• Assessing Business Needs for Distribution Accounting Software

You have been assigned the immense task of finding the right Distribution Accounting Software for your company. You’re working with a tight deadline and need to find the right vendor as fast as possible. But before you pick up the phone to call that first vendor, ask yourself, “Do I know exactly what the business needs in a software solution?” and, “How well do I know the company’s operational processes? Well enough to comfortably speak with vendors about them?”

If the answer is no, make the time to sit down with the key decision maker(s) of the project, before you start your search to go over some of these areas. You may decide to include them early on in the process for initial conversations with vendors if you feel they can provide more insight and better explain company needs.

Now, if you are the business owner or decision maker that’s executing the search, keep in mind that you should consult and involve the appropriate employees that will benefit the most out of the software as well. For example, when seeking Distribution Accounting Software, it’s important to discuss the needs of your accountant such as the type of data they’re looking for, types of reporting capabilities needed, which manual reporting processes should be eliminated with software etc. It will be time-saving to have them sit in on the conversations with vendors so they can raise any red flags or shortcomings in the beginning of the search process.

It is also important to keep in mind that while it is useful to have a key point person “Project Manager” to head the search, other appropriate members of your team should regularly be updated on the status and information regarding the search. The project manager should keep clear documentation and notes on vendors as well as details on the progress of the search in case they are no longer able to continue with the project due to sudden absence/leave, dismissal, illness etc. This way, even if the point person is removed from the search process, another member of the team will be able to jump in and continue the search saving the company time and resources by not having to re-start the process and re-evaluate vendors.

Things to consider:

Wants vs. Needs

Identifying the difference between company needs and wants when it comes to Distribution Accounting Software, will help you understand the type of functionality that will be a priority vs. ‘nice to have’ items. So, how do you go about identifying this difference?

You need to ask the decision maker(s) as well as those involved in the search “Do we NEED the system to act a certain way or do we just WANT it to”. This will help you identify if the business is flexible enough to change its processes to get the most out of specific functionality. Keep an open mind and think outside the box of how processes have always been and how tasks have always been completed. This will also determine if your business will be able to benefit from having just base features, or if you need additional components or if custom work is needed.

  • Base Features – Most true ERP solutions will provide base functionality for inventory and accounting such as General Ledger, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Bank Management, Sales Orders, Purchase Orders, Reporting, Invoicing and Quoting. Some vendors may also provide Multi-currency capability, Barcode Scanning as part of their base package. For many businesses, these out-of-the-box features are all that is needed to improve operational processes.
  • Sophisticated Optional Functionality – What differentiates ERP systems from introductory software and even legacy software is sophisticated functionality. Depending on the vendor, you will have a choice of optional components at an additional cost. These advanced features can often be of great use for some companies. Some of them may include CRM, Electronic Document Management, Apps for Sales Reps, B2B Online Customer Ordering Portals, Mobile Picking, Advanced Financial Reporting to name a few.
  • Customization- Customization entails modifying or adding features to a particular system to adhere to specific tasks. So, if a business decides to add on or modify features, this is where custom work comes into play.

Industry Specific Features

Are there certain processes that are unique to your industry? Some vendors offer industry specific functionality developed to cater to businesses needing special requirements. For example,  functionality developed for the pharmaceutical industry that allows pharmaceutical distributors to meet industry standards/regulations/compliance. Landed Cost functionality for importer/exporters that require tracking of hidden inventory fees such as taxes, duties, freight etc. Another industry specific functionality is Lot Tracking also known as Traceability that many industries rely on for product recalls and product warnings as well as for better inventory management purposes. It is always best to raise these necessities early on in the search process to ensure the vendor is able to meet industry standards.

Timeframe

Collaborating with several team members for the search is especially important when establishing a timeframe. It is important everyone is able to treat the search as a priority before speaking with vendors. Confirm with your decision maker(s) on when the software implementation should take place. There may be plans and releases that you are unaware of which could impact the level of priority for acquiring new software. Keep in mind that implementation is not an overnight process and the time it takes to get set up with the software depends on several factors such as the amount of data to be migrated, software training, and also the vendor’s schedule.

Having a good understanding of your company’s Distribution Accounting Software requirements also helps the vendors you speak with provide you with more accurate pricing based on your unique needs. You will also save time not having to go back and forth with the decision maker(s) on key decisions when specific needs are thoroughly addressed before the search.

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