Finding the Right SoftwarePosted 7/18/2003
By joan Koebernick, AAM
You're out there looking for automotive management software, but do you really have the time it takes to find the software that will do the job for your company? You might begin by asking friends or instructors in this industry for ideas, but unless you take stock of your own needs before you begin your search, you could be missing the boat. We are all so busy running our own companies, and with additional obligations of family and community, it is almost impossible to find the time for a major project like finding the right software for our businesses.
What makes it so difficult? First, the amount of companies to consider can be daunting. Second, the majority of the programs are complex and just running their demo - if they have one - is not enough. To truly understand if this software will do the trick for my company, I had to run some of our company's data on the software. To do that, I had to take the time to learn the basics of the program and, making that an even more difficult task, many of these vendors have nonexistent-to-inadequate program documentation.
Where might one start? Make a list of the features you would like in your company's automotive software and rate each item. A "5" might be something you can't do without, while a "3" you could compromise on and a "1" you could easily do without. (To find additional ideas for your list, read "The Great Software Search" in the May and June issues of Motor Age.) Compare your list with the one in this issue of AutoInc. and then send the list to each company you're considering. Once you've heard back from the companies and you find a few that have most of what you need, call them and talk to them about the specifics of the features for which you are looking. They may have interpreted your list in a different manner than you meant. Once you're sure their software has the basics for your consideration, ask for a working demo. It should give you an idea of how the program functions and a separate program to allow you to insert your own data for testing.
If you're thinking of upgrading from a DOS program to your software vendor's Windows version, don't just assume all the features you love in the DOS version will be there when you upgrade. Chances are, they won't be. Oh, and all those reports you use - those may not be there either. Be sure, before you convert, to have your vendor pull together everything you will need. There is too much to do after a conversion to deal with those issues.
The main message I would like to leave with you: If you rush the process, you will most likely end up with something that won't do the job. Please help me in my endeavor to push the software and hardware industries to give us the stability, features and service we need for our businesses. As I work with these systems, I'm amazed at what we endure - lockups, reboots, glitches, downtime ... if the cars we repaired ran that way, we would have been out of business long ago! As to the software, almost every package has major holes. Without a concerted effort from all of us, we won't see the changes needed to make our systems into the workhorses they should be to truly make the difference for our businesses.