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  • Mark Lotstein


Over the years we have found that the vast majority of convenience and petroleum wholesalers are not fully utilizing their various software programs and that this is costing them a significant amount of money. This column is a list of questions and quick bullet point thoughts to help you identify if you could be getting a better return on your software investments.

What Does Better Software Utilization Equate Too?

  • 10% + less on hand inventory per store

  • 2% increase in profitability

  • 10% + reduction in labor time for multiple aspects of your business

General Software Questions:

  1. When did you purchase your software? Many of our clients start off telling us they purchased software anywhere from five to fifteen years ago. Let me ask you when did you last upgrade your cellphone? How about your laptop?

  2. When was the software last upgraded? It may not be necessary to purchase a brand new software on a regular basis but you certainly need to make sure what you have is the most up to date to ensure full integration and capabilities with your POS as well as new functions and features that can truly be difference makers when it comes to control and profitability.

  3. How has your business changed since you purchased and installed the software? On a regular basis we speak with business operators who have doubled their retail footprint, have added wholesale or bulk to their business portfolio or in other ways have seen their business change since they initially purchased their software. The car you owned when you were single probably is not the best one to have when you have family and in many ways this applies to your software as well.

  4. Is it one fully integrated software or multiple software programs? Going back to how your business has changed you really need to consider if one software is the best option to manage the different aspects of your business or do you need to find multiple software that truly are the best for each aspect of your business.

  5. Are you truly using all of its functions and reporting capabilities? How do you know this to be 100% true? Rarely if ever have we found that anyone truly uses all of the capabilities within their software and we would recommend you truly look into how you can get more from your existing software.

  6. When did you last have the vendor meet with you to see if you are fully utilizing the software – have business changes, new software features, or new modules been released that you could use? One way you can be sure that you have the most up to date modules, all necessary modules, and are fully utilizing your software is to meet with your software vendor and we would recommend doing this once a year.

  7. When was the baseline set up of the software (price book, zone structure, terminals, etc) reviewed and what if any changes were made based on this review? If your price book was set up ten years ago you probably have poor descriptions, items that are no longer for sale, and many other configuration issues that would not be the case if you were to reset your price book – this maybe the most control oriented and profitable thing you can do!

Questions for your team

  • IT

    • When did we purchase the software package(s)?

    • When was it last upgraded?

    • Are all of our POS’s at the stores on the newest version / same version of the POS software?

    • What are we paying monthly / annually for all software related costs – support, maintenance, upgrades, server related costs, etc.

  • Wholesale Staff

    • Who trained you on using the software and when were you last trained?

    • What do we use the software for exactly (a full list of step by step what the software is used for)?

    • What is manually keyed in versus what comes in electronically?

    • Are there any steps or functions that are done more than once and in more than one software?

    • Who trained you on using the software and when were you last trained?

  • Price Book Manager

    • Who trained you on using the software and when were you last trained?

    • Are we attending any user conferences on our software?

    • Please provide a list of what functions you do using the software?

    • When was the store level price book created?

    • How much time do you spend per day on each of your tasks as relate to using the software?

    • What is difficult and time consuming to do via the software?

    • What does the software do well that you find very helpful and informative?

    • What you have to remember is that you do have choices and sometimes the right choice is going with a new software or software’s!

    • There are approximately 30 different software companies that offer scanning, back office, wholesale, bulk, transport, and or accounting software to the convenience and petroleum industries.

    • The question is which one is the right one for you and how do you determine this?

  • What POS you have matters

    • Regardless of your software you need to be aware that different POS equipment have different capabilities and it is key to know this in advance.

    • The set up of your POS directly impacts what data and how it is configured by your back office software so changes to the POS can positively impact your back office software.

    • POS capabilities – as mentioned earlier the various POS systems have different capabilities and this affects reporting also.

  • Reporting

    • Added software modules – many software vendors have added new reporting tools in the last few years if you are not sure what your current vendor offers you need to ask.

    • Actionable data – only if you are using the report data is it worthwhile – too often the data is overwhelming, not going to the right staff or otherwise wasted.

  • Final Thoughts

    • Review – Look at your business needs and how your software helps address these needs on a regular basis – consider bringing in a 3rd party consulting firm to truly evaluate your business processes, software set up, and software utilization.

    • Software – Technology changes rapidly and it is imperative you stay in front of the curve. Make sure you have the most up to date version of the software and that you are fully utilizing it. Participate in software symposiums, vendor meeting, and or use an outside consulting firm to ensure you are doing everything you can.

    • Training – Make sure that the staff utilizing the software have truly been trained how to operate it for maximum ROI – the cost of true vendor training is far less than the lost control and profitability if they are not properly trained.


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