Most distributors have internal experts that intimately know their business and industry and have the experience of doing it for many years. Had the challenges been industry specific, they would have been resolved by now. Solving your distribution complex challenges is rarely or never an issue of content, meaning it may be an industry specific challenge and it is frequently or always that of a process issue. This means the need is to evaluate and resolve the business processes and human interactions of the organization. Selecting the “perfect” distribution software partner should not be only limited to industry specific partners since this may actually be a limiting factor. You may want to consider looking at partners who are process experts with fresh and untainted opinions and views.
The most critical attribute of finding the right software partner is to find the one that is highly recommended by others and with a proven and successful track record. I would recommend you visit the partner, talk to the staff as well as visit and talk with several of their customers. Here are some questions to consider asking your partner:
- What makes you unique from a business and software perspective?
- How do you handle customer support, hours of operation, after hours critical support and what is supported and what is not? Email or phone or both? Can we easily get a hold of a person?
- What does your software maintenance cover? What about future upgrades and bug fixes? How do you price your maintenance? What else is included or not?
- Are there any hidden costs that I should be aware of after or during the implementation?
- How do you train? On client site (recommended) or software business partner location? Is it individualized or through public courses? What about future training of new staff and new features?
- How do we get notified of new software features?
- How do you handle customized enhancements and are they integrated into the software to be included with future upgrades?
- Data migration. What is converted and what is not and who is responsible to do that?
- What logic do you use for inventory control?
- How does the purchase order system integrate with the sales order system?
- How does the accounts receivables (A/R) system integrate with an A/R collection system?
- What about notation in all systems. Such as notes for customers, vendors, inventory items, sales orders, purchase orders, by order level or by item level. Who can see these notes and can they be easily printed with user control to decided where to print and who may be authorized to view and update them?
- Sales analysis system and ability to easily query reports. Can they be graphically presented as line graphs, pie charts and more?
- How does the system integrate with a real time web application so whatever is in the distribution databases can instantaneously display on the web. And can web transaction immediately update the back-end distribution databases?
- Is the system fully integrated with fax, email and EDI? This way special forms such as quotes, sales orders, invoices, purchase orders, acknowledgments can easily be faxed or email as requested or transmitted on the Internet via EDI or XML?
- Are all subsidiary ledgers integrated with the General Ledger system?
- Are there end of day procedures that require a dedicated system to process?
- What trend reports are available? Such as: customers changing their buying or paying habits, sales tracking by geography or sales person or region or warehouse.
Selecting the “perfect” software business partner is instrumental to the success of running your business presently and in the future. Performing your due diligence may prevent a strained relationships but more importantly prevent getting “stuck” with a software solution that is outdated and needs to be replaced which may have dreadful impact on your business. Most distributors know what they want but a few know what they truly need. Selecting the right partner is not just important but it is mandatory.
© Chad Barr 2008 All rights reserved.