MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE REVIEW: Mail Order Wizard gets graded

In this issue, Jim Ray, president of square drive screws cataloger McFeely’s, reviews the Mail Order Wizard catalog management software system, produced by Evanston, IL-based Haven Corp.

Lynchburg, VA-based McFeely’s bought the Mail Order Wizard management system in August 1989 to run on a Pentium II server at 266 megahertz with three 9 gigabyte hard disks. Individual workstations are Pentium IIs running between 133-400 megahertz with 8-32 megahertz of random access memory (RAM). McFeely’s paid approximately $5,000 for a multiuser version of the software.

Strengths: “Mail Order Wizard has an extraordinarily friendly user interface. Since Wizard is DOS-based, navigation within the application doesn’t require that you repeatedly stop what you are doing to reposition a cursor. The mail list management program is solid and easy to use; order entry provides for a variety of shipping, billing, or mailing addresses; order tracking is straightforward; items are easy to set up. The system is extremely stable – I can’t remember the last time it crashed!”

Weaknesses: “Wizard handles basic tasks like order entry and inventory management well, but most of the reports we use result from data export and spreadsheet analysis. Wizard is weak from a reporting standpoint, so we have to export data to other programs, such as Access or Excel to perform the required analysis.

“Wizard’s DOS-based roots create both a benefit and a weakness: The system is very fast, and doesn’t require a mouse for navigation, but the barcoding of invoices doesn’t work properly when the application is run on a Windows 95/98 software in a DOS operating system. Also, the lack of a purchasing module makes inventory management somewhat frustrating.”

Training: “Wizard is straightforward, so training customer service representatives (CSRs) is simple; new managers can also quickly learn the system. Anyone with a reasonable understanding of computers should have no difficulty working through the installation.”

Vendor support: “We have required very little vendor support over the years. With rare exception, calls are answered promptly and courteously, and the technical person can answer the question without a call back.”

Flexibility: “Wizard is not designed to interface with other systems to the best of my knowledge. Data is easily exported in an ASCII file structure, but a translation program of some sort is generally required to convert the data to a format suitable to the target system.”

Scalability: “We have steadily increased the number of users over the years, and now have about 25 stations connecting to Wizard. I believe Wizard can handle about 65,000 orders a month, although at that volume I expect migration to a more full-featured program would make sense.”

Overall rank: “Overall, I would give the Wizard an 8.5 – for its target user. Wizard is not designed to run a $20 million mail order company – it is designed for start-ups. It provided the structure we needed in the beginning, and kept us from making some very basic mistakes. It has been one of the most trouble-free investments we have made.”

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