Self-storage is a global business. Europe is enjoying double-digit growth, and Southeast Asia is a new market for this industry. In light of this expansion, how do you choose a software package for an overseas facility? There are a number of factors that come into play. It might come as shock to many Americans, but the rest of the world does things differently when it comes to simple basics, such as data format and paper size! Following are some questions to consider:
What is the primary language of the operating system?
Does the software operate in the local language? In reality, no vendor—U.S. or foreign—will produce a package in a European-native language, as it is cost-prohibitive. The installation will need to be in English and adaptations made accordingly.
Does the software calculate in local currency?
The software must make provisions for local currencies. Only a few packages cover yen, pounds, euros and other legal tender. It's not as simple as having new symbols on the payments page either. Currency can affect the way rent calculations are performed, and tax calculations particularly are important. Each country can calculate taxes differently, and the software must do this correctly.
Does the software vendor have customers in the country in question?
Many, if not most, software vendors have elected not to sell their products in many countries. It's a very difficult task to find local representation that can fulfill the vendor's sales and support requirements, and it takes an enormous amount of resources to fund a representative in another country. The United States is the prime market for self-storage software, and many vendors concentrate on this market as it is so dominant.
What technical support is available?
Support is a major issue for you as a customer, particularly in a new country. You may or may not be familiar with self-storage operations. When you combine a lack of industry knowledge with an unfamiliar local market, support becomes paramount. Vendors who can effectively offer support by dial-in or remote access will win this business.
Can the software be customized to suit your local needs?
If the software cannot be customized to deal with local variations such as addresses for late letters or other correspondence, local taxes and charges, customer names with unique characters, etc., it is of no use to you. Ask the vendor if you can easily modify, not only correspondence and reports, but program operation if necessary.
Typically, it is the larger operators taking the big step of opening facilities in other countries. They need software that is accessible from the home office and compatible with their own systems. Larger U.S.-based operators need transaction-monitoring software, especially as their date format is reversed from the rest of the world. For example, May 1 is expressed as 5/1/03 in the United States. To everyone else, it is 1/5/03. The software should replicate transactions as if the head office is on site. Even a detail as simple as paper size becomes an important feature in the software. Documents set to print at U.S. letter size will not translate well to a foreign office, which will use a different dimension.
Only a few vendors offer products that would be suitable for larger multifacility operators who venture internationally. Only a handful are committed to international business and are best to deal with when it comes to overseas facilities. Some have moved into the international marketplace unaware of all the local issues that control their success. Be certain to research your provider in regard to the above points before committing to a purchase.
The software language and design is critical to the success of the facility. Vendors that do not regularly update their software, take no notice of local issues or ignore specific issues don't deserve your business. Find the ones who can service your needs, and your move to international territory can be rewarding.
Dallas Dogger is the CEO of StorMan Software, an international self-storage software company with offices in Aukland, New Zealand; Boston; and Brisbane, Australia. It offers single- and multiuser software as well as professional replicating software for larger operators. The company is the largest supplier of software in the southern hemisphere, with more than 98 percent of sites in New Zealand using its products. For more information, e-mailsales@StorMan.com; visit www.storman.com
Storman International Pty. Ltd.
Contact: Ed Brooks
Product(s): StorMan, Multiview, Multiuser
Software Type: Management software, online management/accounting software, online-payment technology, online- reservations technology
Price Range: $1,000-$8,000
Designed specifically for storage? Yes
Current version on market since: One year
New version to be released: May 2003
Demo: Available on CD or download via web page.
Tech support: Upgrades and support program has three levels: corporate, advantage and standard. Cost is $500 to $1,000, depending on the level of service. E-mail support available via website. An auto-support feature is available through the software.StorMan software was designed from the ground up to be a specialist self-storage program. It comes available in a Windows and Macintosh version. Popular in Australia and New Zealand, StorMan--already with single-site and multiuser versions--is set to release an advanced software package for larger groups called Multiview, with replicating technology. StorMan has been developed by professional developers with many years of practical self-storage experience and is the choice of Storage King, Australia's largest self- storage operator. Core features include multibilling, discount and notice plans, e-mail support, and online-support technology. The software is powered by 4d, a leading database technology used by NASA, Yahoo!, Intuit, Philips, Adobe and many others. Data conversions are available for most existing packages.