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Why You Shouldn't Just Throw Money at Software Salespeople

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In a world where tech innovations have radically changed every corner of our lives, it's easy to view software as a panacea for every organizational ill. That's an especially popular assumption when it comes to setting goals and sparking employee engagement.

Related: Before You Purchase Software for Your Business, Consider These Do's and Don'ts

So, while the following point might peg me as a Luddite, I strongly believe that it's one leaders should keep in mind: Simply purchasing software won't make you smarter, faster and stronger unless you partner it with an intelligent strategy.

The reasoning behind a company's software investment separates impulsive leaders from calculating ones. The impulsive group assumes that the right software can fix holes and solve problems in their processes. But the calculating group knows that software isn't a problem-solving tool; it's a vehicle for accelerating growth through the automation of solutions that have already proven to be successful.

They also recognize that there are cases where software can aggravate problems instead of alleviating them.

When, then, can software step in to improve a company's processes, particularly with and engagement? And when shouldn't it play a part at all? Let's break it down to four major points.

1. The power of pen and paper

In any arena, buying a product won't free you from your problems unless you have a handle on what exactly it will help you achieve and why those outcomes matter.

Remember, the role of a software product is to automate your process, not create the process itself. That means that the first step in making any investment is articulating your objectives at an analog level. Otherwise, you'll be setting off on an aimless course that wastes time and resources.

Start with physical meetings first. Discuss concepts with an internal champion, employ a consultant to help with specific issues on engagement and communication or attend workshops on coaching and best practices. Sketch the process out with pen and paper, a white board or even an Excel spreadsheet. Then run with your analog process for three to six months and modify it as needed.

Once you have effective processes in place, you can identify which platforms align with your needs, so that you can invest more wisely. But if you start with software before developing processes -- or even just mapping out your main objectives -- there's a high chance your goals and your automation process won't match up.

Related: 10 Ways for Software Companies to Keep Customers Around

2. Sharing your road map

Once you've written down your goals, you've done the hard part -- right? Well, not so much. Figuring out how to communicate the company's progress toward those goals is often the most difficult and important work leaders do. Your clarity in sharing the company vision and updates directly translates to employee performance and engagement levels. It also forms a rhythm of interaction that software can automate.

Most of the time, leaders know where the problems lie. They know the answers to why the business is doing what it's doing. As CEO, you need to take on the role of champion for the company's goal-setting process and have a firm grasp on the results expected from a software platform. You won't be the only one mapping out company solutions -- but it is your job to set communication standards, expertly striking a balance between delegation and control.

3. Looking ahead

You may think your company doesn't need to work on goal setting. After all, you've already refined your communications, hired A-players and seen your business thrive. But here's the thing: Setting a clear goal process isn't about your current performance. It's about the long-term achievement of your vision. It's about making sure the products you create today are going to support you tomorrow.

So, start setting smart goals and outlining mission-based values to make sure your current actions are moving your company to the next level. Leaders who disregard long-term objectives eventually run into the consequences of not planning ahead. I often ask overconfident leaders: When was the last time you had a negative surprise within the company? What's your internal philosophy? Their answers typically contradict their rose-colored outlook on their companies' long-term prospects.

4. When software tools make sense

Sometimes goal-setting software simply doesn't make sense for some companies. If you're a small business with one location, your engagement process can probably live offline. If you have multiple offices in different time zones, on the other hand, clear and uniform communication becomes more difficult without an automated system. And if you're launching an ambitious project and looking at high growth, you'll probably want to make the investment.

There's no doubt that goal and engagement software can deliver solid benefits. But the biggest rewards come when leaders realize that software is not the antidote for an ineffective process, but an accessory to a smart strategy. Create a high-performing process before you invest in software and you'll see exponential results once you connect your strategy with technology.

Related: How to Negotiate a Better Deal on Enterprise Software

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