I was recently reminded of this as I researched new Contact Management software for our company.
- Of course the first thing I did was write down all the features I thought we needed in this software, and made my list. Not a bad starting point.
- And then I surveyed my users. What are they using now? Why do they like it? What do they wish it did better? What are the other programs they use with which the new software would ideally integrate? What did they think of MY list? (It grew.)
- Then I surveyed others in the business that might be affected by this software or at least might want reports from it – managers, marketers, office manager, etc. More ideas.
OK, so now I had my shopping list, and I began to research. Simple, right? “I just need it to do these things.”
The first people we talked to:
“Well, our software does ALL that, and SO MUCH MORE!” They were SO excited! “You can measure this. You can dial this way. You can automate this. You can export data this way. You can access it this way.” And on, and on, and on. And we proceeded to get pulled into what I call “FeatureLand.”
My decision-making process became SO much more COMPLICATED! “Do all the other ones do all these things? Would we ever need to measure this? Maybe I should go ask more questions of my users.”
(Imagine how easy their sale might have been if they’d just said “yes” and then asked for my order!)
Here’s my advice when you go shopping in business. In fact, it might translate into your personal stuff too.
- Most of us are creatures of habit, and we know what works for us. Stick to those things. There are plenty of challenges in business that will have you looking for solutions, and there are plenty of solutions too!
- Ask yourself — and others involved – lots of questions. Gather lots of likes, dislikes, wants and needs (and “don’t needs”), and make your list.
- Don’t get caught up in “feature overload.” Keep it simple. Know why cars come with 100+ bells and whistles these days, when you only routinely use the same six? It’s because they have to appeal to a huge audience with ONE product. Everybody uses their own six – they’re just different from yours. Most products are the same in this regard.
- Let your (business) needs drive your evaluation, and then get the best possible value. Don’t overbuy because “someday we might……” You probably won’t.
- If it is software, use it in its “off-the-shelf” mode as much as possible, with minimal customization. A lot of customization is cool, but turns into big, complicated (expensive) upgrades down the road.
- If you have a process you might want to automate, do it ON PAPER – literally or figuratively – for 90 days. If it’s valuable, you’ll keep doing it. THEN automate.
Buying feature-laden things can be complicated and overwhelming. Let your needs drive your decisions. Just because you can (measure it, export it, share it, back it up), doesn’t mean you should. Tools are there to serve you, not the other way around.
Please share your experiences with us. Comment below!