More and more new systems and upgrades are appearing on the market. Never before has the intermediary had such a choice and the software houses, particularly the new players, are coming under pressure. Even if you are happy with what you have now, you may be gently teased in to considering an expensive upgrade to your systems.

Buying and installing one of these systems takes time and effort. Here are a few pointers to get you going.

First, make sure you understand what you need from your system. Too often I see intermediaries display wish-lists of “must-have” technologies they've plucked out of magazines. They may well be great but, if you buy a system that then can't handle the profitable schemes you've negotiated, what's the point? The system you buy has to help you run your business better than it runs today or there's little point in investing the money.

Second, get independent advice. This isn't too far removed from what you ask your own clients to do. They often look to you to navigate their way through a complex minefield of products and clauses that they don't fully understand. Take your own advice and, if you're not sure of what you are doing, ask for help.

You'll pay for it now but it could cost you a lot more later if a bad decision starts to affect your business.

Finally, don't sign on the dotted line until you're ready. The discount you get offered for “signing today” will still be there later if the software house really wants your business. Take time to talk to other users of the system, the user group and your trade body. Get the contract checked and make sure it's profitable to run. It's more important that you make sure you get the right system at the right price and on the right terms than it is to save 10% on an impulse purchase.

The final piece of advice I offer to anyone looking at buying new systems is to remember who's signing the cheques. You're making an investment decision that will affect your business – and you personally – for years to come. Make the right one by remaining in control of the buying decision and resisting pressure.

  • Ross Hall is founder of strategic consultancy Garol. For a free fact sheet on the issues in Windows computing for brokers, email