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Grow Your Direct-to-Consumer Wine Sales


​​​​This article was previously published in Grapes to Wine Magazine and has been reproduced with permission.

Choosing the Right Software for Your Winery

Why buy software?
With more opportunity for wineries looking to grow their direct-to-consumer wine sales, choosing the right software has never been more critical but it can also be intimidating; vendors offering a dizzying array of features, functionality, integrations and price points. For these reasons, choosing software for wineries can be expensive and risky. However, a successfully implemented solution can make your business more efficient, improve your bottom line, and promote top-line growth with new functionality for sales and marketing. By properly planning and structuring throughout the process, you can increase your chances of a successful implementation.

Upfront planning pays off later
When approaching a potential software acquisition or upgrade, it is important to first step back and treat the endeavour with the same seriousness and rigour that you would with any other large capital expenditure. Although software is ephemeral by nature, it is as much a part of your business infrastructure as any other piece of property, plant or equipment. Structuring the project as such, setting realistic timelines and comprehensive budgets will put the team into the right frame of mind and ensure that unforeseen obstacles do not sidetrack the project down the line. For example, the implementation team will need to interact with key staff members which could cause major headaches if mistakenly scheduled during a busy season for the business.

Are you ready?
The first step in any successful software implementation is an honest and thorough readiness assessment. Going into the software implementation with eyes open and recognition that it could entail significant change for many aspects of the business can help prevent overburdening your organization during a time of significant change. All organizations have a limited capacity for change during any one time, and a major software implementation can take up a substantial amount of that bandwidth. If your organization has undergone a large amount of change recently, such as major staff turnover, acquisition or divestiture of a business segment or property, it may be better to delay the implementation to allow the organization to stabilize. Rather than disappointment, look at this as an opportunity for greater planning and forethought in your software selection.

Don’t replicate what you already have
Organizations often start down the path of software implementations without understanding what they will use the system for or what is possible, and their decisions are filtered through the capabilities or restrictions of existing systems and processes. By carefully documenting the requirements of what the system needs to do, you will be in a much better position to define the scope of what the software must cover. During this exercise, it is important to identify mandatory and optional functionality. This will allow you to prioritize which modules are mandatory from the outset, which can be implemented in subsequent phases, and how you can align this functionality with your organizational priorities.

Countering sales pitches with structure
All too often, wineries choose software systems based on some combination of an emotional preference, gut feeling or even a good sales pitch. With an established understanding of requirements an organization can run a formal selection process. Structuring a Request for Proposal that focuses on your priorities will compel vendors to answer the questions that matter most, rather than highlighting their competitive advantages. Ensuring that vendors must respond in a prescribed manner will provide metrics around the software’s capability as proposals will address requirements rather than just high level selling points. It will also provide like-for-like comparatives for price, scope and functional fit. Add to these scripted demos and you will be able to see a direct comparison between system functionality and user experience.

Choosing a partner, not a vendor
Wineries usually lack expertise in implementing large software systems. Implementation partners who specialize in the selected software system bring experience and deep knowledge of how to implement functionality based on business requirements. They also bring added experience around project management, organizational change management, support and system security. Increasingly, they offer cloud-hosted solutions that reduce the overhead and risk of hosting your solution on your own servers. When selecting an implementation partner, go in with the understanding that you are selecting a long term business partner and trusted advisor that will not only guide you down the path of implementation, but will also be there to provide support, training and enhance your systems as new business needs arise.

Dip in, don’t dive. Modularize!
While it can be tempting to implement all the desired functionality all at once and be free from software implementations until your next acquisition or upgrade, sometimes a measured and phased approach will provide greater value for money and minimize risk. By starting with the most essential functionality, you minimize the impact on the organization overall and are able to understand how your organization adapts to software changes. The experience of implementing your first few modules may also inform your approach or prioritization of further modules. By creating a phased roadmap and revising as necessary, you can remain agile while focusing on the highest value functionality and avoid potential roadblocks like staff availability during busy seasons and financial year ends.

This article was co-authored by MNP’s Victoria-based Simon Daley and Vancouver-based Cameron Sielski, Managers in MNP’s Technology Consulting Services practice.

For more information on choosing the right software for your winery, contact MNP’s Geoff McIntyre, CPA, CA, Food & Beverage Processing Niche Leader for the Okanagan Region at 250.763.8919 or [email protected]