Five things to know when buying productivity software

by Michael Hoffman

If you have ever bought a diamond ring, you probably know about the 4C’s of diamonds: cut, color, clarity, and carats.  

It’s also fine if you don’t. 

Maybe the size of the diamond was the main thing you cared about because, let’s face it, it’s the most obvious characteristic and you’re probably not going to carry around the certificate to show people the other more subtle values. Perhaps, however, you will place equal value on all four of the C’s because you want more sparkle in your diamond. All these subtle elements are measurable – even though they are difficult to see using the naked eye.  As a matter of fact, they are difficult if not impossible to see for professionals even when they are using a loop. This is why diamond sellers depend on certification. 

Unlike diamonds, productivity tools don’t come with a certificate; but wouldn’t it be great if they did! Imagine:  

Certified to 23% more productivity, 18% in stress reduction, 42% fewer errors, and will increase bottom line with a minimum of 6%.   

Wow, that would make buying these tools a lot easier. 

But let’s get back to earth.  Just because productivity tools aren’t certified, doesn’t mean their value can’t be measured.  It just presents a bit more work on the buyer’s end in calculating ROI. 

That’s where this handy calculator comes in.   

Is it a near perfect calculator like measuring the 4C’s of a diamond? No.  But it can certainly aid you in deciding whether to trial a productivity tool in just minutes.  All you need to do is answer the five questions and you will have at least come to a logical conclusion rather than an impulse purchase.  

1. How long have you been struggling with productivity in the area that it claims to benefit? (Short term problems might go away by themselves, whereas multi-year challenges are often in more dire need of solving than you think, due to your complacency having set in years ago.  

A. One month 

B. Six months 

C. One year 

D. Multiple years 

2. Will it directly benefit your customers? 

A. They will benefit indirectly because the company will run smoother 

B. They will benefit indirectly because it allows us to prioritize the customers’ needs better 

C. They will benefit directly because it reduces the time needed to serve them 

D. All of the above 

3. How often will you use it? (Is it a cherry pitter that you use twice a year, then shove it back in your kitchen drawer, or is it a spoon you use daily?) 

A. Monthly 

B. Weekly 

C. Daily 

D. Hourly 

4. What is the cost per day per use? (Going back to the cherry pitter, even if it is inexpensive, you should consider the number of times it is used relative to its price. You should prioritize buying productivity tools that are used regularly and have a low monthly coast.)  

Calculate the monthly use-cost by dividing the monthly cost by the number of business days in a month (20) divided by the number of times used per day. I.e., if it costs $20 per month and you use it once per business day, the cost is $1.00 per day.  If the same tool is used 10 times per day the cost per use is $0.10. The higher the cost per use, the more you should scrutinize that cost. On the other hand, if the cost is pennies and it saves you dollars, then you are on to something very beneficial. 

Cost per month divided by 20 business days divided by number of times you use it per day. 

A. $1 or more per use/day (spend time scrutinizing this tool)

B. $0,50 – $0,99 per use/day 

C. $0,20 – $0,50 per use/day 

D. Less than $0,20 use/day (Add it to the basket at the checkout. At this cost, the chances of it not creating any ROI is extremely low unless you have miscalculated the daily use.) 

5. And finally, a question about risk. What if you try it and find out that it is not the silver bullet you anticipated? 

A. I’m stuck with the purchase of the software and training 

B. I’m stuck with the training, but the software has a free trial. 

C. Both the training and software have a money-back guarantee 

D. There are no charges up front. Period. 

For each A add 1, B add 2, C add 4, and D add 6. 

If your score is less than 10, you could probably skip it. Between 10 and 14, it could be something worth considering. 15 or above, probably a no-brainer.  Go for it.  

One last thing.  This calculator is meant to help you decide, not tell you what to do. There may be some important characteristics that have not been considered like: it looks cool! That’s fine too if you are purchasing it for yourself.  Those who oversee purchasing for their teams, however, may want to be more critical.

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