"Finding the Right System Integrators for your POS Software"
- By Bob Twain
Tackling a Himalayan mountaineering expedition without a Sherpa to guide you is just about as challenging as trying to teach yourself how to use and install your computer POS software without the support of an experienced system integrator or VAR, (value-added reseller).
As an unbiased third party consultant, I see this happening all the time. What good is an expensive POS software system if it is not properly installed and you don't know how to use it? Dealers who sell computer POS software offer some assistance, but to really get your system off to a good start and have a reliable source of ongoing support, you need a VAR.
If the terms "integrator" and "VAR" are not familiar to you, read on - these folks can relieve your ongoing headaches with your current POS system or prevent you from ever feeling pain if you are just starting out.
What is a POS software integrator?
An integrator or VAR is a business that offers many services. VARs resell, install, configure AND offer training on POS software and hardware so that your system works seamlessly. Other synonyms you will see being used for system integrator are "vendor" and "reseller".
Just to give you an idea, you might notice 50 or more VARs (integrators) spread all over the country supporting the same POS software product. All of these integrators work independently.
Also, for clarification, some POS products are only available direct, and support comes right from the dealer. In these cases, be careful, and verify what kind of support is provided BEFORE you purchase.
VARs usually work with several different POS software products and (ideally) are very familiar with each system that they represent. I will get to tips on choosing a good VAR below.
They also provide employee training, server management and system service, should you (or when you) need help down the road. A good integrator knows POS software and hardware intimately, and can save you time and money.
An expensive computer POS system is only as good as the operator. Invest in integrator training and support so you can use all the features that you have already paid for!
Why is the integrator SO important?
Integrators make all the difference after you choose your POS software, providing the system management and support you need to keep your store running smoothly and making money.
To illustrate the importance of a VAR, here's an example of two retail business owners who use the same computer POS software and have vastly different opinions of it. Bill runs an apparel shop, and his neighbor Fred has an auto supply store.
When Bill was setting up his store, he asked Fred for his recommendations on retail management systems. Fred was satisfied with his software, and told Bill to buy it, so he did. BIG mistake! Not only do these two have completely different types of business, but they are very different personalities too.
Fred is a no-expenses-spared type guy who is somewhat of an IT and computer geek. He bought an expensive system and found a great system integrator (VAR) to install it and train his employees. His VAR keeps in touch regularly to see if Fred needs his help for anything.
Bill is on a tight budget, as well as being completely computer illiterate. His shop is a family business, and he did not budget for integrator support and training, so got the cheapest support he could find - his brother-in-law, a bright, self-educated programmer, but not specialized in Bill's POS software.
Needless to say, Bill is having massive problems with his system, but Fred is quite happy with his. Why is Bill's system not working as smoothly as Fred's?
First, Bill did not do his homework, and probably could have found a simpler POS system that fit his needs better. He is not comfortable with computer technology, and the system he bought is not easy for him to use. He paid for a lot of expensive features that he has no use for.
Second, Bill's brother-in-law is not a trained VAR, and is not as knowledgeable as Fred's, so his system was not configured as well or customized to fit his needs. Also, Bill did not receive the best training available. Choosing a good VAR is very important!
Third, Bill didn't want to buy a new computer system, so is trying to make his old one work. It is not compatible with the computer POS software he bought.
The main advantages to using a system integrator are their expertise in both software and hardware, ability to configure and support both, and their training program.
Using a generic computer system and poorly supported POS software can turn into a situation where the hardware company blames the software for problems and vice-versa.
There was a great discussion on the topic of VARS in my forum last week. Read all about it here:
What Should I Look for When Choosing a POS Software Integrator?
I talk about this in my POS Software guide (http://www.possoftwareguide.com),
so look there for more detailed information. Here are some important points to consider in your search:
Number 1: Do your homework! There are many system VARs out there, and some are not as good as others. Ask your dealer for recommendations, as well as your peers in the business world.
Number 2: Get References!! Call around to businesses like yours and ask LOTS of questions!
Number 3: Find out about their support programs. Some VARs offer a limited time option, and others are available 24-7, whenever you need help.
Number 4: Do they offer training, and how extensive is it? Will they come to you and train onsite?
Number 5: How long does it usually take for them to answer a call for help? If your system goes down, you will want them as soon as possible.
Number 6: Are they available for questions? If you phone, will they put you on hold forever?
Number 7: How much do they charge? Does this fit into your ROI calculations?
If you are still investigating integrators and POS software, be sure to use my POS software guide and comparison chart in your selection process: http://www.possoftwareguide.com and http://www.possoftwareguide.com/new-chart.html
Look these over first and consider my unbiased advice, assembled from years of consulting and representing computer POS software companies. Ask me about my consulting services if you need more help.
Don't forget to visit my website and sign up for my free newsletter. http://www.possoftwareguide.com/newsletter.asp. Use the forum to ask questions or get more information on integrator POS software. Best of luck in your search, and I wish you success!
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