Software selection smarts

Seeking Some New Software? There’s a lot to consider in picking a system and a vendor partner, according to consultant Susan Rider, president of Rider & Associates.

In a session at the NCOF show in Las Vegas in March, Rider pointed out that a software vendor should have experience in your niche. In particular, if a vendor hasn’t done direct-to-consumer systems before, the transition can be complex.

You also want a provider that has a corporate culture similar to your own, Rider said, though many software shoppers often overlook a vendor’s culture. And keep in mind that during the “courting” stage, vendors are putting their best face forward to try to earn your business, she noted.

When it comes to investing in either custom technology or a package, Rider is a fan of the package. “I don’t know why any company today would write software from scratch,” she said. “The cost to maintain it is very expensive down the road.”

And modifications and enhancements to a homegrown system can mean big money, whereas you can probably get what you need with a package. That wasn’t the case 10 years ago, Rider admitted, “but packaged software today is much more advanced.”

What’s the most critical part of a software implementation? Training, Rider said. Most operations are often using only 30% of a software package’s functionality because they didn’t train staff properly, or the folks who were trained on the system have left the company.

As an example, Rider spoke of the time she was working with a company whose pick rates could have been better. She asked the manager why the company wasn’t using the velocity and slotting reports to improve the pick rates. The manager responded that the software didn’t have those features, so the company didn’t have those reports. Said Rider to the manger: “Yes, you do — you’ve had them for six years from when you first bought the system!”

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Software Selection Smarts

Seeking some new software? There’s a lot to consider in picking a system and a vendor partner, according to consultant Susan Rider, president of Rider & Associates.

In a session at the NCOF show in Las Vegas last week, Rider pointed out that a software vendor should have experience in your niche. In particular, if a vendor hasn’t done direct-to-consumer systems before, the transition can be complex. “And you don’t want to be the Guinea pig,” she said.

You want a provider that has a similar corporate culture to your own, Rider said, though many software shoppers often overlook a vendor’s culture. Keep in mind that the vendors are putting their best face forward to try to earn your business, she noted.

“If you don’t like them during the courting period, it will be a disaster” once the salespeople are out of the equation and you’re stuck with the implementation team.

When it comes to investing in custom technology or a package, Rider is a fan of the package. “I don’t know why any company today would write software from scratch,” she said. “The cost to maintain it is very expensive down the road.”

And modifications and enhancements to a homegrown system can mean big money, whereas you can probably get what you need with a package. That wasn’t the case 10 years ago, Rider admitted, “but packaged software today is much more advanced.”

Just make sure you are considering your future functionality requirements. When system shopping, Rider said. “Maybe you’re planning to open stores or kiosks,” she noted. “That’s different functionality than direct.”

What’s the most critical part of a software implementation? Training, Rider said. “Don’t invest in technology if you’re not going to train.” Most operations are often using only 30% of a software package’s functionality because they didn’t train staff properly or the folks that were trained on the system have left the company.

Rider gave an example of an instance when she was working with a company whose pick rates could have been better. She asked the manager why the company wasn’t using the velocity and slotting reports to improve the pick rates.

The manager responded that the software didn’t have those features, so the company didn’t have those reports, Rider recalled. “I said, ‘Yes, you do—you’ve had them for six years from when you first bought the system!’”

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