re at it, ask for tips on what they would do differently.

Talk to people who have been through the software purchase and aren’t necessarily in your industry. They are going to have a fresh perspective on what may or may not work for you. By the way, ask them the questions above, too.

At this point you may want to start preliminary talks with some dealers. Begin with the recommendations you got from the people you have already talked with. Remember, these talks are preliminary. Tell the dealer you’re just beginning your search and ask about the software they recommend and sell. Then check out the software publisher’s web site for the nuts and bolts on their programs.

And finally, talk with the people in your organization who are using the current software or will be using the new system. See the WikiCFO article How Do You Know When It Is Time to Buy New Software for ideas on how to move through this process along with a plan for discovering the Cost to Do Nothing.

A Lot Less Talk and More Action

By now you’re probably ready for some action. Unfortunately, there’s going to be more talk before the action starts. Forming a Software Selection/Implementation Team (SSIT) within your organization to investigate and evaluate your software and dealer options will share the work load, give you a variety of perspectives, and get part of your team invested in changing your software system. We’ll talk about getting “buy in” from your employees in another article. While you may not be an active member of this team, your support and involvement is critical to the success of this project.

Creating a work plan is the SSIT team’s first task. You have probably organized this type of project and are very familiar with the process. Stating the obvious, some of the items the team could consider are:

  • The cost to do nothing – discovering within the organization exactly what the cost if to continue doing business in the current manner.
  • Needs Analysis – here’s where you can choose to use the Wiki approach to getting information and have the dealer(s) do the Needs Analysis.
  • Short list of dealers – compiling a list of the dealers you want talk with in a preliminary fact finding call.
  • Committee with time allocations – our experience indicates that the chart below is an accurate representation of the time allocation for the team members.

Role – Percentage of time

Steering Committee – 5%

Project Manager – 50%

Leader of the Project Team – 50%

Member of the Project Team – 25%

Project Advisor – 5%

  • Creating an evaluation sheet – so that everyone is evaluating on the same criteria, an evaluation sheet is a great tool. This sheet is a living document and is subject to change during the process.

Request for Proposal (RFP)

One item you won’t see on the list for consideration is a Request for Proposal (RFP). Creating an RFP is a huge amount of work that we feel doesn’t pay real dividends. In an RFP. your team will spend vast amounts of time listing everything they want the software to do. Then that To Do list is placed in the hands of selected dealers for bid. The missing step here is that the dealer is only addressing what’s on that list without the benefit on understanding your business, work flow, and the unique challenges you face daily. In understanding why you want to do something rather than what or how you want to do it the dealer can almost certainly save you time and money with informed recommendations. Now take a moment and read that sentence again. Better yet, let’s separate it for easier reading.

In understanding why you want to do something rather than what or how you want to do it the dealer can almost certainly save you time and money with informed recommendations.

When you change to a new software, it can uncover weaknesses in your company. Click here to download our free Internal Analysis whitepaper to check each area of your company for weaknesses to resolve (and strengths to enhance).

Choosing new software, Choosing Industry Specific Software
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choosing new software, Choosing Industry Specific Software

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Choosing a Software Dealer

See Also:
How to Evaluate IT Systems
Technology Assessment Criteria
Technology Strategy for Small to Medium Sized Companies
Backup and Disaster Recovery Solutions
How to Respond to an Imminent Disaster Threat

Choosing a Software Dealer

Choosing the people to partner with you in software selection and implementation is very similar to getting married – with a few exceptions that you’ve just thought about.

Criteria for Choosing a Software Dealer

When you are looking for a dealer, we believe the criteria should include the following:

• The dealer should be a true partner, not an adversary, in the software selection and implementation process. The dealer has implemented more systems than you want to face in your whole career. With experience comes wisdom.

• During this process you will be revealing the inner workings of your organization from sales and salaries to balance sheets and inventory. In order to be truly effective in designing a system that is exactly right for your application, the dealer will need to completely understand your business.

• Trust and communication is paramount – for both sides.

• The dealer should fit in with your corporate culture. You certainly don’t want a clash of values to taint your installation.

• If you have that strange feeling in the pit of your stomach when you are meeting or talking with a prospective dealer, listen to it. Your intuition is probably correct.

• A dealer that is invested in delivering the absolutely right software for you will not be putting the hard sell on you. In fact, the dealer that truly has your interest at heart will be the first person to say that their software isn’t going to meet your needs.

Interview Your Software Dealer

As in all businesses, there are great software dealers and not-so-great ones. During the initial call or interview, here are some ideas for questions to ask:

• How long has your company been in business?

• How many active clients do you have?

• How many installations of this software have you successfully completed?

• What are your points of difference from your competitors? (This is where the smart dealer tells you about the innovative ways they do business. Look for innovation that makes sense for your organization.)

• Tell me about the most challenging installation/application you have completed for a client. (The choice of example will tell you volumes about the company. Be sure to follow up with questions about why this particular job was so challenging.)

• How did you meet those challenges? (What you are looking for in this question is innovation, clear problem solving skills – not finger pointing and shifting blame.)

• The last time your company was not selected for a contract, what do you think was the deciding factor in the prospect’s choice? (This is an invitation to whine. If the dealer steps into that space, you know that’s only the beginning of the whining. The dealer should talk about shared responsibility here and own their part of it.)

