While a Business Management System (BMS) is supposed to work for you, it is your responsibility to put in the hard work and due diligence to find the right one for your needs. Putting in the time and effort to choose the right system for the right reasons can prevent you from having to go through the time-consuming transition from one BMS to the next not far off in the future.
Knowing your needs and capabilities
When looking for a new BMS, it helps to have a list of features you require. You can start by asking employees who will regularly use the system to inform you of their desires. Find out what they think will help them to do their job better.
"You should create a priority list of requirements (functionality) that you want the system to address," says Campion Jaques, director of global dealer catalog sales for ARI. "The typical items might include point of sale, inventory management, repair tickets and scheduling, easy user Interface, dashboard reporting and multi-store compatibility."
As a dealer, you need to find a BMS that works with the size of your dealership and can accommodate any planned or unplanned future growth. Not taking this into account at the beginning could lead to additional costs and hassle later on.
"A dealer should question if a system is scalable and designed to grow as they grow," explains Joe Miller, marketing director of c-Systems Software Inc. "Will it meet your needs now, in two years, in five years? Will the business system handle increases in the number of workstations or having a multiple-store operation?"
It's important to also be sure not just that the BMS can handle your business, but that your business can handle the BMS. Assess your capabilities and be sure you meet the hardware and software requirements necessary to operate the system.
"A dealer needs to evaluate all the different operating systems and hardware requirements necessary to efficiently run a complete business management software product," says Pete Rassega, vice president and CEO of nizeX Inc. "Many of the business systems offered today come with strict guidelines requiring a dealer to purchase and maintain various software- and hardware-related products to accommodate their system."
Another option for dealers is a web-based system, like the one offered by nizeX, that operates on any Internet-capable device and allows dealers to use their current computer systems without additional expenses.
Evaluate all options
Once you know what you need in a BMS, you can evaluate the providers and see if they are someone you would want to partner with. It's important to take the time and seriously evaluate all options before coming to a final decision.
"Don’t assume industry-specific BMS and solution providers are all the same," warns Greg Carradus, sales manager for Ideal Computer Systems. "All mowers cut grass, right? But you know there are big differences between mowers. There are also infinite differences between BMS providers."
Carradus also warns against choosing a system for the wrong reasons such as price or unnecessary bells and whistles. "Many software salespeople want to lure you in or distract you with appealing graphical non-essentials," he explains. "Remember to focus on the core operational requirements and solutions to your dealership’s challenges, now and in the future, when looking at your selection criteria."
Dealers looking for a BMS might have the best luck sticking to something that is industry-specific. The providers that are tied the closest to the industry are more likely to understand your business and offer the features you desire.
"Industry experience translates into a keen understanding of how an outdoor power equipment dealership functions and a software program that addresses those unique requirements," says Jaques.
Once you have narrowed it down to a few options, request a thorough demonstration from the BMS provider for the key people in the decision-making process. From there, it's always a good idea to take it to the next step and get some references from other dealers. Obtaining dealer references can confirm the program’s true functionality.
"The best recommendation I have is to call for references and talk to people who are running the system you are considering," suggests Brian Steensma of Steensma Lawn & Power Equipment in Kalamazoo and Plainwell, MI. "You'll never think of all the questions, but if there is a glaring hole in the software, another dealer will probably be able to tell you. They will speak candidly, especially if you know them."
Training and support
In choosing a BMS, it's important that you not only get the features you are looking for, but the service to back them up and keep you running smoothly. Your provider should be a great help through the transition into the new system and beyond.
"Product support is arguably the most important factor when evaluating business systems," says Miller, who suggests you ask the following questions when choosing a BMS. "Does the business system company provide on-site training? What about phone support? Do they provide ongoing web training and regional seminars? Do they have a knowledgeable support staff to help keep your system up and running smoothly? Does the company have a dedicated customer support department?"
Having just gone through the transition of taking on a new BMS, Steensma is a strong believer in quality support and believes most high-end providers will leave dealers satisfied.
"Support after the transition is something you can get across the board from the well-established software companies," says Steensma. "They are charging a premium and I don’t think they would be able to get that if they didn’t provide the support. You get what you pay for."
Taking on a new BMS is a huge undertaking that can take a long time. With the right provider by your side, you will be given a strong understanding of how the system works and how your business is performing, bettering your chances at improved business management and success.
"Don’t think that training and support aren’t important in your decision," says Carradus. "First-time BMS buyers generally rate the level of ongoing support very low in their decision-making process. Most second-time BMS buyers rate the level of on-going support as the top factor in their purchase decision. Bottom line, support is crucial to your long-term success."