Service Business Management Software: Get the Software that Suits You! 

suitsAt Thoughtful Systems, over many years of working with clients and helping them find the right software to manage their business, we have learned that no two service businesses are exactly alike.
Every company has its own individual needs and ways of doing things. The software you need to buy depends on many factors, including the size of your business, the specific nature of your service business, the area of the country (or the world) where you are located, as well as various other factors.
In this guide to choosing and implementing service business management software, we help provide a general strategy for deciding what software you want and need for your service business. Once you have created your wish-needs list, then you can evaluate a few likely candidates to see which software will best suit your needs, and figure out your potential investment-to-savings ratio.

The right software should make you money!

Your step-by-step guide to choosing service business management software that fits your needs

hiresit is important to understand the overall nature of computer software and the way it embodies many assumptions: about the way you book your jobs,the way you charge for jobs, how you pay your employees, what information is important to collect about your customers, your prospects, and your employees, and much more.  Some people who initially look for service business software software for their businesses think that they should simply get something inexpensive that looks good and will do the basic job of tracking certain customer information and information about job appointments. However, one needs to evaluate the cost versus the benefits to decide which software program to choose (the ROI).  A person may think they can just buy some reasonable-looking software that does some of what they want, and then change later, if and when the software proves itself lacking in features and flexibility.  However, changing software can be very tricky, time consuming and costly.  It’s like trying to fix a Boeing 747 while it’s in flight. Or perhaps more correctly, trying to change planes in mid air!

Factors to consider when choosing business management software for your service business

First, you may want to consider something that many users overlook:

What hardware will your chosen software run on? 

These days, 99% of all business software runs on desktop machines, including laptops. Your main choices are PCs or Apple Macs. A quick answer to the question of which one to choose: first decide what software you want, and then purchase the hardware that will run it. Currently,  the majority of business software is written to run on Microsoft-based machines — that is, PCs.  I have encountered several people who have purchased Macs and then started the search for software. Without getting in to the debate about which is a better machine (they are both very good these days!), the fact remains that most business software is designed to run on a PC. If you have a big investment in Macs already, don’t despair. You can still run software designed for Windows on your Mac if you purchase a program called Parallels, which allows you to run Windows-based software on your Mac (albeit a bit more slowly). There are also other alternative strategies, which we will discuss in detail in future posts.
Along the same lines:

What operating system should you use?

Today, the three main players are Windows, Mac and Linux. Again, go with the one your chosen software requires. Most vertical business software these days requires a Windows operating system; some may run on Linux or on Mac. Note that if you use Linux you may have to have a tech around from time to time to help you configure it, as it is not a simple-to-use operating system.

Do you need one program or several different programs? 

There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these approaches. If you use multiple programs, you might be able to save some money, but you will not have all your data in one place. You will have to enter customers in multiple programs — your accounting program, your CRM program, your scheduling program, etc. Moreover, you will have to edit the information in each program if something changes. Using Excel, QuickBooks and Outlook can save you money in the short term, but it will cause you headaches and cost you more in the long run.
You will want to make a wish list of the features you want to find in the software that you will choose for your service business out of the dozens of offerings out there. Once you got those sorted out, you can move on to considering the specifics of the software package, which we will discuss in our next installment of the Guide.