Making the decision to switch to a new business management system is not one dealers and contractors make lightly. The transition itself, from one system to the next, should receive the same amount of attention and consideration.
Plan and prepare
The main reason why a business management system fails in meeting the user’s expectations in the first place is usually because proper research and preparation weren’t involved. Systems should be researched in the fall so the decision is well thought out by the time of the transition in the offseason.
“The best time to switch systems is in the offseason,” says Glenn Zior, vice president at Sensible Software, contractor business management system provider. Zior says they are busiest helping customers switch to their system in the months of January through March.
Before a transition is a good time to clean up your data and assess any products or services you offer. There is no sense in carrying over unnecessary data.
“To do it properly, you have to go through your old data and clean it up,” advises Joe Miller, marketing director at c-Systems Software Incorporated, dealer business management system provider. “Cleaning up the database involves unveiling inventory that hasn’t seen activity in a considerable period of time. You can also restructure into a new format at this time to follow manufacturer guidelines.”
Train to gain
Proper training ahead of time helps the transition to go that much smoother. “Those who haven't experienced a transition yet don't tend to put the resources forward for their people to receive proper training,” says Miller. “Doing the preliminary training well in advance of converting to the new system makes the transition so much easier.”
Extra help along the way
Hiring a part-time employee to help with data transfer during the transition could help things to go smoothly and not disrupt customer service. But depending on the size of your business—if your customer base is on the small side—you may want to just start over clean instead of transferring data.
“Some people have had such a mess before that they just want to start over and not import data,” says Zior. “It’s a good time to start from scratch and get a clean start.”
Assigning a coordinator
The same person you hire or appoint to transfer data could also serve as a “coordinator” or point person for the transition, and work between the software provider and staff to facilitate a smooth transition.
“The point person coordinates between the software provider and the business to ensure that the information exchanged is correct and that employees are meeting their training goals,” says Miller. “If you run into an issue with the process, the point person at the dealership can work with the point person at the software company to work it out.”
Keeping customers in the loop
It is also good practice to inform customers of any changes beforehand in case there are any hiccups in the transition. Miller suggests a notification on invoices or sending out an email explaining the change.
“It keeps the customer up-to-date of what's going on with your business, and shows the customer that you're working to provide better service,” Miller says.