Software: Why retailers should avoid generic software packages

Home Inside FCNews Software: Why retailers should avoid generic software packages

April 11/18, 2016; Volume 30, Number 21

By Dev O’Reilly, founder and president of RollMaster

Flooring dealers seeking enhanced margin control and business management software should look exclusively at the options available from industry-specific software developers. Forget the generic, one- size-fits-all vaporware vendors. Forget in-house development. Flooring businesses need a partner who understands their operational objectives. The best plan is to select a flooring industry expert who has the resources and qualified personnel to initiate a structured implementation process with measurable milestones designed to create a function rich, profitable result.

Generic and/or in-house development efforts disrupt and distract core business objectives. This interruption has the potential to erode reasonable oversight and control. Some results of these kinds of efforts include overspending, undocumented software, untrained employees, irrelevant functionality and reliance on a single point of contact for industry enhancements, updates and support. History has proven that non-industry and in-house relationships quickly become unproductive and stressful.

Why do these efforts fail? Generic non-vertical and in-house software is rife with unanticipated costs. We have seen situations in which unexpected expenses increase the initial cost by one third.

The complexity of implementing generic, non-vertical and in-house software differs from flooring-specific software on several key issues. Some discrepancies include the number of end users, effects on tasks and responsibilities for the end user, culture, and integrity of the organization and budget.

In general, these differences are identified on a scale of size (bigger vs. smaller; more vs. less). A smaller example is the implementation of an office package while an example of larger product software is the use of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.

Implementing generic and in-house software often requires a redesign of the business process to align the software flow and organizational structures, which can be distracting and time and resource consuming. What we see frequently is customization of the software and the organizational structure do not align well enough for the program to be implemented. In this case, two alternatives are possible: the continued customization of the software or the redesign of the organizational structure and thus the business processes. Both options are problematic and very expensive.

Customizing the software usually results in loss of support when issues arise. Modifying business processes to accommodate generic and in-house software can cause major resistance to use of the software. Altered business processes modify the tasks and responsibilities of the end users, which can create confusion and lapses in control.

There are better options.

Flooring industry software is strategically directed to address our specific needs. Although generic vaporware and in-house software can provide a wide array of functionality such as CRM, word processors and spreadsheet programs, flooring vertical market software is developed, updated, documented and customized to meet industry needs.

Too often flooring businesses select a generic package based on incorrect assumptions about size, promises and sales prowess. These companies eventually give up and start over. The same goes for in-house software development. I have seen these efforts last for years, consuming significant resources and damaging the viability of several industry giants. Their first step after this failure is searching for a flooring industry vertical software developer. Generic vaporware vendors as well as in-house development efforts—regardless of resources, size and talent—will never keep pace with vertical market developers.

Selecting a flooring industry software specialist is vital for operational control, financial management and success. A flooring software vendor has a systematically structured approach for implementation. This kind of expert is experienced and focused on effectively integrating flooring software into the workflow of an existing organizational structure or an individual end user. Costs are identified and controlled, and successful results are anticipated.

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