How to Choose a New Inventory Software System
Choosing a new inventory software system can be complex, so it's important to keep in mind a few simple tips before making your decision. Here's what to know.
Inventory management software, if implemented correctly, can help you save time, improve the accuracy of your product tracking, and even improve your bottom-line financials. However, there are many ways to get it wrong. If you choose a platform that’s hard to use, you’ll spend as much time training employees and correcting their mistakes as you’ll save by using it. If you pay too much for a platform that isn’t serving your needs, your return on investment (ROI) is going to plummet.
To make matters more stressful, there are hundreds of options to choose from. How are you supposed to select the “right” platform for your business?
The most important factor in your decision should be the core features of this platform. What is it, exactly, that this software system does for your business? Some software platforms are set up for basic inventory tracking, providing you with a minimalistic set of tools for this purpose. Others are more like enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, providing you with comprehensive functions that can help you in multiple areas of your business simultaneously.
Similarly, some software platforms are generic, capable of being utilized by practically any business with some kind of inventory need. Others are specialized, catering to businesses within a certain industry, or those that face specific types of challenges.
As you might expect, there isn’t a single “right” or “wrong” way to approach this category. It all depends on your business’s needs. Conduct an audit to determine exactly what you’re trying to get from your desired software platform, ideally before you begin the search.
Desktop vs. Cloud Software
You’ll also need to decide whether you want to use a desktop software platform or lean on cloud software. Cloud-hosted software features many advantages; for example, cloud software is available on any device with an internet connection, without requiring a locally installed version. It also gives you more collaborative potential, since multiple people can work on the same entries simultaneously. Cloud software may also be more secure, and require less ongoing maintenance. However, it’s not right for every company in every situation.
Security and Privacy
Speaking of security, you’ll need to make sure the platform you choose has plenty of features and options for security. Do your due diligence to determine how this software developer collects and stores information, and what kind of extra layers of encryption or data backups are keeping your data safe.
It’s also a good idea to choose a platform that has a sufficient level of administrative control. In other words, how closely can you manage different user permissions for different types of accounts?
Scalable software is almost always a good thing, but it’s practically necessary if you plan to expand your company in the future. Choosing a company with multiple tiers of offerings and plenty of options for companies of all sizes will give you more flexibility in the future. Check to see how many users you can have on a single platform, and what kind of features can be added in the future.
Some inventory management platforms provide you the opportunity for customization. They either have open source workings that an in-house developer could use to build custom add-ons and adjustments, or are flexible enough to offer different buildouts for different customers. Depending on the nature of your business, this may or may not be necessary. If you have significant needs that deviate from the norm, you’ll want to choose a platform that affords you some customizability. If not, an out-of-the-box solution may be more efficient.
Analytics and Reporting
Inventory reporting is a critical part of most inventory management strategies. A good platform will make it easy to analyze your efforts and produce reports that are readable by a variety of different audiences. How hard is it to create a new report from scratch? Do these reports provide intuitive visuals? Is it easy to draw conclusions that are actionable?
UI and Usability
UI may seem like a subjective factor, but it can greatly influence how your employees use this platform. Trust your gut here; when you begin using this platform for the first time, is it obvious which features will be the most helpful? If you need some training and instruction to use the platform, are they short and easy to follow? The more intuitive your platform is, the more time it’s going to save, and the more accurate its entries are going to be.
The more time you spend evaluating your business’s unique needs, and the more research you do, the better decision you’ll eventually make for your business. Your inventory management platform has the power to save you tons of time and money—so long as you make the right choice.
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