Important Considerations When Selecting an Inventory Management System
Know how to differentiate between ‘must have items’ and ‘wish list items’: Wish list items tend to force initial system implementations outside of budgets and time frames, while adding little additional value to the new inventory management system. The initial phase of any new system implementation should always focus on business critical tasks to support daily operations. After you are beginning to earn your return on investment, then discussions regarding a second phase to incorporate wish list items should be started.
Realistically assess your internal project management and information technology expertise: When working with a software vendor for an inventory management system, it is critical to be up front about the availability of internal resources. Most software vendors can offer the project management and technical expertise needed to help implement their systems through their partners, minimizing the time your internal staff needs to spend on the project to well defined, planned meetings and conference calls. If internal staff are overburdened with project tasks and their regular work load, project timelines tend to slip and project momentum can be lost.
Focus on systems built upon readily available, well supported technology platforms: Unless you already have proprietary systems in place, it makes sense to consider inventory management systems that are based on popular, well known technology platforms. Considerations such as database, operating systems, reporting tools and bar code technologies are critical to long term support and reliability. For example, Oracle & IBM DB2 database administration are much more demanding from an IT support standpoint than Microsoft’s SQL Server family. Client software should be compatible with the latest windows operating systems such as Windows Vista and XP to ensure internal upgrade decisions would not affect the inventory system that is selected. Reports should be developed in a recognized tool such as Business Objects Crystal Report writer. All of the above give you flexibility in the future in terms of support, data reporting and integration paths without having proprietary limitations imposed by the software vendor.
Find a software vendor that has local partnerships and an international client base: Having a local partner to turn to as well as the software vendor themselves offers you multiple paths for support and general questions. A local resource allows you to talk face to face when dealing with new operational concerns and will make addressing those concerns straight forward. A software vendor that has many international as well as government clients shows longevity and stability, allowing you to know you are not only purchasing an inventory management system but building a long term relationship to grow with as your business needs change.