Grower Vertical

This is a sidebar from the article Efficiency through technology from the March 2016 issue of Greenhouse Management magazine. Excerpt reprinted with permission by GIE Media, Inc.

Find the softwre system match to your growing operation

By Janelle Patterson
Greenhouse Management magazine

Greg Lafferty, senior account manager with Practical Software Solutions, advises growers who are considering purchasing new software to take these points into consideration during the process.

Before you search
  • Recognize current pains, define future goals. Begin with the end in mind, says Greg Lafferty, senior account manager with Practical Software Solutions. This is a big decision; it's going to run a good piece — if not all — of your business.

    He suggests looking at business processes as a whole to define challenges needing to be addressed by a new system. Understand the problems you’re trying to solve and what your goals are for the business in the future, he says.

  • Analyze and fix chaos. When recognizing business pains, some inefficiencies may come to light. Lafferty recommends addressing those before moving further in the process.

    Do some internal process analysis so that you are looking at your own business processes and start to clean up some of the chaos that might be going on, he says.

  • Make sure the shoe fits. As you research different software and provider options, you will find that no one size fits all. Keeping in mind goals for the new system, weed out candidates that would not fulfill your company's needs.

    Take those requirements and look for the best of breed solutions, explains Lafferty. They need to be the right fit for your business size.
    Lafferty equates size to complexity.
    As a product grows in sophistication to handle bigger business needs and problems, he says. It becomes a little bit more complicated and requires a more sophisticated staff.

Comparing candidates
  • Assess culture compatibility. Because software is only purchased by a business every five to 10 years, trusting the vendor with technical support during that time is important.

    Treat this like a marriage, Lafferty says. Make sure that vendor is going to be somebody that mixes well with [your] culture and provides value back to [your] business.

  • Dig into the demo. After slimming your options down to a few qualified candidates, make sure to test out their systems with some of the processes you need for your business.

    Dig beyond the PowerPoint slide and into the software itself to see how transactions flow, he says. It's reasonable to expect that the company has enough demonstration data in the system to create a sales order, watch it go through the shipping process and see how [the system] behaves.

  • Consider reputation. Once you get through the demos, determine a preferred vendor. Then check references.

    Ask [references] not only how the software performs for them but also how the publisher of the software behaves for them, advises Lafferty. Are they providing good customer support? Are they honest in their transactions?

System implementation
  • Embrace the change. After a vendor is chosen, having everyone on board is an integral part of a successful implementation. There has to be top-level management support, says Lafferty. If the ownership doesn’t think it’s important, then the project is going to fail.

  • Take the time to train. If you want to set yourself up for success you have got to be trained in the system, says Lafferty.

    Since this is both a financial and internal time investment, committing to proper training prevents a major crisis in the midst of production.
    It’s a tool just like any other piece of equipment, he explains. I would not hand anybody a tool and just out of the blue expect them to know how to handle it intuitively.