4 Pitfalls When Assessing SME Manufacturing Software – From an implementation Veteran

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Alice is a veteran of our onboarding team – the Success Team – and is personally responsible for 300 (and counting) software implementations at Unleashed. That’s around 3000 hours of listening to, problem-solving for, and advising SMEs – from multi-gym makers to microscope manufacturers.

Change is hard. But not as hard as working with outdated systems.

There’s no way around it: Change of any kind has its challenges. When you apply that principle to a business with multiple teams, all with different processes and needs – and opinions – the potential downsides of change start adding up, and can lead to decision paralysis.

But in my years of onboarding customers to cloud manufacturing software, there’s only one question you need to ask: Is your current system the best choice to support your business goals? If the answer is no, it’s time for a change.

With benefits like increased data accuracy, improved security & compliance, remote access, time & cost saving, and happier staff, evaluating and updating your current systems to a fully integrated, cloud-based inventory management can have a profound impact on your business.

As with any change, the first step is hard. But you’re in luck – we do this all the time, and have some tips to help you with the process and avoid some common pitfalls.

1. New = better?

The first questions to ask yourself are: Do you have a problem that needs solving? And will changing systems solve it?

As obvious as it sounds, this is key.

All too often people fall into the trap of thinking new = better, which is not always the case. The right system for your business depends on a lot of factors, including the complexity of your processes, your team, your budget, etc. Don’t rush to change without first identifying that there’s a problem with how you’re working that needs changing.

2. Lack of clarity: What’s the problem? 

Assuming step one is complete and you’ve established there’s a problem that needs solving, step 2 is to determine exactly what that problem is. “Our current system just doesn’t work” won’t cut it.

Knowing why your current setup doesn’t work is key to choosing your upgrade. To help you pin this down, here are some of the most common inventory problems businesses face:

  • Struggling with stock visibility
  • Time-consuming manual updates between eCommerce and your accounting system
  • Lack of batch- or serial-tracking
  • Inaccurate or invisible margins
  • Being tied to server-based systems that dictate where you can access your data
A businessman working at a cafe on his computer

As obvious as it sounds, not having a clear idea of what problem you want to solve by implementing manufacturing software is a common pitfall

3. Uncertainty about timing

The run-up to the start of a financial year is the perfect time to move software. It gives you a clean break, and the chance to stick with a single system for FY23 and beyond, with no need to keep old systems up and running for reporting purposes. So if it’s your Q4, don’t hold back.

If it isn’t, that shouldn’t mean waiting a year. As long as the implementation is handled correctly, there is no reason to delay – whatever the time of year.

So the answer to ‘When is the right time?’ is basically ‘Now’. If your current systems aren’t meeting your needs, and you’ve found a better way to manage accounts, inventory, operations and more, why wait?

4. Decision paralysis

When you’re thinking about where to start, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

My advice is to take a look at the software ‘in action’ by taking up a free trial. Any software provider worth your consideration will offer this to prospective customers, so you have nothing to lose from trying out a few. Allow time to research before you commit to a new system – this isn’t a decision to be rushed.

As you trial different systems, the surefire way to ensure you decide on the best option is to:

  • Involve key stakeholders

Priorities differ depending on where people sit in the business, and you’ll need a solution that works for everyone who will use it. Key stakeholders should be involved in the decision-making process and sit in on calls with consultants for all the solutions you’re considering, ensuring that integral aspects of your processes aren’t forgotten when choosing your new software.

  • Ask questions… then more questions

Don’t struggle through getting to grips with a new system without utilising the available expertise – and importantly, don’t assume a system does something just because it’s important to your process. Ask questions, and when you think you’ve asked too many, ask more! This is an important decision, and you should feel confident that what you choose can support your business’ growth. You don’t want to get half way through the process only to find your new software doesn’t work for you, wasting time and money.

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  • Find out what support each software provider offers

Setting up your new software isn’t going to happen overnight, and you need to find out what support you’ll get. Whatever system you choose, make sure they offer the support you and your team need.

Unleashed, for example, offers a dedicated contact from sign-up until you go live, to guide you through setting up your account and testing your processes. Not to show off, but 98% of customers we’ve surveyed have said their onboarding helped them feel prepared to use Unleashed. We also have a fantastic support team available over email, live chat and phone, so you’re not just supported in those early days.

  • Consider costs vs value – and factor in the extras

As you’re trialing your options you also need to consider the cost vs the value you’ll get from the software.

At the start of this process, you pinpointed exactly why you need to upgrade your systems, and what impact those problems are having. With that information you can quantify what this software migration is worth to your business.

That brings us to cost. Each software solution will be priced and paid for differently, and there are multiple factors to consider such as whether contracts are monthly or annual, and whether you’ll need additional modules or 3rd party integrations to make your solution complete. Make sure your quote includes everything you need, so you can make a confident decision on whether you’ll see a great enough return on your investment.

So, there you have it – my guide on how to tackle moving to the cloud in 4 straightforward steps, with 4 key considerations to make when you’re choosing a new system. Good luck, and remember you’re not on your own – a good cloud software business will act as your consultant, not a salesperson. I might see you on the other side of the deal.

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Alice Bramley-Dymond - Unleashed Software
Alice Bramley-Dymond

Alice is personally responsible for 300 (and counting) software implementations, and is a longstanding member of the Unleashed Success Team. When she's not helping customer move to Unleashed, she's usually enjoying some sci-fi, nerding out about great beer, or pulling a bit of string for her cats to chase.

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