We subscribe to a service called Wistia to publish our videos (http://wistia.com/blog/define-your-vision). One of their recent emails included this statement: “When we buy software today, we’re not just buying into the current benefits, features, and price. Instead, we’re making a bet on the product’s future.”

I like this statement, because, it capsulizes a belief I have held for many years. We can extend this to say that we are also betting on our company’s future. This is particularly true in the accounting or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) market space. ERP plays a crucial role in measuring, sustaining and enabling a company to make progress. (Read the rest of the Wistia blog to catch some other good ideas.)

We frequently spend time with our clients to help them streamline processes. Change is hard and, many times, we find resistance to that change. But, change is also necessary to maintain vitality and competitiveness. This is an area where the right ERP software can help reinforce and reward change … but, I digress.

Many of us would like to buy software once and never have to think about it or change it again, but that restricts us to old ways of doing things. We faced a dilemma in 2007. The ERP software we sold was facing extinction. The software vendor didn’t tell us that and, in fact, assured us that they would continue to support it for a long time. I didn’t see how that could be the case, so we decided to look at options in earnest. (Now, I would like to say that we were very forward thinking and made this choice without an impending event — that wouldn’t be truthful.)

We reviewed many ERP products before we chose Microsoft Dynamics NAV as our flagship product. Looking at ERP software is not fun for anyone. We had an extra challenge in that we earn our living implementing and supporting ERP, so product longevity and vendor commitment were extremely critical to us. There are many challenges facing ERP vendors, as there are challenges facing the companies who use and support them. Here are a few of the shared challenges:

  • New hardware (printers, mobile devices, PCs, servers, disk drives)
  • New operating systems for server and PCs
  • New databases
  • New access requirements (EDI, Webstore)
  • New requirements from customers, vendors and employees.

Keeping up with these foundational changes requires significant resources and can keep a software developer from adding new features. That is one reason we chose Microsoft. They have the resources to keep our products current and add new features.

I believe that there is a three-way partnership that can help us all do a better job of staying on top of these challenges. As a partner with our clients and our software vendor, I believe we have a responsibility to report our clients’ problems, requests and challenges to our software vendor so that the software developer has user input. Our software vendor has the responsibility to seek end-user input in order to make the product better. (Microsoft does this in many ways, including sending programmers to user group meetings, something I hadn’t seen in 30 years in this business.) Finally, the end-user has a responsibility to report issues, challenges and wants so that the product can get better.

This three-fold partnership can, with the right partners, result in all of us having a better future. So, remember, next time you pay your software maintenance – you are investing in your company’s future by investing in your software to keep it current.