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Comparing software and making decisions

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Use this page to understand how to create a comparison grid (or assessment framework). It will also help you think about how to make your final decision.

Comparing a shortlist of tools or pieces of software

Start with the prioritised lists that you created at the end of working out what you need.

You need to use those to create a plan for all the things you want to compare.

You should do this in a spreadsheet or a table so it’s easy to compare several tools in different columns.

Take items from your prioritised lists and put them into rows so that you can assess them. We recommend grouping them into sections to make it easier to keep track. We also recommend using a symbol, label and/or colour code to mark which are 'must have' and which are 'nice to have'.

Here’s a table view that shows you all the sections we recommend.

Notes on preparing the table

  • Download this table to make your own using the 'get data' button.
  • Add extra rows for all the user needs you've uncovered.
  • You can list the feature that you think meets user needs when you're absolutely certain what it must be. If you're not certain, try listing the goal. Then explore the ways different tools meet that goal.

Doing the comparison

  • Start with the very highest priority 'must haves'. If any tool you're comparing fails on those, then stop. Don’t fill in any other sections for that piece of software.
  • Involve your stakeholders in the assessment if you can. Especially on subjective questions like 'ease of use'.
  • If you don’t have a lot of stakeholder support or you need to manage multiple competing opinions, look for support. Try any of the methods in our page about getting ideas or support with software and tools.
  • Look for reviews from people with a similar level of technical skill to you.
  • Make use of trial periods. This helps assess ease of use.
  • Do they offer guides and tutorials, phone support, webchat, forums, blogs or email? Are these services free or paid for? This helps assess support and documentation.
  • Can you find out which other charities use the software? Do they do similar things to you? Are they a similar size? Could you ask them what they think of the tool?

Making a decision

Using the support recommended above, decide whether you can rule out any of the tools for these reasons.

  • They don’t have the things users need (functionality).
  • They don’t align with your values.
  • The costs are too high (one-off or maintenance costs).
  • You don’t have the skills needed to set them up, customise or maintain them, and you can’t afford to get that support.

Look at which tools you have left.

  • Do you feel confident in any of them?
  • Do you feel excited by any of them?
  • Can you agree on why you think one meets your (internal and external) users needs better than the others?

What next?

Once you have chosen your software or tool, you'll need to decide how to confirm it is the right one. You need to plan your reflection and learning.

We’ve got some tips to help you get started.

You also need to start thinking about how you'll let everyone who’ll use the new software know about it. You should decide which of these you need.

  • A marketing plan
  • A communications plan
  • A training programme
  • A PR campaign

You may need just one of these or all of them.

Here are some things to think about when making those plans.

Get the most out of discounts

Once you’ve made your decision, make sure you make the most of discounts that are available to you.

Charities have access to the most discounts, but other groups and organisations can get them too.

Want a safe way to get these discounts without getting ripped off?

Learn about the risks and follow links to some sites you can trust.

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 02 March 2021

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