Five Mistakes Retailers Make When Selecting a Software Solution
One of the earliest American businessmen was Benjamin Franklin, who counseled not to fear mistakes. But for retailers selecting their POS software solutions, a prudent course would be to avoid the common ones, or they may find the Benjamins coming in less steadily than they would hope.
Retailers decide to replace their POS systems for a variety of reasons, but they usually boil down to this one: does the current system support and enable business strategies that will make the company successful? Or does the system hold it back?
Once a decision is made to move to a newer, better system, it’s worthwhile to imagine what the company will look like 10 years out. What new developments will reshape the company? How will it lead or respond to those changes? To that end, what technologies will have been adopted, and how will they have helped? This vision will inform the choice of selection criteria for the replacement system.
Yet even when a vision is well researched and founded, it can be compromised when the team involved commits one or more of these five common mistakes:
- Not involving the head of the organization in the decision-making process. Too often, retailers exclude their owner, president, or CEO from the software decision-making process. Of course, sometimes the business leader thinks the issue is better left to technology experts. However, the top executive should always lead the search for new software by establishing a vision for the project. Naturally, IT will be heavily involved; their expertise is required. But their ability to properly weigh solutions and vendors depends on them clearly understanding the company’s vision. Ideally, the team selecting your new software solution should include a high-level executive with foresight, line managers from each discipline to confirm proper functionality, and IT staff to ensure that you have the best technology infrastructure for the present and future.
- Skipping the planning phase because "it takes too much time." The time you invest in planning your vendor selection process will easily pay off before the process is complete. Not documenting your objectives and timelines will certainly result in delay—or possibly derailment—of the project. The most important first step is to define your compelling event. This is your definitive answer to the question, "why now?" Retailers have many reasons to consider supplanting their existing system, whether it is replacing outdated technology that causes too many pains for their staff, improving their ability to service their customers, or taking advantage of functionality that can streamline processes and dramatically improve profitability. Compelling events are often tied to a process mandate from a key business partner, or an organizational change such as a merger or acquisition. These must be planned for.
- Considering a technology provider that doesn’t understand your industry. In an increasingly competitive retail world, you won’t be able to provide the quality of service your customers demand—or the timely decision-making you’ll need across the business—with a generic POS or accounting software package. You need a solution provider that understands the nuances of your business, and a solution with the functionality capable of meeting your unique needs as a retailer. Ask the following questions to prospective providers:
1. How many of their customers are retailers? What is the exact number?
2. How long has the company been serving retailers?
3. Who are the people who will implement the software system? Do they understand the industry?
4. Is there an annual user conference focused on the needs of retailers?
5. Is the company a member of associations and buying/marketing groups in your retail focus?
- Assuming you will do things exactly the same way as you do them now. There is no better time to re-evaluate your business processes than when you are about to select and implement a new business system. Too many retailers fail to recognize the true value of the software they evaluate because they get stuck on one particular response: “because that’s the way we’ve always done it.” The software solution you choose will need to conform to your business, but that doesn’t mean it has to look or behave in any particular way. Keep in mind that technology capabilities and industry best practices that differ from your current set can help you do things more profitably—and, in some cases, in ways that won’t be immediately obvious.
- Selecting a vendor that lacks a long-term product vision. To understand what the next 10 years will bring for your industry and what impact it will have, look at the last 10 years, then double that rate of change. Be sure that the software solution your company chooses is able to grow with your organization and adapt to all the change. Ask these questions:
1. What does their technology roadmap look like?
2. What is their vision for business mobility?
3. How malleable is the software to your users’ specific needs?
Evidence of dedication to providing strategic, mission-critical applications to support your business model and size—today and tomorrow—is extremely important. To that end, look for a reputation for agility in accommodating new market needs.
For a more detailed look at how Epicor’s retail expertise and retail-specific software solutions can help you successfully realize your company’s vision, you can go here.