What You Need to Know Before You Buy a New POS System!

Always remember that the software you choose needs to improve your ability to do business. The technology of the system is secondary to the functionality of the software.

Evaluate your needs

When considering the purchase of a new POS system, the first step is to evaluate your needs:

Detail all your needs by function, such as POS, customer tracking, purchase orders and compatibility with other store systems. I call this a “needs document.”

• Involve your key people in developing the needs document to ensure its thoroughness. Involving key people in this phase increases their “buy-in” and the likelihood that they will feel more comfortable using the system that is ultimately chosen.

Seek a vendor

Next, you’ll begin a vendor analysis:

• Send your needs document to prospective vendors and have them respond in writing. It is important to have a written response to learn exactly what each system’s capabilities and limitations are.

• Evaluate the responses from vendors (see “Evaluate the vendors” below) and ask for clarification where needed. Your goal is to find the system and vendor that most closely match your needs.

• Invite the three vendors whose responses best match your needs document to demonstrate their software. Evaluating more than three system demonstrations can be very confusing and time consuming.
Schedule the demos on consecutive days if possible in order to keep the information fresh in everyone’s mind.

• Set a demonstration agenda for the vendors to follow when presenting their software. This will ensure you that you are evaluating each product feature-to-feature and are seeing the features that are important to you, not the vendor.

• Score each system against your needs document. It’s important not only to know if a software package has specific features, but also to see how it actually works. Ease of use should be given some value.

• Schedule a second demo with the one or two vendors that best match your needs to get deeper into the product.

The needs document and the vendor analysis will become the foundation of your long-term technology plan. Your technology plan should act as your guide for the next five years and should be updated yearly to include changes in your needs and core business processes.

For example, many stores are multichannel retailers, who are selling inventory in their stores, through catalogs and on the Web. Your infrastructure needs to support sales across these various channels and support interoperability between the retail system and other software.

By aligning your business plan with technology needs, you can choose software that will improve your ability to do business and serve your customers.

Evaluate the vendors

The vendor analysis is critical. Plan to spend as much time evaluating vendors and monitoring the installation and training process as you do choosing the system.

Did the vendor present the software in clear and understandable terms? An ambiguous explanation is usually disguising a deficiency. Could the vendor articulate some clear “return on investment” strategies? Will the vendor provide a list of users that includes those with recently installed systems as well as those that have been using the software for more than three years? Can the vendor provide a detailed implementation plan and training syllabus?

The reality is that a mediocre system that is implemented and utilized properly is better than the best system that is poorly implemented.