A company that’s not putting at least 10 percent of sales revenue back into product development can’t possibly keep pace with technology. You want to buy software from a supplier thatÕs serious about having great products today and tomorrow.
Good software suppliers update their software frequently, making new features and bug fixes available to resellers and customers. Software is one of the few industries where you can upgrade your product to the newest, hottest version for a fraction of the full price. Imagine being able to go to a car dealership and have all the features of this year’s model added to your existing car! With most products you have to buy an entirely new model or do without.
A good software publisher will provide frequent upgrades at reasonable prices.
Before you make a purchase, find out if your software publisher has a maintenance program in place that gives you access to frequent updates. For a reasonable price, usually about 15 to 20 percent of the purchase cost, you should be able to get an annual maintenance contract that provides a continuous stream of product updates and improvements. This demonstrates that the developer has an ongoing commitment to the product and to your satisfaction.
If you’re not sure how well a system will accommodate your company’s needs as you grow, here are some key questions to help you find out.
What are the maximum number of customers, vendors, BOMs, or inventory items that are allowed? What is the maximum number of users that can be working with a particular application at the same time? Can the software be customised to meet the changing needs of a growing company?
Your system must be able to extract relevant information easily. A system using database files provides virtually unlimited reporting capabilities. Ask for samples of reports to see the system’s reporting capability. In addition to standard reports, the product should allow non-programmers to design custom reports using industry-standard reporting tools.
Many buyers spend far too little time evaluating this aspect of the software. Yet ease-of-use will have a dramatic impact on the quality of your implementation. Poorly designed software leads to frustrated users who bypass the system or resort to manual short-cuts. If you want a system that delivers maximum productivity, focus on how easily your employees can use it.
You want a system that lets you enter information quickly and efficiently. Look for features such as full-screen editing, embedded help systems, and clear prompts. It is important to ensure that production data entry (particularly in sales orders and purchase orders) does not require excessive mouse use. If the operator’s hand must constantly move between the keyboard and the mouse, data entry can be too time-consuming.
You should also make sure the system can handle all the situations that will come up on a day-to-day basis. Is the sequence of steps to create a sales order simple and straightforward? Can you look up vendor information while you are in the middle of posting a line item on an invoice or purchase order? Can you search the item master file while you are creating a new manufacturing order? Can you add inventory items while you are in the middle of creating a manufacturing order?