12 Questions to Answer Before You Shop for a Retail Management System

12 Questions to Answer Before You Shop for a Retail Management System

If you’re lucky, your company will replace its software platform only once or twice in a generation. This is why many retail executives have little experience in choosing the right solution.

But don’t worry. Even if your company hasn’t replaced its retail management system for as long as anyone there can remember, this article is here to help. It shares the collective insight of our sales and consulting teams at Jesta I.S., whose members have implemented numerous retail projects. This insight comes from working with more than 200 retailers of varying sizes and lines of business.

You can make a better purchase decision by asking yourself 12 questions before you begin your search for a new system. Your answers should help you make an informed choice that will serve your business well for a long time.

Don’t obsess over features and functions—yet
What first made you think about replacing your retail management system?

If you’ve been frustrated with the functional limitations of your current systems, it’s natural to begin your buying process by listing your functional requirements for new systems. But in our experience, that can be a mistake. Your functional needs are important, but they’ll probably change with your business needs and processes.

First answer the ‘big questions’ about your business
We suggest you answer these questions:

1. What results do you expect to achieve by implementing new software, and by when?

2. What are your internal resources and capabilities?

  • Do you have the in-house expertise to develop, maintain and support your own systems?
  • Are you more likely to achieve the flexibility and agility you need by developing your own software, or by licensing systems from software vendors?
  • If you choose to license a retail management system rather than build your own, do you have enough experience and insight to choose the best solution? Could you benefit from the help of a consultant?

3. What is the current structure of your business, and how might it change during the life of your new retail management system?

Considering the inevitability of unforeseen change, here’s one reliable lesson you can draw from past experience: it pays to anticipate the unexpected. Therefore, seek flexibility in processes and systems above all else. Maybe you can’t say with confidence what you should do now to be ready for the future. But it’s a safe bet that it will pay for you to build flexibility and agility into your company culture, your business processes and systems.

Take stock of your business 
Take time now to assess your current business. Then consider how it may change during the life of your retail management system.

The following questions can help you determine the scope of capabilities you’ll need to make the correct selection.
The questions will also help you anticipate the processing volume your retail system must be able to handle.

How much revenue do you generate now? How much do you expect to generate 5 and 10 years from now?

  • What is your line of business? (Do you sell soft lines, fashion, apparel, shoes or accessories? Hard lines? Specialty items? Food? Entertainment products?)
  • How might your line of business change or become blurred in the future?
  • What geographies do you serve? Which do you plan to serve?
  • How many locations do you operate? How many do you plan to operate?
  • How many employees do you expect to use your retail management system?
  • In what languages do you expect your employees to use it?
  • In what currencies do you expect to do business?
  • How sophisticated are your employees?
  • What is the structure of your supply chain? How many stores, distribution centers, and sources of supply are in your network?
  • How many items do you carry in each inventory location?
  • How big are your transaction volumes?
  • What sales channels do you expect to serve? (For example, do you and will you sell through brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce sites, or wholesale distribution?)

Do you expect to operate on the cost or retail method of accounting?

4. What is your current technical infrastructure, and what is your future direction?

  • What operating systems, programming languages, databases and computer hardware do you prefer?

5. What other software applications must you integrate with your retail management system?

  • How much money and effort can you afford to spend on creating and maintaining custom integration?
  • Does the vendor offer additional applications that are already interfaced with its retail management system (e.g. merchandising, planning, forecasting, distributed order management, point of sale, financials, etc.)

6. What is your comfort level with change?

  • What current business processes do you want your new retail management system to support? What weak processes do you want to improve?
  • How much change can your organization absorb?
  • What change-management capabilities are you likely to need?

7. How much can you afford to spend on a new retail management system?

Consider all the costs of software development, documentation, operational support, training, licenses and annual maintenance fees for application software, hardware purchase and maintenance costs, and database licenses and maintenance fees.

8. What is your tolerance for risk?

  • Are you open to taking chances with software whose performance has yet to be proved in companies like yours?

9. How soon must you have a working system in place?

  • What is the timeline for your decision process?
  • How much time can you allow for system implementation?

10. What kind of relationship do you want with your software providers and implementation partners?

  • How much support do you need or expect?
  • What kinds of relationships are likely to be the best fit for your corporate culture?
  • Are you open to working with your software vendor to co-develop functional enhancements?
  • How comfortable are you in working with separate vendors for software and implementation services?

11. What are your needs for reporting, analytics and business intelligence?

  • Do you have your own data warehouse? Or must you build or buy one?
  • What standard reports and analytics do you expect? What ad hoc reporting and querying capabilities do you want? How much custom reporting are you likely to need?
  • What are your preferences for third-party analytical tools or technologies?

12. What are your specific functional requirements?

  • What’s the best way to gather a list of all the software features and functions your organization is likely to need within the next two years? Who within the organization can help build retail management system requirements and choose the enterprise software platform?

Your answers to these questions should help you determine whether Jesta I.S. or any other vendor is likely to fit your needs.

Where to go from here ?

We at Jesta I.S. are here to help you make a good decision. For information about the Jesta I.S.’ retail management system suite, please go here.