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So, you’ve decided to invest in a suitable software system and you should have already considered what you actually need it to do and how it will fit within your business. But what comes next?

How to find a software provider

It’s now time to start your search by exploring the options that are out there. In a perfect world, you’d probably want a bespoke system that completely meets all of your needs. But in reality, developing software from scratch is expensive, time-consuming and risky.

Unless you are creating a new kind of business, you’ll likely work in a sector that is served by various software providers that specialise in creating software specifically for your needs. So let’s find a software provider for you!

Use search engines

With over 70,000 searches performed every second, Google has become the most popular search engine in the world -serving 90% of the market. And as the way it finds results becomes smarter by the day, it’s easy to see why more than 91% of adults in the UK use the internet to search for information.

And while search engines are extremely clever at finding answers to very specific questions, they’re also really good at figuring out what you are looking for – even when you’re not quite sure yourself! 

Need photo editing software? You could simply ask, ‘program to remove the background from an image’.

The 1st page of the search will show results that the Google algorithm decides best meets your search criteria. So make sure to use keywords that narrow down your search (think about including your industry, where you are located and the size of your business).

Visit industry trade shows

Trade shows are exhibitions where companies from a specific industry come together to showcase and demonstrate their products and services. It’s a great place to find out about new and emerging technologies specific to your industry – and see products from multiple different providers on the same day.

While internet research can give you a good idea of what software can do, trade shows can give you a better impression of what a company is like. You’ll be able to meet and talk to their employees and get a good feeling about the company’s ethos first hand. Most companies also showcase live demonstrations, allow you to interact with products and may even offer some kind of special ‘trade show’ discount. So it’s worth popping a few trade shows in your annual calendar!

Find out about trade shows that serve your sector here.

Research award-winning providers

Whatever sector you work in you’ll probably be aware of different awarding bodies that celebrate success in your field. And quite often, the awarding bodies that you want to impress will also have special awards for software providers or suppliers that serve your sector.

When you find software providers that meet your initial criteria – take a look and see if they have any awards listed on their website.

Why awards matter:

  • It shows that they care about their reputation – awards are difficult to win and require a great deal of evidence to back up submissions. This often comes from happy customers!
  • It shows an innovative attitude – companies that win awards do so because they are inventive and focused on constantly improving.
  • It shows a dedication to the sector they serve – they have a great deal of pride in their work and truly believe in the sector they serve.

You can find a list of UK business awards listed by sector here.

Look at the memberships lists of professional associations that serve your sector

Most industries have a professional body, which people and businesses with the appropriate background, experience or qualifications can join. Professional bodies work to advance a particular profession, support the interests of people working in that profession. It will also facilitate innovation, communication and connection.

Professional associations usually have a clear vision, mission and set of principles and values. Businesses that join professional associations may agree to follow a Code of Practice to the extent that the Code applies to the services they offer.

This can help you decide whether a prospective partner maintains the principles that you similarly strive to achieve.

Find providers that align with your industry’s regulatory body

Is your industry regulated? If so, check whether the software providers that you are researching are aware of industry policy and evolving regulation. Businesses that closely follow regulatory bodies may be able to provide more tailored services to meet the requirements of your sector. 

What to look for:

  • Social media activity that acknowledges regulatory news.
  • News articles and blogs that explore emerging regulatory updates.
  • Whitepapers and helpful guides that show an understanding of your industry.
  • Is your industry inspected? Has the software company been referenced in reports?

Don’t forget to check social media

Smaller businesses may find it difficult to maintain an active social presence, especially when there are so many platforms out there. But it’s hard to ignore the importance of social media when it comes to purchasing decisions. And while the software company you are researching may not have an Instagram – it could be active on Linkedin.

Why check social media before making a purchasing decision?

  • It can give you a flavour of the company’s culture and ethos.
  • Reassure you that the company is active, engaged and participating in topics that affect your sector.
  • Show that they are a modern, forward-thinking business that ‘gets’ emerging trends and new technology.
  • You’ll be able to see comments from other users, and importantly, you can ask questions!

Get recommendations from employees and industry colleagues

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the range of software providers out there. And once you start searching online it can be difficult to cut through the marketing. So why not take a break and go back to basics and talk to the people around you. 

  • Have any of your employees used a system that they liked in a previous role? 
  • Can you find out what other businesses in your sector are using? 
  • Ask for recommendations from other business leaders on social media.

When you looking find to a software provider – keep in mind the questions you have asked yourself before starting your search – your wants, needs, goals and deadlines. Think about creating a simple scoring matrix so that you can narrow down suppliers that meet your most important criteria. And from there start making contact with your top picks to arrange face-to-face calls, demos and trials.