Partners provide value to each other. When it comes to business management software, that is essential. You get service and the software partner gets feedback that can enhance your business.
So, what's a partner?
The definition of partner is "an association sharing a common goal."
Let’s use QuickBooks (QB) as an example. QB is not landscape business management software. It is an accounting system. I like it—it’s a fine product. But QB sells you a product, not a service. They are a software vendor. You pay a fixed price and you have to make it work the way you want it to work. That’s okay—but it’s not a partnership.
The reason business management software costs what it does is the cost of service. In fact, the cost of the software, itself, is less than half the cost to your software partner. The majority of the cost is in the services, support, and management they deliver to you. That is why price is only one consideration.
What should you expect from your partner?
At a minimum:
- Industry knowledge and experience starting from the top of the company down
- Staffing levels to support you
- Reinvestment in the product to stay ahead of the technology and user curve
- A dedicated professional to direct your deployment and implementation
- On-going training
- A support center
- A help desk
- User and peer groups
What services should your partner deliver for all-in pricing? You will want at least the following:
- Help with data conversion and set-up of your workflow*
- Training (and train-the-trainer) for your team
- Full integration of the software and ability to link it to other products
- Easy-to-use mobile interface from anywhere
- An actual person to talk to at a help desk
- Documentation and videos
- Data management**
- All new versions and upgrades
Consider buying these lists of overlapping services à la carte. It’s not easy.
Here’s the value from just two of these services:
* Set-up of the workflow: Think about the way you estimate work now—your takeoffs, pricing markups and margins, assemblies and production rates, service and item catalog (labor, materials and equipment), contract language, etc. Now think about translating that yourself into a new system.
** Data management: Business management software is, in essence, a massively large database of transactions you create every day. A $3M company may create more than a million of these in a year—one million or more. Try managing that yourself on your servers. Since today’s systems drive so much data and the risk of crash and loss is too awful to contemplate, you want your partner to do this for you. This alone saves you money in hardware, people, and consultants.
There is significant value delivered by the right partner. So do your homework. Make certain you understand what you get for the investment you make. This is more than a purchase—it’s more like a marriage.
Like this post? Be sure to read the first post in this series, "Do You Want a Software Vendor or Partner for Your Landscape Company?"
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