Carlson agrees: “Over the years, development is constant; we update all clients twice a year. We based these new features on customer feedback. If we discover a feature even two customers have requested, we will add it to the next development cycle and offer the option to everyone.”
Many packages allow the user to specify the level of automation it requires from its operations management software to meet their comfort level.
“Customers can customize how hands-off they want to be,” Dan Barton, director of sales and marketing, Grossman and Associates. “Some companies use it as a failsafe — where they approve actions between steps; other places are comfortable with allowing most tasks to be automated.”
4. Cross-platform Integration
Companies should spend extra time researching the computer language the software and accounting package is written in to ensure the platform is using up-to-date standard code, suggests Reed Schneider, who works in business development with iRely-Summit Software.
“A system may look graphical, like its Windows-based, but it’s actually built on a DOS or green-screen accounting system underneath — meaning problems will come when you want to drill down into current or historical data — and access to live data will ultimately be impossible,” Schneider says.
Make sure the software is truly fully integrated. Schneider explains: “You don’t want to end up with a modular system that has been cobbled together from different sources. We call this the Tower of Babel effect. When you have different languages and different types of operating systems, it will likely lead to a problem.”
Buyers with existing systems must ensure the new system can operate on multiple platforms on multiple locations and that it has the bandwidth to support the amount of data being generated.
5. Data Dashboard
As mentioned earlier, we live in a world of instant gratification, and manager and merchandisers need the tools to be able to make decisions faster. Upper management doesn’t necessarily want to take the time to learn how a software package works so a data dashboard offers a customizable, at-a-glance overview of pertinent information without the need to drill down deep into the software.
“Management wants to know information, but doesn’t want to hunt for it,” Carlson says. “A dashboard offers this solution by allowing the user to pull the screen up and see the company’s cash position, grain positions, where accounts receivable and accounts payable is at, and view its cash flow statements.”
6. Improved Customer Service
The residual benefit of these efficiencies is the ability for grain elevators and feed mills to provide better, more accurate service to their customers. Companies are increasingly automating the dissemination of administrative and communications duties to make the operation leaner; for example, a distribution system sending statements, pay receipts and invoices to customers.
7. Cost and Labor Savings
A strong software package can create profitability once everything is streamlined within one system. The move toward paperless, integrated software means less waiting and the dedication of fewer resources toward administrative responsibilities.
“The big goal is to install a system with one touchpoint, all your work in one place — it’s integrated so no one is doing double entering,” Drutman says. This allows the small office to focus on what [tasks] it thinks is important, and leaves the rest to the system.
Commit to technology
Though it may cost more money on the front end, it’s better to invest in new technology that does what you want and need rather than dealing with the consequences of an antiquated system.
“Sky’s the limit,” Barton says. “Technology has proven to be the most valuable tool because you can do anything with it. It’s great because you can tailor the software to do exactly what someone wants it to. Not everybody needs it to do the same thing, but you have that unique ability to give them what they need.”