As an energy executive, you don’t have a thousand hours to spend customizing essential software. It’s a crucial step, though, and if you settle for an off-the-shelf version, it’s unlikely the software will meet your needs — not to mention the millions in add-on fees you could accrue by retrofitting it for your business. That’s why the importance of customizable software and quick implementation can’t be overstated.

As companies go through growing pains while adding new revenue streams, they must deal with rapidly changing trends and business requirements. Customized software is about diving deep into these requirements to fully understand it and build a custom solution.

Customized software will not only streamline most business processes, but it will also give an organization an advantage when new products or services are launched. The software is designed to be dynamically enhanced with little or no development. This is a major differentiator from off-the-shelf solutions.

Software that is not customized comes with a static list of third-party companies that can be integrated with it. Connecting to new third-party vendors becomes next to impossible with hardware and software configurations and a large backlog of development work. Conversely, customized solutions are created to allow for easy API connectivity to any new vendor.

Selecting a software provider with a track record of delivering on time and on budget is critical. Not only will this save an organization money, but there’s also a tangible opportunity cost to be captured. Showcasing new software to a potential client could be the differentiator in winning an opportunity. On the operations side, gains in productivity could lead to greater revenue by allowing the sales team to lower pricing and win more business. The sooner businesses can realize the benefits, the better.

Questions to Ask When Selecting a Software Platform

Of course, finding the optimal customizable software platform isn’t like buying a new laptop. Given the many variables at stake, ask yourself the following questions to find the right fit for your business:

1. What processes are broken?

Step one is to define your current needs and any future growth areas. Figure out where your internal team struggles with paperwork and dated processes. Do you have to hire new data entry staff every time you on-board a new client or project? Identify any areas where software could help. Talk to the heavy system users before choosing the software. Meet with operations managers, and ask them what they need. Pay special attention to anything being done on paper, via fax, or through email.

The results for our clients speak for themselves. One EnSight+ client that went paperless and automated its work order-routing process with our software was able to reduce field staff by 28 percent.

2. What are my must-haves?

After you’ve identified the focus areas and business needs, make a list of the things that you can’t live without. This will most likely be a collaborative effort between your tech and ops teams. One goal might be to go paperless.

Executives sometimes overestimate what they actually need and focus too heavily on the nice-to-have features. Don’t fall into this trap, as it will delay the launch and complicate the on-boarding processes. Once you have your features list, match that up with providers and see how they stack up. This is where you can start narrowing your options.

3. Does the provider know mobile?

Most successful organizations list mobile high on their lists. If the provider doesn’t offer mobile, move on. If the provider does offer mobile, make sure you are asking how the company is syncing data, what fail-safes it has to avoid data loss, and whether it has remote-wipe capabilities. Also, find out the authentication methods providers are using.

Considering that only 14 percent of respondents to a recent Verizon survey said their organization’s level of security was “very effective,” you’ll be one of the few companies prepared against breaches and data theft.

4. What separates truly customizable from off-the-shelf?

It’s important to understand what comes with the software and what needs to be customized. Even more important is the depth of the customization. Some software is built for customization while others require development. Narrow your focus to the former group, as those companies can deliver a solution in days or weeks rather than months or longer. The farther you stay away from development, the quicker your implementation will be.

5. Does the provider have a Digital Adoption Platform?

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All of this means nothing if users don’t use the new software. A Digital Adoption Platform helps ensure that doesn’t happen. DAPs basically serve as software on top of software that guides users through demos, tasks, and functions. Users get trained by using step-by-step instructions as they perform actual tasks, effectively learning in real time. Really cool stuff.

This interactive approach is becoming more popular with organizations. A study by TalentLMS revealed that the combination of online and offline training methods, also known as a blended learning approach, is ideal for most learners.

Energy executives need platforms to streamline every facet of a business. Follow these tips to choose a truly customizable solution with rapid implementation timelines.

And if you’re searching for a tech partner in the utilities industry, get in touch with EnSight+. Our team would be happy to answer your questions.

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