Choosing the right software can be a complex and costly task. Operators can’t recoup time and costs associated with onboarding a new system or getting stuck in a long contract for a system that doesn’t meet expectations. Even a small hiccup in streamlining operations can set businesses behind competitors.
Here are eight questions to ask before moving forward with a software supplier to increase profitability.
1. What do I need to accomplish with a software solution?
The first step in choosing a software system for an operation is to define its goals. For example:
- improving efficiency to better manage dispatch, inventory and time;
- key metrics for success across business lines; and
- improve productivity per driver, per customer, route and business unit.
Once growth goals are defined, a business can better assess whether it’s time for a system 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?
If real-time access to business data tracking profitability, growth, units, drivers and customers, is not currently available, companies are missing out on revenue and increased profitability. It’s important to ask software suppliers if they provide access to dynamic versus static data and the instrumentation to make live adjustments to driver routes, pricing, billing, inventory management and other daily activities that affect productivity and profitability.
3. Does my software allow me to dynamically analyze profitability per unit from every conceivable angle?
To identify where there are losses or gains in profitability, a system needs to show expense information. This includes truck and driver operating costs, fuel, disposal, insurance, maintenance, taxes and fees, overhead and debt service. If a system allows customization of expense inputs for data analysis, businesses can instantly compute profitability by truck, route, driver, hour, job and customer. The ability to adjust these variables simply and accurately, which can improve profitability, is a guiding principle upon which Starlight Software Solutions is built.
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 some businesses wait days, or weeks to see where efficiency can be improved, competiting companies with access to its data in real time are speeding ahead.
Operators should ask every software supplier being considered about the ability to access the data it needs. They also should ask about running reports on their own versus paying software companies to run reports. Other questions to ask include:
- Can you execute reports in a day or several 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 solution integrates the Exago reporting engine which allows users to drag and drop data from various sources into the reports they need, when they need them. Included is an example of our reporting system.
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 businesses can’t instantly transmit route and order changes to drivers, opportunities for serving customers and capturing new revenue are often lost.
If you can’t monitor your assets, trucks, drivers and containers in real time and manage operations across the entire fleet in one view, its difficult to find and correct inefficiencies quickly. The only way to maximize efficiencies is to have 100 percent visibility of all assets and complete, real-time control.
6. How should my software help me scale growth?
Without the cloud as a platform for operations and profitability data, businesses will be stuck while competitors cruise by them.
Be sure any system being considered is easy to use across computers, tablets and smart phones. Suppliers being evaluated should offer a flexible integration framework and be committed to an open architecture approach so operators can integrate current applications and needed peripheral systems to support ongoing growth. Some suppliers require businesses to use just their peripherals, which can be far too limiting.
While many software programs designed for the waste management industry started on legacy platforms, most have transitioned to the cloud or will soon. Businesses should ask their current suppliers about plans to transition to a cloud-based environment, and how this move will impact operations. Below is an example of device responsiveness for Starlight’s solution.
7. What technology will help me scale quickly and efficiently?
There are three distinct technological advantages that drive scalability that should be discussed with potential software suppliers.
1. services microservices architecture
A modern, dynamic ERP system is built using best-in-industry microservices architecture which automatically scales with growth. Amazon Web Services, Starlight’s hosting platform is an example of a scalable infrastructure which provides endless opportunities.
2. Real-time design and real network intelligent endpoints
The software solution is the hub of the wheel that motors a company forward. A properly deployed cloud-based software system has intelligent endpoints, or spokes, that gather data and process it into actionable insights that can be used to assess and improve efficiency and best manage a company’s overall entire operation. Forward-thinking software solutions will offer real-time and network intelligent endpoints that also include customers in a business’s ecosystem. Customized apps that let customers engage a company for changes, pricing updates and new orders in real time are one example. Having live insight into locations and the status of assets will help manage jobs and inventory better to address demand immediately.
3. Open systems architecture
Businesses should also ask about third-party integration for the hardware and software used daily for in-cab systems, scale systems, accounting and other business functions. It’s importantsoftware suppliers support third-party endpoints in a network and integrate and support their own. This lets businesses be the driver, capitalizing on the investments you have and will make.
8. What can I expect for onboarding and long-term service specific to my needs?
When considering new software suppliers, additional factors are key to keep in mind include:
Startup and conversion: It is key to ask suppliers about their processes for onboarding, conversion from existing systems and long-term support. During a vetting process, it is also important to ask their customers about their experiences and how quickly they resolve issues and training quality.
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 or trouble shooting? Do they provide insights and resources that will help you grow your business?
Finally, do their contract terms favor the business 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.
A software decision is one a business will need to be happy with for a long time. Choosing a partner versus a supplier is critical to the outcomes you will achieve.
Starlight Software Solutions, Denver, was founded by Bill Bradley, a roll-off container entrepreneur, who created his own system when nothing existed specific to his needs. Relying on his years as a software executive and a diverse user advisory council, he built Starlight Software Solutions with one goal in mind: drive efficiency, profitability and scale.
The goal of the entire Starlight team is to help customers gain maximum productivity from every asset. For waste management companies, that means removing old processes that drain time and bog down inventory management, order taking, reporting, billing, invoicing and other activities that build profitability and return on investment.
Waste companies using Starlight’s solution to manage inventory and assets in real time have increased revenue by about 30 percent within months. In addition, they have achieved higher customer satisfaction which enables them to achieve long-term loyalty and more recurring revenue streams.