I was discussing this issue with my art director, when I confided I was having difficulty writing this month's letter. "There's just so little I can say about software and technology that hasn't already been said a hundred times. This topic does not inspire me!" She replied, "Write about Tupperware instead. It's far more entertaining. Besides, Tupperware holds up so much better in a microwave than a CD-ROM."
Huh. She has a point.
It isn't that I don't find technology fascinating--quite the contrary. But what can I say to you, our faithful readers, to illuminate the world of management software? To demystify the wonders of the World Wide Web? To simplify the language of HTML, ISP, ASP, DSL, T-1 and HTTP? Probably not much my panel of experts hasn't already revealed in this month's "anthology" of related articles. But I will share this:
The most popular request I receive from readers in regard to software is for product reviews. They want comparisons of the different packages available--their features and costs, demos, usability, etc.--along with running commentary on each product's performance. Similarly, one of the most frequent questions I am asked is, "I'm just opening a storage facility and I need to purchase software. What company do you recommend?"
It doesn't take a genius to figure out what a snake pit these situations are. As a company that accepts financial support from vendors in the form of advertising revenue, it would be unethical and irresponsible to provide this information. So what I tell people is this: Your choice in software and supporting technology will depend on the nature and size of your business, as well as your budget. It will depend on the computer literacy of your staff. It will depend on future plans for your company. And every package is unique in its own way.
Contact several vendors before making a purchase--maybe as many as 10. Make a list of questions relevant to the specific needs of your facility, and ask them. Do not be put off by impatient or condescending sales reps who act as if your need for information is a nuisance--the long-term relationship with your software provider begins with the very first contact. Narrow your list down to three or four strong contenders and acquire demos. Use them. Take your time. While a change in platform or package or provider can always be made down the road, you can save yourself the headache by simply doing the proper research beforehand.
Tradeshows are an ideal venue at which to talk to suppliers and try products. At our recent expo in Las Vegas, the newly featured "Security & Software Summit" provided a classroom environment where attendees could do just this. The relaxed atmosphere allowed them to ask questions and try programs hands-on, with more personal attention from representatives than may have been afforded in the expo hall packed with nearly 4,000 people.
Finally, make sure whatever company you choose can offer the support you need to get a program up and running, work out bugs, fix problems and answer inquiries. Service is key.
And if anyone is interested, Tupperware has a positively lovely spring line in pastel colors...
Teri L. Lanza