I used to believe that new customers who purchase software should take the time to learn the setup of the software and invest the time to really get to know the inner workings at the get-go. I’ve changed.
Although this is important to use the software very well, it’s not always realistic in business. So what is the magic solution? Is there one? I think it’s about balance and compromise.
We have gone through the process a few years ago with our CRM system. This was a huge undertaking. We tried to do as much as we could ourselves. We learned, we did, we juggled our regular duties with all this at the same time. It was hectic. When we found a good company that had experts in this particular CRM, we started using them. Things got done faster, better, our stress levels dropped. We invested in experts and reverted our focus on our business, woodworking software. Today, we don’t hesitate to call upon our CRM partner for special projects. They get done well, they get done fast and they get done with as little pain as possible.
When a new software system is implemented, it can disrupt many areas of a business. This is normal. You buy software to make things better. Better means some things need to change, improve and evolve. Populating new software, however, does not have to be painstakingly done by the end user. If you have the opportunity for a company that specializes in this to create your library, your materials, your assembly methods, etc., then it may be worth considering. Having a lot of this stuff done for you while your employees continue to focus on what makes your business money, could be a wise investment. Learning how to use the software as you set it up is not necessarily the most efficient way of going about it.
We noticed this with the ERP system we offer. This type of software is probably one of the most intensive systems to set up. It requires a lot of input at the beginning stages. Many companies are not willing to make the initial resource commitment to setting this up. As the vendor, we look at the setup and see it as a less daunting task because we’ve done it numerous times. We are able to populate and set up many areas of the software much quicker than a new user. We’ve started doing this to ease the implementation for new users. This allows them to commit fewer resources at the beginning stages, focus on the crucial things they need to be involved in and still be rewarded by the benefits of the new software.
When we start the training, we are then looking at software that has been populated with the customers’ data. Even the training makes more sense, because the trainees can see familiar content in the software rather than irrelevant items that are installed by default. We see this often with designers as well. Showing a designer how to create the cabinet they are looking for is not always the right approach. Showing a designer how to find the cabinet they are looking for is an easier lesson to learn.
The area of caution would be the upkeep of all this information entered in the software. Be sure to understand if you can easily maintain this information going forward, or if you will be faced with hefty charges to have the vendor maintain it. Some software business models are based on the assumption that you will keep coming back for chargeable changes to your catalogue or other data. Understand what will happen going forward as early as possible.
Fifteen years ago I was adamant about teaching each and every new customer I trained everything about the software and having them painstakingly understand the inner workings of the setup. It may be a shock, but I’ve changed. Some say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Perhaps that’s not true or maybe I’m not an old dog yet.
Peter Mate is co-owner and president of Planit Canada, a software and services company devoted to servicing the manufacturing industry. For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit planitcanada.ca