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Technology: Top 10 tips for choosing the right software

June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Selecting the ideal software for a flooring business should not be done in haste. That is according to several software manufacturers that urge dealers to take their time getting to know and understand the ins and outs of each system.

New software—whether it is a store’s first system or simply taking the place of an existing program—often requires a dealer to invest time and money before it is running at maximum efficiency. In addition, employees must be more open to adapting to the new business/measuring/inventory system, which can greatly affect the success of the software.

Following are 10 things to consider before leaping into a new software purchase.

Evaluate your business cycle. When considering new software, experts say it is important to know the current status of your business cycle and where the company needs to be to increase revenue and reduce operational costs. The right software should reduce or eliminate errors, minimize repetitive actions and lower operational expenses.

“If your business involves too many manual processes, your bottom line is affected,” said Edgar Aya, president, Comp-U-Floor. “Every time a mistake is made it affects your overall profit, reduces your selling time and directly impacts your overall business health. This is where the right software can make a huge impact on your profitability.”

Define your objectives. Before looking for software, dealers should create a list of what they want the program to achieve. For example, does a dealer want stock inventory? How important is inventory control? Does the dealer want to focus on automating paperwork and bookkeeping?

“Many people include every feature and function they ever heard about in their wish list of things they want the software to do,” said Joseph Flannick, president, American Business Software (ABS). He reminds dealers that all their software does not necessarily have to come from one vendor.

The main objective, he said, is to be realistic. “Think more along the lines of ‘must have’ vs. ‘nice to have.’ The larger the budget, the more things you can include in the ‘must-have’ category.”

Weigh the benefits of industry specific vs. generic. Software manufacturers say this choice depends on multiple factors, including the size of the company and the goals of the business, among other consideration. RFMS advises flooring dealers to look into flooring- specific software before investing in a generic program.

“Because of the uniqueness of the flooring industry—think about roll goods and inventory control or measure/estimating projects—most of the time industry-specific software is the best choice,” said Rod Bayless, director of sales and marketing.

Industry-specific software can also help eliminate errors prior to installation. Some experts believe measuring software should provide the installer with a clear drawing as well as all the information he or she needs for the project. “It should have a printout indicating where the flooring needs to be installed with all seams showing,” said Dennis Benton, president, NivBen. “It should also have a fill-cut sheet displaying the fills and their sizes. This will help the installers proceed with the project with ease.”

Choosing between cloud-hosted vs. cloud-based. Beyond comparing industry- specific programs with generic software, dealers should also look into the differences between cloud-hosted and cloud-based software.

“There are many companies that offer services for low monthly fees that are cloud-hosted,” Comp-U-Floors’ Aya explained. “This often means the older desktop technology was moved to a server, so it is easier for a provider to push out updates to all of its users at one time and allows for easy management of the older technology. This dated technology will not help you grow to meet customer demand.”

By comparison, cloud-based technology is fairly new to the flooring industry and often requires an upfront investment—namely time. As Aya explains: “It is written in the latest advanced code, is responsive to your devices anywhere and anytime, has links to other internal components within the software and allows using the Google Calendar Interface for installer or service scheduling.”

Look for an easy-to-use program. Software is designed to automate operations and maximize efficiency. To fulfill both those requirements, observers say, software must be easy to use for all users.

“If only one or two people in your company know how to use the software, it obviously limits the level of impact you will see,” said Chad Ogden, CEO and president, QFloors. “Look for user-friendly software that everyone in your company can learn—even those who are not particularly tech savvy. A good way to evaluate ease of use is to count how many different screens and clicks are required to perform a certain function.”

Look for integrated software. To remain relevant and profitable in today’s rapidly evolving flooring industry, using available digital technology combined with industry-specific software is key. This means taking the time needed to find the best fit so that you can benefit from the efficiencies, analytics and performance improvement available.

“Dealers should invest in a system with integrated accounting that seamlessly pairs their flooring-specific processes—such as job cost, inventory value, purchasing and other business reporting—in real time, and then flows easily to a system’s analytic platform to deliver critical business data in a readily comprehensible visualization format,” said Kelly Oechslin, marketing coordinator, RollMaster.”

Using an integrated soft- ware program also makes per- forming various tasks on a job site easier and can reduce human error, experts say. “The easier your measure solution is integrated with your business management the better,” said Steven Wang, president, Measure Square. “That way you don’t have double entry or need to switch to other software.”

Schedule system demos.After learning about a software’s benefits, bells and whistles, it is important to schedule an in-depth demo with team members from every department of your company. “Since each department will have needs that are specific to their area of the business, it might be best to set up a series of shorter demos with each department,” Bob Noe Jr., president, Pacific Solutions, explained. “Remember, if you have buy-in from the majority of your staff, the adoption of the software will be a much smoother process.”

Ask about tech support. Beyond a software’s features and benefits, dealers should also look into the quality of support available from each software company. This includes any resources available to help bring the staff up to speed as well as technical and training support.

“Training and technical support, if not included with your purchase, can sometimes be unanticipated ‘gotcha’ costs,” QFloors’ Ogden warns. “Before purchasing software, ask a lot of questions about the options and costs for training, conversion and ongoing support. Also, find out what your technical support will look like. For instance, after your purchase, can you call and talk with a live person if you have a question?”

Request referrals. Don’t just take the vendor’s word on it. Before choosing a software system it is important for a dealer to speak with other businesses that have used it. The key, according to Pacific Solutions’ Noe, is to find dealers of similar size and scope.

While speaking with those referrals, experts also suggest dealers ask about their experiences with the software company’s technical support and training staff.

Choose a system that evolves over time. A great software program will grow alongside a dealer’s business, experts say. To this point, it is important for dealers to evaluate where they want their business to go in the future and then select a system accordingly.