5 QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CHOOSING INVENTORY MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE
Small business challenges are plentiful, and for every problem an organization encounters in the modern age, there seems to be new technology offerings and solutions. However, blindly sinking your money into shiny new tech can be a waste. According to Inc. magazine, “It’s important to separate which tech will help in the growth of your business from those that will ultimately wind up being just another toy in the toolbox.” New technology solutions should help you address the core of your business operations.
A study published in the science journal Decision Support Systems found that “process innovation has a consistent and long-lasting effect, whereas product innovation has an immediate but short-lasting effect.” According to the study’s authors, who analyzed a dataset of non-service firms in America, “Our results confirm the benefit of using innovation in logistics and operations management and point to the strategic importance of integrating technology and operations management.”
Inventory management is at the core of your logistics operations, and inventory management software can help you innovate at the process level. This type of innovation has a positive long-term effect. According to Forbes contributor Derek Broman, “Improving your inventory management can help you identify opportunities to free up limited capital.” He recommends outsourcing inventory management to a third-party inventory management system. To choose the best inventory management software, ask yourself the following questions:
What Challenges Does Your Business Face?
Identifying your biggest challenges allows you to find solutions. Talk to your employees and make sure they know why you’re asking them about the most challenging aspects of their jobs. Additionally, ask yourself which mundane administrative tasks you are spending the most time on.
One issue many small business owners face is finding the time to address areas for improvement. Day-to-day operations already consume the majority of their time. When it comes to small business challenges, Entrepreneur contributor Troy Dye points out that time management is one of the most common, and 65 percent of small business owners agree technology can help “streamline operations.” Streamlining operations frees up time to concentrate on people and their pain points.
Inventory management software saves time by automating the process of tracking inventory. It simplifies the task of viewing crucial inventory information and integrates with other programs you use to operate your business. The more time you save on inventory management, the more you can concentrate on higher-level challenges, such as marketing and staffing.
What Is Your Budget?
Once you know your business’s primary pain points, you’ll want to direct your spending and strategy toward solving the problems that are causing pain. Crunch the numbers and determine how much you can afford to spend on improvements. You’re investing in your business because problem solving will eventually yield profits.
Yet spending money to improve operational efficiency could hobble the ability to tackle other problems. Small business owners must keep a careful eye on cash flow and limit unnecessary expenditures. Free small business inventory software solves the problem of risking too much upfront investment on logistics. During the lean years, when economy of scale is essential, you can’t afford not to innovate on your management processes with free solutions.
What Features Do You Need?
Many small business owners use Excel to track inventory, but the truth is Excel spreadsheets slow down warehouse operations. Not only do outdated spreadsheets require you to enter new data manually, they also require you to do the legwork of illustrating and sharing data.
Do you want team members to be able to access and update inventory data via smartphone without having to manually alter and send spreadsheets? Do you want to save time and effort by automating inventory management as your business grows? Do you want accurate records and charts that are easy to understand? These are all considerations when choosing your inventory management platform.
The biggest consideration is what you’ll need in the future as your business grows. The best inventory management software allows you to create new items and perform cycle counts so you can introduce new products and catch mistakes before they accumulate.
What Integrations Do You Need to Prepare for?
Integration is communication. When you’re choosing inventory management software, it’s best to prioritize communication. The best solution will be able to communicate with other programs you’re already using, or are planning on using — programs that are essential for running your business.
When it comes time to file taxes, you’ll want integrated inventory management software that will work with QuickBooks. Additionally, global ecommerce will account for 17.5 percent of retail by 2021. If you want a piece of the ecommerce pie, you’ll want an inventory software solution that will integrate with an ecommerce platform (such as Shopify). The ability to sync with a payment processor as well as shippers is an added bonus.
How Easy Is the Software to Use?
This is perhaps the most important thing to consider. How long will it take to learn how to use the software? Will integral employees be able to access and use it? The point of inventory management software is to save time and simplify and optimize the inventory tracking process. It takes too much time to figure out a system that’s hard to use, which undermines its purpose as a time-saving process optimization tool.
According to a Forbes article by Steve Sashihara, president and CEO of Princeton Consultants, one of the world’s largest printing companies used process optimization to improve the production line by 10 percent. The company was able to do this because optimization software made the production process easier, not harder. Look for an easy-to-use inventory management software solution like Boxstorm that is free from the get-go. Ease of use allows you to focus on the process and results, not the technology itself. You’ll see improvements from the ground up, and your bottom line will benefit in the long run.