Top Questions to Ask When Selecting an Inventory Management System

Inventory mismanagement costs organizations over a trillion dollars every year on a global basis. Without updated, immediate visibility into inventory statuses – knowing exactly what you have and where it is located in real-time – businesses face data inaccuracies and issues such as the inability to fulfill orders or costly emergency stock orders. In order to rectify this issue, organizations look for expert help on how to improve their business processes and operations with an inventory management software system. But the multitude of choices on the market can make selecting such a system difficult, since product capabilities can vary and your choice directly affects the successful adoption and usage of the inventory management system within the organization.

Here are the top four questions you should ask before choosing an inventory management system.

1. What Are Your Top Business Challenges and Requirements for Your Organization?

Organizations across sectors (such as education, healthcare, manufacturing, construction, government and more) struggle with inefficient processes and outdated systems that can be solved with the right inventory management software. To select the best solution, the first step is to identify your business requirements for tracking and managing various inventory types. 

Requirements are best stated by identifying your existing challenges, such as inaccurate inventory balances, delayed order fulfillment, customer/client dissatisfaction, higher operating costs/reduced profit, lack of visibility, overstock/understock conditions and the frequency of emergency orders. There will likely be other challenges specific to your industry or business that you face but the bottom line is this: Without accurate insight into your business problem, it is more difficult to select the proper solution.

Determining what operational challenges you need to solve in turn guides the requirements that dictate which software and features are most suited to your business needs. Some considerations could include data accessibility, automated reporting, security, segmentation, data analytics, automated backups, multi-location tracking and much more. Both cloud-based and server-based inventory control solutions have pros and cons, and your business requirements can help narrow down suitable solutions.

2. Can Your New Software Be Customized or Integrated Into Your Existing Data Systems?

Data silos can prevent proper inventory management, cause inaccurate general ledger balances, reduce employee accountability and more. Inventory management doesn’t happen in a vacuum – it often requires integration with other systems to ensure accurate financial reporting, current knowledge of product stock and conditions, proper forecasting order amounts and dates, timely order fulfillment and analysis of operational processes and efficiencies. 

In order to choose the best inventory control solution, you need to be able to integrate it with your current data systems. This includes any financial programs such as accounting or job/contract pricing systems in order to generate accurate insights such as your revenue, expenses, inventory turnover ratio and project costs. You need to be able to see at a glance real-time data such as your daily sales and income so you can make the best decision for your company when it's time to order more parts and/or products without overstocking or understocking. 

So, look at your existing software programs. What systems are you currently using that will need to integrate with your new inventory management program? 

Another consideration includes customization. Ideally, you want an inventory control solution that requires very little customization or work-arounds to fit with your business model and inventory management needs. A system that meets most of your requirements for data entry and inventory control reduces the potential for error, but at times, customization may be necessary to ensure your solution works as best as possible and properly integrates with existing data systems.

3. Is the Inventory Management System Easy to Use and Does It Include Product Support?

As you compare each different system, consider how easy it will be for your employees to use. Productively using any new program will include a learning curve, but a difficult or non-intuitive program won't be quickly adopted by your team. Likely they might never fully implement it and you'll find everyone reverting back to their old program or spreadsheets. If one solution cannot be customized to fully accommodate your data entry needs, it’s likely that the workarounds may hinder product usability, in which case you should consider other inventory management systems that help your employees successfully use the application.

Talk with a knowledgeable source about your specific requirements, one who is capable of guiding you through the selection process, conducting product implementation and onboarding and offering product training and support. Often, it’s best to seek out an expert value-added reseller who’s well-versed in different solutions and can listen to your business needs, explain the benefits and limitations of various solutions and help you select and implement the best solution to fit your requirements. 

You don't want to buy an inventory management solution only that doesn’t meet your needs, doesn’t integrate with your key business systems and is difficult to use. The value of a third party integrator is their ability to help you reduce the chance that your new system is a poor fit.

4. What Budget Is Available for This Project?

At the end of the day, even if you do find the best software program on the market, it won't do you any good if it's out of your budget range. So, map this out before you get started looking for a new system. When you know what your available budget is you'll be able to stick to the choices within your price range and make the best decision for your company.

Thankfully, with so many cloud-based products coming out on the market today, the ability for businesses to upgrade their inventory management systems has increased dramatically. Now, you can upgrade to a more robust program at a lower introductory price than ever before. 

However, you don't want to only look at the introductory software and hardware price. You will also need to consider the price of implementation and onboarding, annual licensing costs and any on-going support plan you may need to purchase. Before you purchase, be sure to ask how much product support is included in the price or if it will need to be added on as an ongoing cost of the software implementation.

Find the Perfect System for Your Business Today

As you navigate these considerations, you should be able to determine the product features that best fulfill your company’s inventory management needs. Your business requirements will ultimately dictate what inventory management program is best for your particular data requirements, customization and integration needs, usability requirements and fits your budget. For expert assistance with finding the most compatible solution, turn to a value-added reseller like BarcodeShack – an organization capable of leveraging a proprietary, rapid requirements analysis system to help identify and meet your needs. 

If you're ready to take control over your inventory management processes, then you should consult with a product expert. Our team here at BarcodeShack specializes in helping companies just like yours decide, integrate, implement and use their optimal inventory management solution. We leverage an in-depth, consultative approach to ensure our product recommendations and customizations perfectly match your business requirements. Contact us today at BarcodeShack for assistance with choosing the best inventory management software for your business.