Most businesses need some kind of inventory management software, but purchasing this software platform can be intimidating if you don’t know what you’re doing. What features should you be looking for? How can you tell which platforms are better than others?
The Essential Features
According to Skyware Inventory, these are some of the most essential features of any inventory management software:
- Centralized inventory data recording. First and foremost, you’re going to need some form of centralized inventory data recording. Anyone in your business who needs to figure out how many of a particular item you have in stock or when to place the next order should be able to go to a single source of truth and get the answer.
- Tagging and coding. Inventory management platforms also have some form of tagging and coding in place. You should be able to tag specific items or goods with bar codes or other information-containing labels and apply codes like product numbers to keep everything organized.
- Inventory forecasting. Next, you’ll need some form of inventory forecasting in place. Good inventory management software will help you figure out the habits and patterns that are leading to inventory depletion so that you can replenish your inventory at a suitable rate. You shouldn’t have to crunch the numbers entirely on your own.
- Automatic alerts. Good inventory management software features some kind of automatic alert system. You should be able to rely on pre-built notifications or establish notifications of your own that will bring issues to your attention before they begin to affect your business.
- Scanning and automatic entry. You may also need your software to have scanning and automatic entry. This way, your workers can simply scan barcodes and instantly upload the data to your central source of truth.
- Business activity reporting and analysis. Some platforms also have features related to business activity reporting and analysis. For example, you can tie your changes in inventory to sales and analyze the patterns that have led to this development.
- Cloud storage. These days, most inventory management software is hosted in the cloud. This makes it easy to access your data and the key features of the app from any device and any location.
- Security. It’s also important to shop for an inventory management platform that has robust security. This is sensitive information, and you don’t want your competitors or cybercriminals to get their hands on it. In addition to upgrading the security features, you’ll also want to follow cybersecurity best practices.
- Backups. Ideally, the platform will also have built-in backup systems. This way, if your inventory databases undergo unwanted changes, or if you lose data to corruption, theft, or other threats, you’ll have backups that you can readily restore.
- Integrations with other software. Chances are, your business is already using many other software platforms, including accounting software and project management software. It’s helpful to choose an inventory management platform with the ability to integrate and trade data with these other platforms – if for no other reason than efficiency and convenience.
Just because an inventory management software platform has all of the essential features in place doesn’t mean it’s going to be the best option for your business. You’re also going to need to consider the following:
- Niche specificity. Is this inventory management software platform designed for a specific niche, or is it designed for general use? Depending on your industry and your inventory management needs, you may require a platform that is specifically designed for your circumstances.
- Performance and reliability. How does this platform perform and how reliable is it? Most inventory management shoppers are looking for a platform that is convenient, fast, and responsive. You should be able to use it on a wide variety of different devices without any loss in functionality. You should also be able to get quick responses from your inputs and never be delayed or suffer productivity losses because your software simply can’t keep up. If the software is hosted in the cloud, you should also be reassured of practically continuous uptime, so you never have to worry about the software being down and bringing your operations to a total halt.
- Learnability and usability. Lots of people are going to be using your inventory management software, so it’s important that the software is both learnable and usable. You shouldn’t need a degree in programming or a background in IT to understand how to utilize the most basic functions of the program. Video tutorials and interactive guides can help, but the platform should still be intuitive.
- Future trajectory, new updates, and developer support. How is this platform going to change in the future? Does it seem like the developers are interested in making the platform bigger and better on a constant basis, and do they support their product in general? What new updates are due in the future and what new features are going to be added? It’s important to look for a platform that has a lot going for it in the future.
- Customization potential. Are you able to customize this platform at all? For many businesses, an out of the box solution is perfectly fine. But if you have specific needs or if you need the platform to be tailored to your specific business environment, you’ll need something with more flexibility.
- Cost. Of course, you’re also going to need to think about cost. A platform may have everything you need and all the advantages you can imagine, but if it’s extremely costly, it may not be worth the money.
No matter what, you’re going to want to comparison shop. There are hundreds, if not thousands of inventory management software programs to choose from, ranging from extremely simplistic open-source versions to luxury packages that are out of budget for most businesses.
Make a list of the essentials first, then a list of preferences, and then start comparing these platforms to each other so you can figure out which one is going to work best for your needs.