6 Costly Software Selection Mistakes

September 10, 2015

Software Selection MistakesFor many wholesale and distribution companies, replacing internal inventory and accounting ERP software is like going to the dentist; necessary, but potentially painful. Even for those businesses who consider the software purchase as a strategic investment, it can still cause stress and anxiety among employees.  Often, you can stave off the need for replacement with preventive action such as upgrades. This is why it is important to invest in software maintenance, and to find a software vendor that will also upgrade any customization work you have done – without charging more.  However, if the system you’re using will no longer be supported, or if there has been a change in the business that renders it inadequate, you have no choice but to go to market. And when you do, it’s easy to make big mistakes. Here are the biggest ones.

  1. Requirements not defined properly (which can lead to nasty surprises).

This mistake is often the result of a rushed sales and implementation process, and poor communication with the software vendor.  It is as much your responsibility as a company to define your requirements as it is that of the vendor you work with to spend the time learning about your business, and asking the right questions.  Be wary of vendors who try to rush your company to the demo and proposal stage and especially of those who offer price incentives based on specific timeframes.  To avoid this mistake, find a vendor who spends the time getting to know you and your business in order to make sure that their software is the best fit for your needs.  Lastly, never assume that certain features will be available; always check with the vendor to make sure you’re not missing functionality critical to business operations.  Once again, this should not be an issue with a vendor that does a detailed job during the sales process.

  1. Lack of buy-in.

If the people who are going to use the system are not motivated to make it a success, you’re headed for trouble.  This includes those employees in management positions with decision making power and those who will be using the system at various levels within the company.  Resistance from employees is a natural reaction, however there are certain steps you can take as a manager to ease the transition to new software.

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Blue Link ERP – Product Spotlight Video

September 1, 2015

News Release: Blue Link speaks with TechnologyAdvice.com about Blue Link’s Inventory and Accounting ERP software.

The following summary post is from TechnologyAdvice.com, a website that provides reviews and rankings of business software, including customer relationship management tools, the best ERP software, and more.

Recently our very own Samantha Hornby, spoke with Eric Perry of TechnologyAdvice to go over a few features, best practises and what makes Blue Link ERP software unique.

Samantha described how Blue Link ERP is an all-in-one inventory management system and accounting ERP system targeted at small to medium sized businesses with approximately 5-100 people. Check out the full interview video or read below for a transcript of the conversation.

TA: Welcome Technology Advice viewers to this week’s product spotlight.  I’m joined today by Samantha Hornby, the marketing manager of Blue Link, an ERP software provider.  Samantha, describe Blue Link ERP in one sentence.

Hornby: Blue Link ERP provides inventory management and accounting ERP software for small to medium size businesses, primarily those in the wholesale and distribution industry.

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Beware the RFP When Evaluating Wholesale Software

August 28, 2015

RFPYou may have heard the term RFP before used in a business setting, or perhaps your company has even considered issuing one.  For those unfamiliar with the term, RFP stands for “Request For Proposal” and according to Wikipedia is “a solicitation, often made through a bidding process, by an agency or company interested in procurement of a commodity, service or valuable asset, to potential suppliers to submit business proposals.” RFP’s are often preceded by either an RFI or RFQ  – or sometimes both.  An RFI is a Request for Information and an RFQ is a Request for Quote.

RFPs are used in a variety of industries and can be submitted when companies wish to receive information about specific wholesale ERP software.  In general issuing an RFP informs the software vendor that your company is actively searching for a new system and provides additional information such as:

  • Background information on the company and how it operates
  • What prompted the search and where the need for software derives from
    • This includes information on current challenges and opportunities
  • What specific functionality is required
  • Who will be competing for the final sale
  • The process for making a decision

Due to the amount of information included in a typical RFP, the documents themselves are quite long.  Taking this approach to finding a new software solution may seem beneficial, but these types of documents are becoming less and less common and are not ideal for smaller businesses.  Below we have highlighted some important factors to keep in mind before deciding to issue an RFP, RFQ or RFI.

Are you able to document your existing processes in significant detail?

Small businesses may not have formal procedures in place to document and submit as part of an RFP.  In this situation it is often while working through the sales process and having discussions with software vendors, that businesses are able to better identify their existing processes and areas for improvement.  Many small businesses take advantage of speaking with software vendors to get advice on how to best improve their existing processes and how software can help them achieve this.

In addition, for businesses coming off of introductory type systems, they may not be fully aware of all the features available to them as part of a proper wholesale solution.  This can make documentation difficult and time consuming and can result in incomplete information.

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Inventory and Accounting Software: Additional Tools for Your Sales Team

August 10, 2015

sales teamWe’ve all read a company’s “about” page on their website, claiming that their competitive advantage is their great customer service, and yet so many of these businesses are not taking advantage of software to better serve their customers.  Even with social media and the internet providing consumers with much of the information they need to make an informed purchase decision, a knowledgeable sales team is still a valued resource in many industries.  Traditionally, businesses have looked to back-end inventory and accounting software (ERP) with CRM or contact management tools as enough functionality for their sales team, but these tools often lack order taking features and analytics.  Whether interacting with customers on location, at tradeshows or in a showroom, equipping your sales team with the tools and information they need in a timely manner can make a positive impact on your bottom line.  To understand what functionality you need, first you need to understand your sales team.

