17 Mar 7 Easy Steps to Choose the best Utility Billing Software for your organization!
Almost anyone who’s had the misfortune to review software for almost any application will tell you the same thing – “It’s confusing”. It’s a process that leaves you with your head spinning, with few answers and more questions than you started out with.
There’s a reason for that – People who write software are usually terrible at writing explanations. In fact, there are very few people on the planet who are skilled in taking complex technical processes and explaining them in a way that non-technical people can understand.
And who has the time to contact these vendors, hoping somebody there can explain in plain English whether their software will do what you need it to do?
So here’s an approach you can take that will quickly tell you the best candidates to choose from:
1. Analyze Your Needs
What are the most important functions you want the software to do for you? Ignore all the other bells and whistles, just focus on the abilities of the software to do exactly what you want. For instance – You might have a simple list like this:
- Eliminate paper billing – send bills by email.
- Speed up cash flow – allow customers to pay online.
- Reduce customer calls by allowing customers to review their bills online.
Just focus on your main requirements and consider anything else a bonus.
2. Look at the Vendors behind the software.
Regardless of how feature-rich the software is, if the company has not been around long, there’s a good chance they won’t be around in the future and you’ll have to switch to another platform.
According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses, fail within the first 18 months. Only 20% survive. There are even fewer around after five years. So, make sure the company behind the software:
- Has been around for at least 10 years
- Has proof of a good track record with customers and clients – They provide testimonials on their website or reviews on social media.
- Is not too big to care about your business – With multinational software developers, you can be lost in the crowd, find difficulty with support and find the product is too broad to really properly address your needs.
3. Ensure there is excellent support.
Even the most intuitive software takes some getting used to and you can lose a lot of man hours while staff just become familiar with the interface. Good support can literally save your organization thousands of dollars while you get started. Look for:
- Support that allows you to speak with a support agent by phone within an hour or two at the most.
- Support by local technicians who you can easily understand.
- Support that people rave about in their testimonials.
4. Ensure it will be easy for your organization to move over to it.
This is a big one – because you may not be ready to change your whole network and all your other software – you probably just want to run the software on your current server, over your local network, or even on a computer in your office. So look for:
- Software that will run on whatever system you currently have.
- Software that can also run on the cloud if you want to upgrade or you currently use it.
- Software that easily integrates with your other business programs – ie. Accounting software and reporting software.
5. Ensure the Software has a good off-site backup system built in
This is critical to keep your organization running smoothly. If there is a fire, flood, natural disaster or even a ransomware attack, you want to be able to quickly get your system up and running again. The backup system must be:
- Easy to use, so that staff will religiously back up every day
- Keep at least one month of daily backups, in case you have to recover the data before an infection occurred.
- Have a mechanism to regularly test restored backups to ensure they work properly.
6. Ensure there is an option to have remote staff run the system for you
This can be a lifesaver in the aftermath of a natural disaster or even when you have a staffing issue – A company that allows you to switch to remote staff while you get your office back up and running will give your customers seamless, uninterrupted service.
7. Look at the cost
I left this to last, because it should only ever be one of many criteria you make a decision on. As with everything else in this world, you get what you pay for – and while you can pay too much, when a similar, cheaper product can do the same job, you also can be trapped into taking the cheapest or even a free option.
This is usually false economics, as you must consider the cost of disruption to your organization, every time you move to another system. You also need to take into account the cost of time for staff to work things out themselves, because support is non-existent.
As a rule-of-thumb, look more closely at products that are priced in the mid-range, when compared to other similar packages – not at the high end or low end of the price range.