5 TOP CONSIDERATIONS BEFORE CHANGING YOUR SOFTWARE

9th October 2018

As a business owner, when thinking about changing software systems, it can be daunting prospect. There are many things to think about during the initial stages of research such as;

What am I looking for from my new software?
How will it benefit my business?
Will it improve on what I currently have?

At Veco we work hard to ensure that all these questions are answered and most importantly that the transition is carried out in the smoothest way possible. With consultancy based advice and structured project plans, we offer a unique and hassle-free approach.

Here are our 5 tips for things to consider BEFORE you decide to change software, or even think about getting demonstrations booked with suppliers:

1. Processes

Work through your current process for the disciplines you cover.  Are you happy with these, or could improvements be made by simplifying or amend it in conjunction with your software change?  For instance;
– You rely on your staff to ensure you have covered your GDPR obligations, so is it better to have an automatic email sent out to applicants to confirm in writing?
– Do you manually send out regular property listings or would it be more productive to have this function automatically completed?
– Do you rely on hard copies of Lettings paperwork rather than produce and store everything electronically and track the move in process via a workflow on the system?
– Do you type out a tenancy agreement in a word document, then post it to your clients?  Would it be easier for this information to be sent electronically with tenancies prepared directly from the system once references have been obtained?

Veco has looked at the processes commonly used in your businesses and as a result offer integrations with well recognised 3rd party suppliers who can make the job quicker, more efficient and certainly more cost effective.

At this point it is also important to look at your marketing, are you happy with your window cards, your brochures and templates, are all of your letters up to date, or is this a time to re-design, re-write and start with a new software system and new paperwork at the same time.  Veco has a number of templates available for you to use and amend to your own branding and we can assist you with this process.

2. Timing

Is there ever a good time to change your software system?  Our industry can be seasonal and some times are more preferable than others to move forward. There are better times and we know this because we live through this process with clients all year around.  So, we suggest that you look at times when you are the quietest, although we appreciate, if you are a multi-discipline company, that one department’s quiet time may not correspond with another’s.  However, you can stagger the departments going live, and you pre-plan to make sure you have a full staff (so no holidays during this time) because you will need all hands-on deck, and that is why Christmas might not be the best time!

For Sales we find that February, March, June, July, October and November seem to be the best months to choose.  For Lettings we find that February, March, May, June, November and December are good.  It will take a minimum of 3 months from Stage One – demo and contract signing – to ‘Go Live Day’ because there are a number of other stages to plan and work through.  Please bear this in mind and, if you follow our prior considerations listed here, you should be able to work tightly to this time-frame.

3. Staffing

Anybody who uses the software system will need to be involved in the process to some degree.  Of course, in the initial stages our contact will probably be with the person holding the purse-strings, but they may not be someone who uses the system on a day-to-day basis, and therefore, they may not need as much involvement once the contract is signed and the process of implementation begins in earnest.  At this point we will carry out a data review meeting and will ask for a main person to be the nominated point of contact.

One question we are asked a lot is “how do we train an entire team when they still have their own jobs to do?”  This will be a staggered process; the Lettings or Sales negotiators will require about half a day of training to use the front end of the system.  Accounts staff will require more like 3 days of training.  As mentioned earlier, we can stagger the process and, therefore, the training days, so that you have enough cover in the office but by planning ahead, you should be able to block non-essential time off during your training period.

It is actually a time when staff learn that their software system does so much more than they ever thought possible.  Many staff changing over systems, will have been trained by a colleague and probably has not had training from the software supplier themselves.  Of course, with a new system, you will have more bells and whistles than before, but probably a lot of standard processes can also be sped up and work in a far more effective way.

4. Data

If you have had a software system for many years, perhaps you started with one discipline or one branch and then expanded the business and used the system in the best way you could to incorporate new records.  As legislation has changed, you have used a blank field to record something new, it’s probably not in the right format but it works for you.  You may have had staff changes and discovered data has been entered incorrectly but not had the time to change it.  You probably have lots of duplicated information, perhaps tenants who have now become buyers, or buyers who have become landlords, and the data is on the system more than once because the old software did not recognise duplications, or you had 2 different systems not interacting at all.

You will also need to figure out how to get the data from the system you will be moving from.  Is this on your server, in which case it should be easy to access, or is it in the cloud or on the provider’s system, and will they allow you access, and is there going to be a charge for that?  At Veco we have worked with a lot of other estate agency software suppliers, so we do know that some are easier than others.

5. Location

Do you have your current data on a server, or is it in the cloud?  Where do you want it to be going forward?  A lot of clients prefer to have their data in the office, to know that it belongs to them and it is not in jeopardy of a software hack, such as happens to global companies who hold a lot of data in the cloud.  If, however, you prefer not to have a server, maybe you use the cloud for your other systems, such as your mail exchange, and want to keep everything the same, you would need to ensure that all of your systems talk to each other correctly.  These decisions we will help you with, but it is worth taking time to debate prior to looking for your next provider, as some systems work better on servers and some in the cloud.

Whilst we ask you to consider all of the above before you embark on a change of system, we are here to talk though all of the options and to give you guidance on how to find the best answers for your business.  So give us a call for an informal chat on 0844 335 2545.

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