Depending on the nature of your business and target market, you may benefit from using a small number of internal sales reps (employed and paid for by you) or an outside sales team (employed on a contract basis).  If you employ a small number of internal reps, than it may be worth it to give them full access to your back-end inventory and accounting ERP system. This way they have full autonomy to view available inventory, access customer information and place orders.  However keep in mind that many software systems charge based on number of users so this can become expensive.  In addition, you may want to restrict your sales team to only seeing certain information, and although this can be achieved with different permission settings, there are other options as well.  Consider implementing an online order portal or mobile sales application that is fully integrated with your back-end ERP system, as an alternative means of providing your sales reps the option to view inventory and place orders.

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Globalization and the need for Import/Export Software

July 30, 2015

globalization and softwareAs a result of major advancements in both policy and technology over several decades, international trade and foreign investment have become central to overall economic growth. Governments have successfully negotiated international agreements that are responsible for reducing many long-standing barriers to trade and foreign investment, ultimately promoting the flow of goods and services between nations. Due to the elimination of many different barriers to trade and investment, large corporations have established foreign factories as well as production and marketing activities with foreign partners, essentially creating a true borderless economy. In addition to foreign policies, emerging technologies have also played a key role in the globalization of the world’s economy by making it easier than ever to communicate with people across the world. Specifically, advancements in information technologies have provided many with access to a variety of tools for gathering information to help identify and pursue various economic opportunities. Consequently, globalization has made it attractive for businesses to establish importing and exporting operations. Exporting represents a major component of the overall health of a nation’s economy, where countries are rich with unique skills and resources. Importing is also important as domestic businesses often look internationally for resources that are either a) not readily available domestically or b) inexpensive elsewhere, that will help to drive down their cost of goods sold and increase profit margins.

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Why Accounting ERP Software Training is so Important

July 6, 2015

ERP training sessionThere is a reason that training is one of the most costly aspects of software implementations, namely that it’s also one of the most important aspects.  When upgrading to a sophisticated accounting ERP system from introductory software such as QuickBooks, there will be a significant learning curve.  This is not to say that such Tier 2 systems are all very complicated and difficult to use, but instead that the software necessary to help grow your business will require a better understanding of accounting principles and good business processes.  Without this kind of knowledge it’s tough to run a successful multi-million dollar company, and this is where good training comes into play – with regard to accounting functionality, inventory management and other areas.  To help you understand why training is so important, we have outlined some reasons below:

The better trained your employees are on a software system, the more productive they will be.  All things being equal, when employees feel confident using software they will rely on it more in order to perform their responsibilities. This in turn can help automate previously manual processes, therefore reducing the instance of human error.  This also means less time is wasted learning how to use a system every time you want to perform a task, and coming up with workarounds for managing certain processes.  ERP software is designed to improve and streamline processes in order to increase efficiency and reduce costs. A good vendor will work with you to evaluate existing internal processes and explore how they can be enhanced or improved upon with the help of software.

Proper training reduces costs. This may not seem like the case initially, however in the long run proper training reduces not only the costs of on-going support, but also the costs associated with lost productivity.  If you invest time and money on training up-front, employees will be better equipped to handle their daily responsibilities. This will also make it easier for employees to train new hires on the system, and to assist one another with software questions and issues.  If you’re upgrading from introductory accounting software, it is important that employees understand why the system works the way it does, not just how it works. Creating a strong internal network of system experts will make the transition to new software easier for employees, which can reduce the stress associated with such change.

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Food Distribution Software: What to Look For

June 22, 2015

food-distribution-wholesale-softwareThis post outlines specific functionality that one should reasonably expect from Food Distribution Software.

The food distribution industry is very unique in a number of different ways. With numerous standards and regulations set by governing bodies in place, as well as an overall level of quality that must be upheld to customers, it is important to employ a software system designed specifically for food wholesalers and distributors. Most software packages have similar standard inventory and accounting functionality that users have come to expect in a true ERP software system. However, it is the additional food industry specific features such as lot tracking, landed cost tracking, multiple units of measure, and flexible pricing that make a system optimized for the food industry.

Key Features:

  • Lot Tracking
  • Landed Cost Tracking
  • Multiple Units of Measurement
  • Flexible Pricing

Lot Tracking

This facilitates robust product traceability functionality in order to keep records of which customers received specific groups of items or shipments. The supplier and the date that items were purchased are also referenced, allowing managers to track an individual group of products throughout the supply chain, ultimately from supplier to end customer. This functionality is especially important to food distributors as it is a key competency in achieving FDA/ISO/CFIA compliance. Many companies in the food distribution industry rely on lot tracking to track internal and external lot numbers, manage best before and expiry dates, as well as simplify product recalls and warnings in case of an emergency.

Landed Cost Tracking

Landed cost tracking allows a food distribution company to account for all the costs associated with getting inventory from a supplier to their warehouse. This allows a company to arrive at its ‘true inventory costs’, which may include duty, brokerage, freight, insurance, and storage, in addition to the cost of the inventory itself. Landed cost tracking provides important information to business owners and decision makers when making purchasing and pricing decisions, as well as aids in maintaining target gross margins by accounting for the total inventory cost, and not just a sub-section of it.

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