Are You Using the Right Software? 8 Questions to Ask to Assure You Are Optimizing ROI.
Buying software to help you optimize your business operations and profit margins can feel a little like buying a used car. No matter how many times you look under the hood or kick the tires, you don’t really know what you have until you get miles down the road.
Choosing the right software can be a complex and costly task. You can’t recoup time and costs associated with onboarding a new system, and even a small delay in streamlining your operations can set you behind your competitors.
Here are 8 Questions to ask yourself before moving forward with a software supplier to assure you get in and stay in the fast lane for profitability and overall business growth.
1. WHAT AM I LOOKING TO ACCOMPLISH WITH A SOFTWARE SOLUTION?
Before choosing a software system to help optimize productivity across your entire business, you need to define your goals. For example:
- Where can I improve efficiencies to better manage dispatch, inventory, and time?
- What are the key metrics for success across business lines?
- What do I need to improve productivity per driver, per customer, route and business unit?
- Once you define the outcomes you need to achieve to realize your growth goals, you can better ascertain if you have the right system in place now, or if it’s time for an upgrade.
2. DO I HAVE QUICK ACCESS TO CRITICAL BUSINESS DATA SO I CAN SEE IN REAL TIME WHERE I CAN REDUCE WASTE AND IMPROVE PRODUCTIVITY?
It’s easy to get so caught up managing routines, routes, equipment, billing and customer demands that you don’t have the time to audit where you’re gaining or losing momentum. If you don’t have live, real-time access that allows you to track the metrics for profitability and growth, you’re likely driving away from revenue and increased profitability. It’s important to ask software suppliers if they provide access to dynamic vs. static data and the instrumentation to take action and make instant and live adjustments to driver routes, pricing, billing, inventory management, and other daily activities that impact productivity and profitability.
3. DOES MY SOFTWARE ALLOW ME TO DYNAMICALLY ANALYZE PROFITABILITY PER UNIT FROM EVERY CONCEIVABLE ANGLE?
The best operational systems will give you complete visibility to net performance. To truly help you identify where you are losing or gaining profitability, your system needs to allow you to use your expense information, including truck and driver operating costs, fuel, disposal, insurance, maintenance, taxes and fees, even overhead and debt service. Ask suppliers if you can customize your own company’s formula with these inputs in a dynamic, real-time system. If so, you can instantly compute profitability by the truck, the route, the driver, the hour, the job, the customer. The ability to do this simply and accurately is one of the guiding principles upon which Starlight Software Solutions is built. Knowing profitability down to the unit level is essential to maximizing profitability and growth.
4. CAN I ACCESS ALL MY DATA DIRECTLY AND RUN MY OWN REPORTS?
A leading complaint among users of waste management software is the long wait for reports from suppliers. While you’re waiting days, or weeks, to see where you can increase efficiencies, your competition with access to their own data in real time, is likely speeding ahead.
Ask every software supplier you are considering about your ability to access the data you need and run your own reports vs. pay them to run reports for you. Other questions to ask:
- Can you execute reports in a day, or hours yourself?
- What data can you expect to see and analyze?
- Can you integrate reports with your current enterprise management system to create a comprehensive business intelligence dashboard you can access anytime, anywhere?
Starlight’s newest generation product integrates the Exago reporting engine which sits at the top of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. This feature allows users to drag and drop data from various sources into the reports they need, when they want them, and then copy, share or refine these reports themselves.
5. CAN I SEE MY INVENTORY LIVE AND EXECUTE NEW DISPATCH DIRECTIONS INSTANTLY?
It happens every day. A customer needs a pickup earlier than planned and another customer needs a roll-off as soon as possible. If you can’t instantly transmit route and order changes to your drivers, that inventory sits idle and customers’ expectations go unmet.
If you can monitor your assets, trucks, drivers, containers in real time, and you can’t manage and balance the work across the entire fleet in one view, its difficult to find and correct inefficiencies quickly. The only way to maximize efficiencies in this real-time environment is to have 100%visibility of all your assets and complete, comprehensive and live control.
6. HOW SHOULD MY SOFTWARE HELP ME SCALE GROWTH?
Without the cloud as your limitless platform for operations and profitability data, you will be stuck in a Model T while your competitors are cruising by in a Tesla.
