Management software is necessary for running an efficient and profitable auto repair shop. Owners and managers know this. The difficulty lies in determining which program or programs are best for their shop’s needs. There are so many different software companies and the software available changes continuously. It’s hard to know where to start. Here are some tips for making the decision process simpler and taking the anxiety out of committing to a management software product.
Determine your company’s needs – This is a very important step because every business is different. How they operate from day to day varies as does staffing. Before you even begin to look at software, decide what problems your company has that software could solve for you and make a list. When you’ve written down your needs, take time to include your wants as well. Rank them in order of importance. As a reference point, here is our list of 100 Must-have Features for Shop Management Software.
Figure out your budget – This is as important as the above step. You can write down a list of a hundred needs and wants, but if you can only afford 30 of them, that will impact what software options you’ll look at. Factor into your budget costs for purchasing or updating your hardware and for software updates or subscriptions. Also decide if you’ll need someone to install it for you. It won’t help you to buy state-of-the-art software that is perfect for your needs if you cannot afford to update it down the line.
Go over your options – Now you can begin to go over your software options. If you are unfamiliar with what is out there, start by looking over the Automotive Management Network’s Software Survey Results. We have compiled a handy comparison chart of management software, breaking down the capabilities of each brand of software in a variety of areas. Get out your list of needs and wants and compare it with this spreadsheet to see which software product is most likely to meet them. Keep in mind your future needs as well as your present ones. Will the software be able to keep up if you business expands or changes?
Make up a short list – You may want to skip this step, but don’t be in a hurry. Software is a commitment. It’s expensive and your staff will need to be trained to use it, so take your time in deciding. Choose five of the most promising software packages and rank them in order 1 to 5. Once you’ve whittled down your list to five, consult other managers to learn about their experience with the software products you’ve chosen. If the reviews are bad, you know what to do.
Share your list with your employees – Your staff will have their input about what looks good, and any good manager should take that input into account since the staff will use the software at least as much as management will. Choosing software that is user unfriendly will create other problems in the workplace beyond the computer realm.
Request a trial period – Most software companies will offer a trial period for using their products or at least give a demonstration of how it works. Involve your staff in this step as well, and get their feedback about how well the software solves your core needs. The more buy in you have from your staff before you make a purchase, the fewer complaints there will be afterwards.
Narrow your list down to one and purchase – This holds true no matter how much software you need to buy, but it is, of course, simpler and more efficient if you can find one type of software that will meet many needs (and wants).
We at the Automotive Management Network have spent a considerable amount of time surveying different software developers about the capabilities of their products in order to make this process easier for our members. We’re happy to offer this spreadsheet to you as a help in the selection process. If you have any further input about which management software products have not worked for your auto repair shop, feel free to share that information in our forums. Good luck with your selection process, and please share your success stories with us too!