The Integrated Merchant

With all of the marvelous and mind boggling technology out there it is easy to let our imaginations run wild and say, “wow” if they can make a phone that I can watch a full length movie on surly they can come up with a way that would allow me to use the vast amounts of information stored in my company’s client management system.

The fact of the matter is that many systems that are just a few years old were not built with change and flexibility in mind. When they were produced they were probably built to the specifications given to the design team, and if you are one of the companies struggling with a rigged platform you probably paid a lot for this system. The problem comes when your business, your customer base, or your world changes. Anyone would agree in order to stay at or near the top of the heap you need to be ready and capable to adjust your direction sometimes drastically.

When these important changes come and you call in your well paid IT department and tell them that you now need an online store capable of everything that the in-store system is. There are a couple of things that the IT people will come up with to solve the dilemma. First of all they will probably tell you that with the current system it is not possible, but when you tell them that you spent $700,000 on this system and it had better be possible. Then most like you will get what is known as a patch.

Patches are common and you can see them in operating systems everywhere. A patch is always a financial drain on the company and the larger the company becomes the larger the financial drain. Then more patches will undoubtedly be added in to compensate for other software shortcomings. So how can you tell if your company is falling victim to the patch. It is simple just ask yourself this question do I employ anyone that does any of the following. Collects customer trends, imputes information into the system other than at the point of sale, compiles customer lists, types or prints envelopes, has to add up credit card receipts to balance the till, has to input a code to track certain information, has to generate shipping invoices or billing invoices. And of course the list goes on.

I spoke with a CEO of a company who told me that in order to make a certain type of transaction occur someone needed to manually impute a code into the system so that particular items could be tracked and reported. He told me that at first they did very few of these types of transactions and so the patch did not seem like that bad of an idea, however now they employ 30 full time employees with benefits to manage that particular patch.

Patched systems become less and less intuitive for the user and many instances, the customer. Your company’s sales may be off the chart but calculate for a moment how much that sale cost you from marketing through point of sale, invoicing, shipping follow-up and deposit of your income. Remember you are paying for every task that your employees are doing. What in the beginning is just an employee picking up the slack for the sake of the patch, can turn into a less than profitable situation.

This is precisely why web based systems are becoming more and more popular. They are usually much cheaper to build and infinity easier to upgrade and modify. Web based systems will also keep your hardware costs down. However your IT department will generally not endorse this truth because this will take away their job security and serve to shrink IT needs instead of increase them. Before you throw a lot of money at the problem and still do not have what you need to function at peak performance, look at your options and you would do well to get a software evaluation from a qualified outside source. You might be amazed at what you can do with all of that customer information that is just sitting in your data base.