3 scenarios on software selection


Software, computerYou have several spreadsheets in your business. They have performed well over the years. Now that they have been changed so much, errors are creeping in. There is quite a bit of double entry. Your largest spreadsheet can no longer be printed on even the biggest printer. If it could, a small Tasmanian forest would need to be sacrificed.

Scenario 1

  1. Google ‘retail software’.
  2. Find a company that you think more or less covers what you need.
  3. Call them and ask for a demonstration.
  4. Do not be put off by the salesman wearing white shoes and dripping in gold chains who assures you that all their projects always run on time and within budget.
  5. Sign up immediately.
  6. Go home and don’t forget to say goodnight to the fairies at the bottom of the garden.

Scenario 2

  1. Speak to a couple of mates and get their recommendations.
  2. Phone three companies and have them demonstrate to you and your team.
  3. Select one and put them on the short list.
  4. Enter into negotiations.
  5. Sign up and pay the deposit.
  6. Advise your attorneys that you will be spending a big chunk of money with them in future months and you would like a special rate.

Scenario 3

  1. Speak to a couple of mates and get their recommendations.
  2. Phone three companies and have them demonstrate to you and your team.
  3. Thoroughly confused, call a retail consultant or two.
  4. One of these firms suggests that rather than speak to software companies, you need to first look at your current processes. If they are all best practice, that is fine but they tell you that this is never the case.
  5. Clearly the consultant wants to get more money out of you with such an exercise but you reluctantly agree.
  6. The consultants give a tick of approval to 80 per cent of your processes, but recommends that 20 per cent need changing or need to be discarded.
  7. You argue that this is how your business has always run and that furthermore some of the processes are unique to your company which gives you a competitive edge.
  8. The consultant politely tells you that you are talking nonsense.
  9. Reluctantly you stand by as the 20 per cent is trashed/replaced.
  10. The work that has been done forms the basis for an RFP (Request for proposal).
  11. The consultants know who the “good guys” are versus the “bad guys”. They also know that functionality isn’t everything.  You need a cultural fit with the vendor.  They therefore send the RFP to three good guys.
  12. Evaluation criteria are prepared and each response is checked off against this.
  13. Demonstrations of the top two vendors are requested.
  14. An MOU is prepared by the consultants and signed by you and the vendor.
  15. Negotiations commence aided by the consultants who recognise that there are some areas where you can haggle long and hard but others (such as change management) where you need to provide some fat.
  16. The deal is signed with penalty clauses for default on either side – in fairness to the vendor who is often penalised through no fault of their own.
  17. The project commences project managed by the consultants.
  18. The implementation runs slightly over budget and slightly over time but this is insignificant.
  19. You phone your attorneys and tell them you won’t be needing them right at the moment.
  20. You go home and ignore the fairies at the bottom of the garden.

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing www.impactretailing.com.au and can be contacted at stuart@impactretailing.com.au or 0414 631 702




  1. Julian Josem posted on September 6, 2013

    I enjoy your Friday columns Stuart, but you must have eaten something rotten to upset you before penning this one. In 2013, there are a wealth of strong retail systems providers available to help Australian retailers. It's not a cowboy industry any more - it is mature, and there really is no excuse for a retailer ending up with a mismatch. Yes, the investment generally ends up larger than retailers would wish, but they should be well justified if they are prudently managed. I must introduce you to the fairies at the bottom of my garden - they might be able to wash away your negativity and cynicism about retail IT.

  2. stuart bennie posted on September 6, 2013

    My dear Julian, Good to see that you still read my column. I am on the side of good software vendors and this is not confined to retail. In fact that is why I said that they need protection as well as the retailer. Are there some cowboys out there? If you say no, I will (reluctantly) introduce you to a few if you like. That is, when you return from the bottom of the garden. I trust you have a spot where the vendors can tether their horses when they meet you.All the best. Regards, Stuart stuart@impactretailing.com.au.

  3. Rick Marshall posted on September 6, 2013

    Really Stuart. This is the consultant ad. And you forgot to mention that consultants have their prejudices, friends, dislikes etc. And as I know you'll never recommend my system I'll just have to quietly work away at keeping my customers happy (and at a reasonable price). There's so many things that don't come out in brochures and demonstrations. Commitment to the industry. Solid theory of how retail works. Extending retail knowledge. These are important things. And yes many of us still struggle with following the latest fads while still maintaining high quality systems with integrity and at a reasonable cost. My grumble :)

    • Paola Tanner posted on September 8, 2013

      It is a shame that all platforms get put in the same bag. Stuart, with all my respect, I don’t think asking friends or talking with a consultant will provide the answers. We are highly specialised and quite unknown and yet have been able to pleasantly surprise retailers who come to see us after finding out about Fuse as a result of their own research. There is also no need to put all retailers in the same bag, often they are capable of signing a good contract!

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