Offices all over the globe have used Microsoft Office for many years as the standard office suite, but many other products offer similar features for the office that prefers a less expensive solution. Walk through these steps to find alternative software packages that will support existing office duties.
1. Software needs – Some offices require the simplest word processor and an occasional spreadsheet and can be very productive with basic software. Other professions must rely on the robust calculations and editing features offered by the most elaborate software packages on the market. Specific decisions begin with close examination of all business processes that would be supported by the software. Evaluate the business activities that require use of an office suite, and ask for input from the employees responsible for each task.
2. Existing options – After the business environment is documented, the next step is to look closely at the software that is on the market. Evaluate the longevity of the products and the probability that they will still be available in three years. Information is available from software magazines and websites that specialize in tracking the software markets. The most expensive software is not necessarily the best software solution. Some freeware and shareware software is preferred by users all over the world because of its user community and ease of use.
3. Operating system – If the computers have already been purchased for the office environment, the office suite must be compatible with the existing operating system on each computer. Some office suites can run on virtually every operating system version. Knowledge of the operating system is important prior to the purchase of the office suite because some software packages will not run on certain operating systems. User reviews are important for determining the success with which each office suite is used on each operating system.
4. Compatibility – For the office with an extensive library of existing files, the new office suite must be able to read the existing files. Conversion programs are important, but many features in existing files will be lost by the less advanced software components. If existing files have been created using the proprietary features within another software suite, most conversion programs will lose these special features. New files can be created, but the time to convert important documents may not be available. When the office shares documents with clients, special consideration must be given to their ability to read the files produced by the office suite of choice.
5. Budget – One of the reasons for switching to another office suite is the cost of the required software licenses. Many software packages are available for purchase in varying price ranges. The license agreements vary from individual, to small group, to unlimited licenses. Initial price may be higher for some software, but the long-term cost may be more reasonable. Avoid licenses that will expire in a year because the license renewal expense will be incurred even if new versions of the software are not provided.
6. Training requirement – Software usability varies from intuitive and simple to very complex and the training needs can cause work disruption until every employee masters certain tasks. Every software program will offer some level of training that must be evaluated for its usefulness. Individual training that can be completed online is preferred to traditional training that requires travel and time away from work. Few software companies offer traditional training because of the power of webcasts and online videos that demonstrate each software function.
7. Opinions – When reading reviews of other software users, look for forums where opinions are challenged by other points of view. Users that can write a review in a magazine without challenge from others can oversell or excoriate a software package that might work well in your office. Multiple points of view will provide balanced input that brings issues to light without blinding potential buyers with too much sales hype. Speak with other business owners and people who use the software packages in similar settings to determine their success.
8. Trial periods – Some software providers will offer trial periods for users to evaluate software prior to purchase. Take advantage of these trials and work diligently to determine the actual software features that exist in the office suite. Multiple software packages can be evaluated concurrently to shorten the evaluation period. Uninstall any software suites that will not meet the need.
Once these steps are completed, the new office suite can be installed on each computer and normal office operations can proceed. Whenever software glitches are discovered, contact the provider and work with the user community to improve the product.
This guest post was written by John Brook. He is one of the employees at a cheap office stationery supplier in the UK, and spends a lot of his time talking about computer desks and other office goods.