• Will you be able to give us a projected Return on Investment?

Meeting with a Software Dealer

When the dealer makes the cut as a result of the call or first meeting, it’s time to have a meeting with your Software Selection/Implementation Team. (For more information on building your team, please see WikiCFO article How to Choose New Software.) The purpose of this meeting is to give the dealer a clear understanding of your reasons for the software search, the challenges that you currently have, and how you plan to proceed with this project. Expect loads of questions from the dealer. In fact, the questions the dealer asks will give you some insight into how he/she will approach your project. We believe that this is the time for us to discover all of the issues the prospect has leading us to ask “What else?” ad nauseam.

Beware of the dealer who whips out the laptop and starts demonstrating software. This first meeting is not the time for a demo, it’s a time to listen to the prospect and understand the issues. The time for demonstrating is later, after the dealer knows the solution he/she has is exactly the right solution for you.

Rules of Engagement

While each job is different, we have found that clearly setting expectations makes the whole process move more smoothly. So, let’s look at a few Rules of Engagement. These rules apply to both parties.

1. No guessing. It’s back to the communications issue again. As partners, the expectation is that both parties will be sharing the vision, answering lots of questions, and keeping our communications clear. In other words, straight talk always. We’re all in this together.

2. Respond quickly. It’s about respect – for everyone’s time and it’s simply common courtesy.

3. When we look good, you look good. All of us want this project to be successful. We share the challenges and triumphs.

4. Be responsible. Do what you say you’re going to do and deliver on time.

5. Don’t take ourselves too seriously. Absolutely this is a serious project. Yet there’s always room for laughing at ourselves, relaxing a little, and having some fun – you know about that dull boy Jack.

In our world, we believe that the selection of the dealer is the most important decision a company makes in implementing new software, right after the decision to investigate the ware purchase.

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choosing a software dealer

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When to Buy New Software

See Also:
How to Choose New Software
How to Choose a Software Dealer
Technology Assessment Criteria
Technology Strategy for Small to Medium Sized Companies
How to Ensure Redundant Data Communications Links

When to Buy New Software?

We hear this question a lot. We usually talk about the symptoms associated with the need for a software purchase and we will here as well. Actually the symptoms all add up to one big diagnosis – you need new software when your cost to continue on your current path exceeds the price of the new software

Wow, that really sounds simplistic. It is. The catch is determining your Cost to Do Nothing. Often owners feel that if they aren’t writing a check, their current methods aren’t costing them money. The reality is that you could easily uncover enough cost savings to pay for your new software.

Cost To Do Nothing

Let’s look at some ways to discover the Cost to Do Nothing:

• From the broad view, look at the infrastructure of your organization. If you are planning to grow, will the infrastructure support the additional stresses that growth requires? How many people will you need to add? Could new software make your current staff productive enough to reduce or eliminate the new staffing needs?

• Circle down a level that look at the amount of daily work that is either entered into your system by hand or is retrieved from your system and manipulated by hand into another form.

• While you’re at this level, check out the work flow from department to department. Are there bottlenecks and disconnects in flow. Each time another person enters the same data adds to the Cost of Doing Nothing.

• Another telling observation is to count the number of spread sheets you have created just to manage the daily work flow. Each spread sheet requires additional time to export, import and manipulate data.

• As your view gets closer ask if the software the single source in your organization or is the information collected from multiple sources. Note how many sources and how long it takes to gather and compile the information.

• At the up close and personal level, talk with each system user. They’re the experts and can tell you what works, what doesn’t, and what they wish the system would do. When the don’t works and wishes exceed the things that work it may be time for new software.

When to Buy New Software Example

So, what do you do with all of this information? Let’s look at a fictitious example for Acme Brick. Here’s how their inventory control ran amok in this case review.

• Acme fills 465 orders/year

• Average order is $14,000

• 50% of the orders are backordered

• 85% of the backorders are canceled by the customer

• 197 orders canceled each year

Value Proposition

For Acme Brick in just this one example the Cost to Do Nothing is significant. Let’s look at the value proposition:

• $2.7 million in canceled orders annually

• Software solution including customizations, installation, training – $300,000

Return on Investment (ROI) in less than 2 months

• First year savings $2.4 million plus $2.7 million for each year thereafter

Alright, that’s an extreme example and Wyle E. Coyote is simply an idiot for letting this type of debacle go on for more than a nanosecond. The point is that just about every business can discover new methods of saving money and time by looking at the Cost to Do Nothing.

Needs Analysis

Right after the Cost to Do Nothing review, the next step is a Needs Analysis. Great! More work. There’s another option here. How about using the Wikiapproach to determine the Cost to Do Nothing and get a Needs Analysis in the bargain?

By now you are probably familiar with the Wiki concept – get other people to do the lion’s share of the work. Most software dealers want to performNeeds Analysis on your business before they recommend software and present a proposal. If they are really worth their salt, they’re going to charge for this analysis because they are delivering a thoughtful, detailed report. The price can range from a nominal fee to a significant charge and everywhere in between.

The point here is that you can get other people to do the work, learn amazing things about how your work flows, and clearly answer the new software question.

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