Free trials are the fun part of the software selection process, as long as you manage it well. Unless there is only one software program that you think will work for your organization, you should be trialing 2-3 competing software packages against one another. Excluding custom-made software, if something interests you that doesn’t come with a free trial, you may want to avoid it altogether unless it is something that is tried and true.
Use A Matrix For Comparisons
Your trials should be built on the groundwork you laid in Part 1 of the series. If this is true, you will have a defined process in place and know what you want out of any software you will be using. Create a matrix at this point with all your requirements down the left-hand side of the grid. Along the top of this grid, list all your trial software. Next, organize your requirements in priority order from the top of the column to the bottom. You will then want to highlight the ones that are mandatory for your organization. These are the bellwethers for possible disqualification for a piece of software. You should also do this if you are trialing just one piece of software as well.
Timing Is Key
Time is your enemy with free trials. Doesn’t it always seem to happen that by the time you get to day 29 of a 30-day free trial you realize you’ve hardly had a chance to look at the software? Whether you need to cram in a rush testing session or find you have time to spare, you have two options for your assessment:
- Test the free trials one at a time (in series)
- Test the free trials at the same time (in parallel)
While both options are possible, it is our opinion that the second one is better. It requires more time in a shorter period, but you could find there is a function of the software you like and want to add it to your requirements list. If you do the trials in series and you find that functionality in the last piece of software you trial, you may have to go back and re-review the others.
Schedule a set amount of time each day to make progress on your list. Work through the list starting with your non-negotiable items until the trials are complete. Be sure you note if you are dealing with mixed trial lengths. Trials can range from 7 to 30 days and unfortunately, you are constrained by the shortest one.
What happens if the trial yields no good candidates? First, make sure you’ve exhausted your search. Secondly, consider whether you are looking for too much out of one piece of software. Can the job be done best with two or three pieces of software that communicate together via API? See Part 5 for additional information on this. If neither of those things yield anything, then it is possible you should look at custom software.
Remember to have fun with your free trials. Include your team and make sure to get their feedback while doing them, so that you have their buy-in on the end solution. Software is designed to help your organization be more efficient. So, if you don’t find something that meets your needs, keep looking until you find something that fits your organization like a glove.