When you select a software company to implement an automated mail and package tracking system, you are choosing an application that will have wide-ranging impact for your department and your entire organization.

Here are 10 tips for choosing the right company to meet your requirements now and in the future:

1. Don’t ask vendors what they can do; instead, tell them in detail what you need.

The move from a manual process to an automated system is a big leap, and the solution to your problems must start with a good understanding of those problems. Do a detailed RFP to keep vendors on the right path, and make a checklist of the capabilities that the solution must deliver.

A good software company should talk more about you—about adapting to your business or organizational environment—than about themselves. Your strongest protection is to keep asking questions: “Exactly how will this address our green mandate?”, “Exactly how will this solve our problems with slow delivery?”

2. Keep in mind that bad news can be very good information.

Mickey Anglea at Vanderbilt University did a thorough RFP describing his specific requirements. The result was that three of the four leading mail and package tracking vendors he contacted “pretty much said no to all of our requirements,” he said.

Anglea chose the vendor who said yes. “Today I have a system that does everything I was looking for: I can track anything that needs to get to a person at Vanderbilt, whether that it originates from any carrier, the USPS or even here in a Vanderbilt department.”

3. A good software company will provide a forum for your IT team or other technical personnel to communicate with peer experts.

A meeting or phone call between the company’s software team and your technical staff should be offered as a step in the process. Security is a common concern, for example, and a good software company will have solid, technical explanations of the encryption and other capabilities they use to mitigate threats.

4. Just say no if a vendor suggests customization.

A good software company has a highly configurable platform—a flexible, adaptable foundation that can meet changing needs. There should be no need for added fees to “customize” the software. Be aware that highly customized software can complicate your upgrade path, adding costs and potentially reducing your options in the future.

5. A good software company uses the latest software development technology.

This is a must for your “checklist”: the latest architectural technology. Using a .NET platform, for example, ensures that many security protocols have already been met.

6. Maintenance and support options are hallmarks of a solid, reputable vendor.

A good software company should give you the choice of running the software in your own IT environment or having the solution hosted externally, either in the cloud or with third-party hosting.

7. A good software company develops 100 percent of everything.

Availability and reliability start with excellent integration. Handhelds or other field devices and the enterprise system software must communicate effectively: when part of the application is developed by a third party it can jeopardize this integration. You want your vendor to be able to say: “we write all the software, we understand it, we can configure it to meet your needs, and it all works together smoothly.”

8. Good software will be able to integrate with other applications as required.

A good tracking system is not an island but a hub. As multiple uses are developed for your system, integrating with other applications is vital (for example integration with human resources applications can provide names, locations, and emails, and integration with a purchasing system can provide the link between a P.O. number and a name).

9. A good software vendor can accommodate any data communications configuration.

There are three ways to communicate between a handheld device and the server where the tracking software resides: using a device cradle, WIFI, and wide area cellular for mobile delivery vehicles. You may not need them all at first, but to ensure a strong growth path, make sure the system can accommodate all three.

10. A good software company’s trainers have a deep understanding of the system.

Make sure the company has knowledgeable trainers who can communicate effectively with your technical team and with your day-to-day users. The trainers must have a thorough understanding of the solution itself and most important of all, must clearly understand the specific requirements of your inbound and outgoing operations.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below or visit my company’s website at web.sclogic.com.