Software Knowing When to Upgrade
By Alicia Orr Suman
How do you know when it's time to upgrade your fulfillment software? Of course, looking at the number of orders processed by your distribution center is the first consideration. But it's a more complicated issue than that. Expansion into new markets or new business channels such as the Web also may necessitate a more sophisticated software system. Then there are other factors specific to your business to consider.
To determine whether you should pursue a software upgrade, first take a look at your operation's current business processes. As a mailer that recently went through a software upgrade, Daryle Scott, president and CEO of Venus Swimwear and managing partner of WinterSilks, advises other mailers to determine their needs before shopping for new software. "The question to ask is, what are your needs and what's out there to meet those needs."
Signs That It's Time
What are some of the signs that it's time to change your fulfillment software? The usual warning signs are related to four key areas, according to Ernie Schell, president of Marketing Systems Analysis and author of "The Guide to Catalog Management":
>data integrity; and/or
To clarify each of these factors, Schell explains, "If your order volume growth outpaces your system's capacity, it's time to change. If new business requirements cannot be met by your current system functions, it's time to change. If you can't get the kinds of reports you need, or have problems with data integrity (leading to lost orders, double charging, poor returns management, etc.), you need to resolve these issues—or start looking for alternatives. And finally, if the vendor is not able to respond effectively to your queries or your needs, the party will soon be over."
What Are Your Needs?
The functionality issue is what led Mitch Siegler, president and CEO of the Sovietski Collection catalog, to start investigating a change in fulfillment software systems. "We've been wrestling with the question of whether/when to upgrade our catalog management system for the past two-and-a-half years," he says. "2003 will likely be the year we actually take the plunge."