Most business leaders rely heavily on their business management software for making critical decisions and for managing operations. That’s why when it becomes clear to you that your current system is hampering your ability to make those critical decisions, it’s time to start looking for something new.
Denise Petitti of Ash Equipment in Batavia, Illinois (US) was training a new employee and realized that 80 percent of the screens she was demonstrating were useless to her business. She was spending more time explaining what not to use then explaining what to do. It was an “Aha! moment.” Their old software was costing her time and money. So she started looking for a new software solution.
Her network people suggested looking at the popular QuickBooks software, but it wasn’t powerful enough and did not have the ability to import several years of important data. After searching a little longer, good fortune came her way when she talked with another one of her outside software vendors, her customer relationship management (CRM) consultant. He suggested that she look at enterprise resource planning (ERP) software as a solution, and recommended one of his alliance partners. The ERP solution presented was an excellent fit. It gave her the ability to better manage her business and make the critical decisions she needed to make.
Owners and managers have different reasons for changing their business management software. Take Bob Smith for instance, president of a construction company in the Midwest which had just landed a huge contract that would double his workforce. Their current software could not handle the payroll demands, job costing, and reporting requirements that would be necessary for the project. They began their search by asking their IT professional. He pointed them to a solutions provider that had successfully implemented an ERP system for another company. The referral was a success.
The accounting staff at Import Logistics of Naperville, Illinois was burdened by a huge amount of work that was required to process the monthly accounting and billing transactions. Several systems were being used, and lots of data was rekeyed each month. Collin Hann, owner of Import Logistics, saw that this system was exhausting for the staff. The owner looked to his certified public accountant (CPA) for a recommendation. He was delighted to learn that a modern accounting system could substantially reduce the amount of labor hours required to process their mountain of data.
The challenges these business leaders faced are common. Over time, business leaders get caught up in the daily grind of running their businesses, coping with everyday operations, and balancing hectic schedules. At some point, each will have an “Aha! moment” and conclude that they don’t have the software required to effectively run their business. These leaders are not thinking about the cost of new software—they are thinking of the cost of not finding a better system. Using multiple databases that are not integrated, with systems that are slow and lack usability, and having to make critical business decisions without the benefit of relevant data finally becomes more costly than spending money on new software.
A software search can be a daunting task. It takes a clear understanding of what is needed for the business to run smoothly. There are many different paths to finding a solution, but remember that the answer is often nearby. A great way to get started is to ask the professionals around you; your IT pro, CPA, other business owners. Their experience with software and solution providers is a great place to start.
Merilyn Van Zwieten is the chief operating officer at Partners In Technology, Inc. in Wheaton, Illinois (US). You can reach her at +1 630-462-7190.
I wholeheartedly agree that in the initial research phase of the software selection practice, it is useful to gather as much information as possible from peers, competitors, enterprise software trade shows, research sites such as TEC’s, and so on.
However, in the context of the best-practice approach to software selection recommended by TEC, it’s vital that you not let this initial research limit your options. Far too many selection disasters are the direct result of determining your working list of vendors before you have evaluated your own business requirements.
For more on best-practice approaches to software selection, see TEC’s software selection methodology.