Last month, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of one of Blue Link’s oldest, active customers. While 25 years might seem like a long time to be using the same ERP software, if you can find a trusted technology partner that can grow with your business, this is the ideal situation. Replacing your business software every couple of years is a very time-consuming and costly project, and while certain situations warrant a change, this is why it’s important to take the time to find the right software solution from the beginning. So how long is the right amount of time to stay with your software vendor? When does it make sense to change business systems? We’ve gone ahead and included information about both.
1. The software is no longer supported.
This one is a bit of a no brainer. As soon as you learn that your software solution is losing support, it is time to start looking for a replacement. Even if you don’t tend to use support very often, all it takes is one time where you can’t connect, you have an issue with your data, or you need help….for your business to fall apart. Some software vendors may also decide to “sunset” their software, which means that they decide to stop developing the system and fixing bugs. While this is different from losing support, it means that the product is approaching its end of life and will soon lose support. This is another good reason to start looking for a replacement – you want to make sure your system always has the latest and greatest in technology and features.
2. Your business has outgrown the system.
Congratulations! Your business is growing. While some businesses tend to grow and evolve faster than others, this is not necessarily an immediate cause to upgrade your system and there are certain situations where upgrading may not be the best approach.
When to Upgrade
If you’re using introductory business software, such as QuickBooks, business growth is definitely a reason to start shopping elsewhere. Although QuickBooks is a great accounting solution, it has a lot of limitations on the functionality it can provide for growing businesses in need of inventory management, robust reporting and other capabilities. And since QuickBooks is an introductory software solution, it is designed for exactly that. To be the starting system for small companies until they start to grow. Even if you’re able to bolt on a few different software solutions to provide functionality QuickBooks lacks, it’s important to evaluate how long before your company outgrows this functionality too. Introductory systems also tend to have limits on the number of users, companies, and the transaction volume it can handle.
When Not to Upgrade
If you’re using a more robust ERP software, make sure you talk to your software vendor before you decide to start looking elsewhere. ERP solutions are designed to scale with your business and so many vendors will provide optional features to help meet the changing needs of your company. For example, if your business is ready to start selling online or has a customer interested in using EDI, or you want to add more users. With ERP software, you can “turn on” additional features to help your growing business without needing to replace the entire solution. This is a lot easier and less costly than trying to find something new. When you first implement an ERP solution at your business, make sure you figure out your options for adding on other features down the road.
3. You want to move your business to the cloud.
Moving to a cloud-based solution is a great reason to upgrade your software. Maybe you’re tired of dealing with IT issues, or maybe your hardware and servers need upgrading. Whatever the situation, upgrading to the cloud allows you to focus your attention on running your business, and not on maintaining software. With a cloud-based solution, IT maintenance, upgrades, backups, security etc. are all the responsibility of the software vendor and not your team.
4. Poor technical support.
Your ERP software runs your entire operations – so you want to make sure you have access to expert support to make sure the systems are running smoothly, and to get answers to your questions quickly. You want to work with a software vendor who takes the time to understand your business to help you succeed in the market. If you feel like you’re “just another number” to your software vendor, it’s time to find a company who will work with you to help you achieve your goals.
5. An increase in software license costs.
Ever hear the term bait and switch? It describes a situation where a customer is “baited” into purchasing something due to certain promises or low prices, only to have that promise or price “switched” at a later date. This is why it’s important to always read the fine print when evaluating different software solutions, the functionality offered and the price. You want to make sure that the price you agree to today, will not all of a sudden increase. While increasing prices is a natural part of doing business, you want to make sure that you understand any price increase implications from the beginning. Some vendors may charge you a certain “discount” rate for the first year, only to increase that rate for the years following.