There are some 7 options that are open to you, when looking for inventory management software. I will be focusing on those options in today’s article. From my interactions with buyers of inventory management software, I have noticed one thing. I have noticed that many people tend to approach the purchase of inventory management software with a bit of naivety. They seem to be unaware of what their options are. This is very risky, especially when buying business software. If you don’t know what your options are, you could easily be taken advantage of. It is therefore important for you to know what your options are. And in as far as inventory management software goes, these are the 7 options.
Note that our focus here is not on some 7 specific inventory management tools you can buy. Rather, our focus is on the types of inventory management tools available to you. Once you know what your options are, in this regard, you will have an easier time. You will be better placed to pick the best inventory management tool for your business. And that is important, because we see too many businesspeople making the wrong choices in these things. They usually make the wrong choices because they don’t know what other options are open to them.
By the way, some of the 7 options we are about to look at would still be relevant when buying other types of business software. They can help you, beyond the purchase of inventory management software. That is, if you decide to take a broader perspective.
Without further ado, the 7 options available to you, when looking for inventory management software are in terms of:
Basic features vs advanced features.
There are some inventory management software programs with very advanced features. There are others with very basic features. It is upon you to assess your business’ needs. Then you can figure out whether you really need the advanced features or not. What are ‘advanced features’ in this context? Well, what may look as an ‘advanced feature’ to one person may come across as a ‘basic feature’ to another person. But, objectively speaking, there are some inventory management applications with very advanced capabilities. Like the ones that are capable of being synchronized with e-commerce platforms. Or the ones that are capable of managing multiple warehouses. And the ones that are capable of managing serial numbers and warranties… Then there are others with very basic features. Ones that are only designed to keep track of the number of items in stock. One that, you know, lack the bells and whistles. Ultimately, everything depends on what you are using the inventory management software for. Of course, the inventory management applications with advanced features tend to be costlier. Therefore, you should identify the features you really need. Then you should go for an application with such features. That way, you avoid one that has more features than you need.
Open source vs proprietary.
There are open source inventory management systems. Then there are proprietary inventory management systems. The open source inventory management systems tend to be available for free. The source code for them is open. Meaning that it is available, and it can be tweaked by users. The proprietary inventory management systems, on the other hand, tend to be only available at a cost. But we also have some proprietary inventory systems that are available for free. With some proprietary inventory management applications, there are two versions. One version that is available for free, but with limitations. Then another one that is available at a cost, but without limitations. So people usually start with the free versions. Then they upgrade to the paid-for versions, once they get tired of the limitations associated with the free versions.
Vendor-supported vs user-supported.
Some inventory management applications are vendor-supported. You can call the vendor every time you have a problem. The vendor can then come and help you out with the problem. This is usually the case with the paid-for, proprietary inventory management systems Other inventory management tools are user-supported. This means that the user has to solve any issues that arise while using the software. There are usually online forums where the users can share notes on how solve various issues. But the users don’t have the option of calling the vendor when they have problems. This is usually the case for the free, open source inventory management systems.
Cloud-based vs locally hosted.
There are some inventory management applications that are cloud based. Then we have others that are meant to be hosted locally. Either on the users’ computers or on the users’ applications servers. If you opt for a cloud-based application, it means that you can access your inventory data from anywhere, ‘on the go’. But then, you will have to deal with the security concerns and costs associated with having your data on the cloud. If you opt for a locally hosted application, you will have to deal with certain limitations. Including that of only being able to use the application when you are in the office. In other words, not being able to use it on the go. Of course, if you only manage inventory in the office, and you have no field operations, this wouldn’t be much of a limitation. But you have to keep it in mind nonetheless.
Limited vs unlimited product lines.
With some inventory management applications, you can only manage a limited number of product lines. With others, you get to manage unlimited product lines. Here, it becomes necessary to look at the nature of your business. Let’s assume that you have only one (or just a few) product lines. Then, in that case, limitations in terms of product lines that you can manage won’t matter. But if yours is a business with multiple product lines, things are different. The limitations in the product lines that can be managed with an application can affect you. You’d therefore be advised to go for an inventory management system with capacity to manage unlimited product lines.
Single user vs multi user.
There are some simple inventory management applications that are designed for single users. They can only be used on a single computer. If you try to use them on multiple computers, the data doesn’t sync. Then we have others that are designed for multi-user environments. They can even be used on hundreds or thousands of workstations, and the data syncs perfectly. Again, the nature of your business is the determinant here. Let’s say that yours is a simple business. One whose inventory can be managed on a single computer. In that case, you can go for a single-user system. If yours is a complex business (or one that has potential to become complex over time), things would be different. You’d be better advised to go for a multi-user inventory management system.
Stand-alone vs integrated.
There are some applications that are designed to function as stand-alone inventory management systems. Then there are others that are part of integrated systems. Like the ones that are part of ERP systems. Or the ones that are part of accounting packages. It is upon you to identify the type of inventory management tool that is ideal for you. Here, again, you have to look at your business. Then you will get to know whether your business is best served by a stand-alone inventory management system. Or by an integrated inventory management system.