Business Management Software: Local versus Remote Vendors

When your business decides to invest in new inventory and accounting business management software, it is important that you spend the time preparing for the search, before actually speaking with vendors.  This preparation will help you identify and document your existing business processes, opportunities for improvement, available budget and time-frame as well as other factors that are important in making the right decision. One factor that seems to have companies divided is the desire to work with vendors that have local representation. We'll often speak with prospective customers who are insistent on only wanting to work with a vendor that has a local presence.  However, what may seem like a positive benefit can actually have some negative implications. Below are some of the more common reasons we hear in support of local representation, and the other side of the story.

“I want to make sure the vendor is legitimate.”

This is absolutely a valid point, as finding software to manage your business involves a large commitment of resources. However, making sure a vendor is legitimate is easier than ever with today’s technology. The internet has made it possible to search for vendor information, customer reviews, company executives, past projects and more. Prior to any serious consideration of acquiring a solution, it is strongly recommended as part of a business’s due-diligence that a thorough internet search be performed. Specific questions to ask the vendor include: how many installations have been performed of the specific software, what are the available support hours and who provides support, who performs the implementation and what is the process for doing so, and how are emergency issues dealt with?  In addition, asking for a list of references to contact (both good and bad), should give you a true idea of what the vendor is like to work with. Even if your business ends up working with a local vendor, it is just as important to perform the same research on them as well.

“I need support performed as soon as possible.”

Although many businesses may think it would be faster to have a support person show up at their company, the reality is that a support person working remotely can start on the problem immediately, instead of driving to your facility and then starting to solve the problem. In addition, having a representative visit your offices can sometimes disrupt other employees and may be more costly and time consuming when you factor in travel.

“Travel is expensive if the vendor is not local.”

This point is valid. Travel is expensive and not just for the company but for the vendor as well. However, consider that when a local vendor is called to come to your offices because your business has an issue, the clock normally starts at the time of the call, even though it might take 25 minutes for them to get to your office. This might not show up on an itemized invoice, but be sure it is included. When you call a support person who is going to address your problem remotely using Internet and/or phone, there is no travel and the 25 minutes can be spent fixing your problem instead of driving to your facility. So even with a local vendor, support is likely best performed remotely almost all the time.

“Support needs to see the problem I am having.”

Once again this issue can be addressed with the internet. With the use of tools such as TeamViewer® the support person has the ability to access your computer (with your permission) to see the problem, and then take control and troubleshoot the problem at the same time. No matter whether the system is implemented on-premises or hosted through the cloud, a dedicated support person should be able to access the software remotely.

“What about implementation and initial training?”

During the initial implementation and training period it is best practice that implementation personnel be at the customer facility in order to improve the quality of the Go-Live. This is one instance where having a local vendor might be more cost-effective, as travel expenses would probably be greater if the vendor is not local. However a good vendor will understand this issue and therefore be willing to share any travel and accommodation expenses with the customer.

In addition to the above, there are a couple of specific factors that should dissuade you from only considering a solution that has local representation:

Only considering local vendors drastically reduces the available options.

It should be obvious that this factor can have a huge impact on the software search. There are literally hundreds of business management solutions available on the market today; many of them having functionality best suited to specific industries.  Out of those hundreds available to be a potential fit, consider how many are not local to your office and therefore not being considered. Not because of their functionality but because they are not local. Amongst the most important considerations any company should consider when acquiring new business management software are functionality and industry fit.  In considering only local vendors, you may miss the software solutions with the best fit, which can seriously impact the success of the project.

Local representation does not mean that the vendor’s head office is local.

In most instances when business management software has “local representation” it does not mean that the representatives are even employees of the vendor. They may be contractors who have knowledge of the software and potentially have been licensed to sell the system. A question to ask yourself. “Would I rather work directly with the company that develops the software and has staff that work with the software day in and out OR with a consultant who might be licensed to sell multiple different solutions, none of which they might be experts in?”

Finding the right inventory and accounting business management software for your business is hard enough with all the different solutions available. When it comes to evaluating new systems consider functionality, support, references, and the many other aspects needed to make a good decision. Then if you still think location is important, consider if the vendor is local.

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