- 14 August 2013
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You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole. Likewise, you can’t achieve maximum profitability running a generic ERP or accounting software package in the distribution world. You need a solution provider who understands the nuances of your business and has the functionality to support your unique needs. Answers to the following questions will help you narrow your field of vendors a bit.
• How many customers are distributors?
What is the exact number? Distribution is very different from other businesses. You don’t want to have to teach a software vendor how your industry works. Be sure to ask how many distributors—not general businesses—the company has implemented over the years. Further to this, different distribution businesses have their own needs. Ask more detailed questions such as how many companies the vendor has in your specific industry, whether that’s building products, fixings & fastenings, high tech goods etc.
• How long has the company been serving distributors?
Longevity in a technology provider can indicate whether the company has the proper experience and will be around in the future to support your business.
• Who are the people who will implement your software system?
Remember, you’re not only investing in software, you’re also investing in people. The #1 weakest link in IT implementations is typically reported to be consulting expertise, so make sure a vendor’s staff of design professionals, systems analysts, financial experts, and application, technical, and distribution consultants all understand distribution inside and out. They should be able to recommend strategies and processes for achieving best-in-class performance while demonstrating proven ability to complete implementations on time and on budget.
• Is there an annual users conference focused on the needs of distributors?
You will benefit tremendously from being able to network with your business peers and share best practices for profitability. Be sure the software vendor provides a forum for continuing education and networking with a significant user base of companies like yours. Also inquire if their customer base has any independent user groups and the number of distributors in those groups.
• Is the company a member of associations and buying/marketing groups in your industry?
Does the solution provider attend or speak at tradeshows, annual meetings, and other events in your industry? Do they work closely with advisory groups to develop functionality that meets your industry needs?