Be sure any system you consider is easy to use across devices – computers, tablets, smart phones, Androids and iPhones. Each supplier you evaluate should offer a flexible integration framework and be committed to an open architecture approach so you can integrate applications you already use. An open architecture will set you up in the future to integrate needed peripheral systems to support ongoing growth. Some suppliers require you to only use their peripherals which can be far too limiting.
While many software programs designed for the waste management industry started on legacy plat-forms, most are or will soon transition to the cloud. You should ask your current supplier about their plan to transition to a cloud-based environment, and how this move will impact you. Once in the cloud, make sure your provider allows you full access to all your data and that the system will scale data in ways that support your growth goals. With cloud-based systems, you don’t need much IT equipment and can avoid many security and maintenance issues. Cloud systems allow you more time to focus your company resources on better serving existing customers and selling to new prospects.
7. WHAT TECHNOLOGY WILL HELP ME SCALE THE FASTEST AND MOST EFFICIENTLY?
There are three distinct technology advantages that drive scalability that you should discuss with software suppliers you are considering.
One: Micro Services Architecture
A modern, dynamic ERP system is built using best-in-industry micro services architecture which automatically scales with your growth. Amazon Web Services, Starlight’s hosting platform is an example of a scalable infrastructure which provides infinite opportunities.
Two: Real-Time Design and Real Network Intelligent Endpoints
Your software solution is the Hub of the Wheel that motors your company forward. A properly deployed cloud-based software system has intelligent endpoints, or spokes from the hub that gather data, and process it into actionable insights you can use to assess and improve efficiency, execute and manage your entire operations and your administrative tasks. Forward-thinking software solutions will offer real-time and network intelligent endpoints that also include customers in your business’s ecosystem. Customized apps that let customers engage your company in real time are one example. Live insight into locations and the status of your assets will help you manage jobs and inventory better so you can address demand immediately.
Three: Open Systems Architecture
You should also ask about third-party integration for the hardware and software you use daily for in-cab systems, scale systems, accounting, and other business functions. It’s critical your software supplier support third party endpoints in your network as well as integrate and support their own. That way you become the driver in your business, capitalizing on the investments you’ve already made and mixing and matching the future components that are best for your unique business.
8. WHAT CAN I EXPECT FOR ONBOARDING AND LONG-TERM SERVICE SPECIFIC TO MY NEEDS?
When you consider new software suppliers, additional factors are key to keep in mind such as:
Start Up and Conversion
Its critical to ask suppliers about their processes for onboarding, conversion from existing systems, and long-term support. It’s just as critical to ask their customers how their experiences unfolded. Take the time to call customers to learn directly how the conversion and startup went, how quickly they resolve issues, and the quality of training provided.
Partnership Value and User-Influence
It is important to know the partnership value provided beyond the products delivered.Do they involve customers in developing new features, functionality and processes to build a product users want vs. one they can easily profit from?
Do they charge for extra training and/or trouble shooting? Do they provide insights and resources that will help you grow your business?
Finally, do their contract terms favor you or them? Long-term contracts without termination clauses should be avoided. Getting stuck in a contract with a supplier that does not deliver on promises, or update its system to keep up with industry changes can be costly in many ways.
A software decision is one you and your team will need to be happy with for a long time.Choosing a partner over just a supplier of a product is critical to the outcomes you will achieve.
ABOUT STARLIGHT SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS
When Bill Bradley, a successful roll-off entrepreneur, couldn’t find a software solution in the market that could help him achieve his efficiency goals, he created his own system. Relying on his years as a software executive, he built StarlightSoftware Solutions with one goal in mind: Drive efficiency, profitability and scale.
Just like the industry in which we operate, the driving goal of the entire Starlight team is to help customers get more productivity from every asset. For waste management companies that means removing old processes that drain man hours, driver time, and bog down inventory management, billing, invoicing and other activities that build profitability and ROI.
What sets Starlight apart from other software solutions designed for waste management companies includes best-in-industry customer service, online and smart phone order taking apps for contractors and residential customers, and a suite of features designed by users assuring we deliver what matters most for improving everyday processes.
Waste companies using Starlight’s solution to manage inventory and assets in real time have increased revenue by nearly 30%in just a matter of months. In addition, they have achieved higher customer satisfaction which enables them to achieve long-term loyalty and more recurring revenue streams.