Tradespeople all over the world are reaping the benefits of cloud software that handles everything from creating quotes and scheduling jobs to generating invoices.
But how do you choose the right job management software that suits your trade business from a sea of providers?
To offer you some guidance, we’ve put together eight key considerations you should think about before making the investment.
1. What support is available?
When you first start to use new software, it’s inevitable that you and your teams will have loads of questions. Often, the licence fee will include some training and support, but be sure to check how much, and what additional training (for how much) is on offer.
Employees, particularly field employees, can be wary of new technologies, so to make sure they use it, it’s important they have someone to contact if things go wrong.
Key questions to ask include:
Is your support team locally based?
When can you access support? Ensure this suits your operating hours; if you do call-outs late at night and have a problem, you might need someone to be there for assistance.
How do you get support? Is it online (chat), by email or by telephone? When you need to speak to someone technical, consider how quickly you will want a response, and what is acceptable to you and your business.
Is support unlimited? In your time of need, you don’t want to hit with a hefty charge!
2. What training is provided?
Training is sometimes referred to as implementation or setup. Find out how training will be delivered: is it online, or on site? Which would be the best method for you?
If you’re new to software, or you want to minimise the impact this has on you and your team, you may prefer the training to be carried out at your premises.
Training can seem like an unnecessary expense, but you get what you pay for. Getting the system set up and your people using it correctly at the start saves a lot of headaches later on.
Most companies will be able to provide you with an outline of the training plan so you can see what is covered and when.
3. What features are important to you?
The features you need will depend on your business and the work you carry out. A good place to start is to think about at what points you experience problems in different stages of the work you do.
Job management software can vary, some, like simPRO, can follow the entire process from the lead and quote stage through to invoicing and even taking payment. Others will focus on one particular area like quoting or scheduling.
If you’re comparing different packages (and prices) make sure you are comparing like-for-like. The cheaper it is, the less it’s likely to do. If you review the features against the list of pain points you identified, does it do everything you want it to?
It’s also worth considering what plans you have for the future. If you’re looking to grow the business, get the software that will allow you to do this. You may not think you need all the features now, but you may later down the line.
4. Are there any additional costs?
If you’re looking at cloud-based job management software like simPRO, there will be a monthly licence fee. This is usually based on a per-user basis. Check what’s included in this monthly fee.
If you’ve already explored questions 1, 2 and 3, then you’ll have a good idea of what’s included. Other add-ons to consider are field-based apps, forms and certificates, asset management, vehicle tracking, payment processing and customer portals.
Cloud-software usually gives you the flexibility to add or reduce your licences when you need to. If you’re not sure how many licences you’ll need, you can start off will a lower amount and add more when you need them.
5. Does the provider have experience with your type of business?
There are many software options out there, so it’s important you find the one that is right for you.
Just because it does job scheduling doesn’t necessarily mean it works for your business. Check if there are any case studies from their existing clients who are similar to your business, or even ask to speak to an existing client.
6. How often does the software get updated?
Technology changes quickly – just look at how mobile phones have changed in the last 10 to 15 years! If you’re buying new software today, you want to make sure it is still up to date next week, next month, next year and beyond.
One of the many great benefits of cloud software is that updates can be pushed out to subscribers frequently and easily. Find out how frequently any updates are made to the software you’re considering. Is there a roadmap or a plan of what is in the pipeline?
If the software doesn’t do everything you want it to do right now, it could be in their development plan. However, be careful not to purchase software just because of what they have planned in future – think first and foremost about what it can do for you right now.
Check whether these updates are included in the licence fee or chargeable. You want to make sure your investment is future-proof and budget accordingly for it.
7. Does it do what is promised?
We’re all wary of salespeople. They’ll say anything to get you to sign a piece of paper, right?
Wrong. A good salesperson will meet with you to talk through your requirement and show you how the software can do what you want it to do. If you’re not confident about this, again, ask to speak to one of their existing customers who uses it to do what you want.
Software will have features and settings that can be adjusted to how you want it to work; these are configurations or customisations.
There is usually a charge for customisation as a technical person in the company will need to create those customisations. This can also have an impact on future updates and software releases but will also cost you more money.
8. Do you really need software?
This is an interesting question most will ask themselves. If you use accounting software, you probably use spreadsheets, maybe paper job cards and a diary or whiteboard to keep track of your field employees and jobs. This can work well for some, but it does also come with challenges.
And in today’s market, where customers demand speed, convenience, and the highest quality products and services, you may find it hard to keep up with outdated systems.
So, if you’re ready to use technology to take control of your trades business, you now know what are the key areas you need to consider when evaluating your options!