Winery software has come a long way in the past few decades. The speed of innovation is only accelerating, with vendors expanding functionality, reporting, and enhancing the user interface to make it more intuitive to use. While this gives you many robust software options to compare, it also makes selection challenging to navigate.
In this digital age, virtually everyone uses some form of an electronic database. The more digital infrastructure weaves its way in day-to-day operations, the more reliant wine businesses will become on technology. Cloud-based winery software stores and recalls business-critical information and optimises data-driven decision-making. Or in other words – winery software is the key to productivity and success.
Many software products are on the market; however, not all software is made the same or delivers the customer support you’ll need. Wine production is complex and governed by rigid regulatory and compliance rules. Therefore, choosing winery software is an important decision that can affect the ease of how you do business in the future.
To make sense of the winery software options available, we’ve assembled a checklist to help you select the right product for your business.
Research – Understand your needs
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to software. So whether you’re looking for winery software or a direct-to-customer solution, having a plan and ranking your priorities will help you navigate your way towards the right product. Here are a few tips to help you get organised:
- Review your current processes and the limitations you need to address
- Prioritise your needs to bridge the gap to success and categorise them into:
- Essential features
- Conditional features that are not mission-critical but are important for productivity
- Extra features that are not essential but would be helpful to have
- Consider your budget vs. the cost of the limitations in your current process. Investing in software can help you recoup costs from poor processes, so you need to look past the price tag and consider the software’s impact on business operations
- Understand your timeline and identify when you need the software to be up and running. Take training and a learning curve into consideration when mapping your schedule
- Identify the person responsible for making the final decision at the end of the selection process
- Understand how the market is changing and how you might need to adapt to prepare for the future
Once you know what to look for, start sweeping the market and gather intel on software vendors and their solutions.
Demo – Familiarisation
Once you have done your market research and narrowed down a shortlist of software vendors, send them your requirements and request a demonstration of how their solution can address your needs. In addition to meeting your technical requirements, you should look for vendors that:
- Provide complete setup and ongoing support
- Oversee your data migration process
- Offer thorough onsite or online training
- Provide free ongoing support through various channels, such as a virtual help desk, training videos and webinars, and an expert customer service team
- Manage software updates automatically, removing the need for you to manually coordinate downtime between your winemakers, IT team, and vintrace staff
A product demo allows you to see the software in action and is an integral part of the process. It should be personalised to you and your business based on the requirements you provided. It is also your opportunity to ask questions and dig further into any component of the software. Here are a few things to look for to ensure you are getting the most modern, technologically advanced and easy to use system:
- The dashboard (or home screen) should be customisable by each user, allowing your employees to set up their screen with data and quick links most relevant to them
- The software should run on a tier 1 Cloud provider with proven disaster recovery procedures and performance
- A multi-lingual Support Team is advantageous to support winemakers traveling seasonally for vintage
- Integrations with best-in-class partners improve productivity and allow your data to flow between your systems. Look for software that links with Quickbooks, TankNET, vinCreative, GrapeLink, ETS, FOSS, AgCode, VinWizard, Xero, Vend, fruit scales and more
- Effective data management is critical in highly regulated environments such as the wine industry. Your software should turn arduous governance, reporting and audits into a simple one-click process
- Track and manage dry goods, finished goods and all other inventory without needing an additional system
Validation – Reviews and Testimonials
Every minute devoted to evaluating your software options could save you weeks or even months down the track. Since you will be trusting your most important company data to the vendor, it’s critical that you take time to select the right software for your business needs. References are a vital part of the purchase process and can provide you with an unbiased perspective about the product quality, support, training and service. Here are a few tips for talking to customer references:
- Ask the vendor to provide at least three references
- Pick customers of a similar size and geography to you, and have been through at least one vintage with the software
- Ask questions that relate to your business and processes
- Talk to at least one user in each functional department, including IT
- Don’t evaluate information while you are gathering it, evaluate afterward
- Focus on examples and facts rather than people’s opinions
Purchase and Implementation
Once you’ve selected a software provider, and before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you understand all the pricing details. For example, what are the implementation costs, and is there a fee for initial training, ongoing support, maintenance and upgrades? Don’t forget to engage your team in the buying process so they are as invested in the new software as you are.
On a final note
Technology should be an essential component of your business strategy. But when faced with the choice of software providers, you can become overwhelmed with feelings of uncertainty and fear of regret. But these feelings can lead to irrational indecisiveness and status quo bias.
Technology is an investment and deserves thorough investigation before purchase. With the right software and support, your business will improve productivity and reduce costs, while the wrong tools can stand in your way and end up costing you more than money.