By Pace LaVia • August 17, 2018

How To Choose a Cannabis ERP/Seed-To-Sale System

For cannabis companies involved in either marijuana or hemp, choosing the right enterprise resource planning application (ERP) and seed-to-sale software can go a long way toward building a strong foundation for expansion, while having the wrong ERP can hold a company back from achieving their expansion goals.

A recent study by Brother International Corporation reported that 63% of small business owners feel overwhelmed by the wide variety of technologies available to them. But 72% feel that implementing the right technologies would offer a bigger return on their investment than hiring new employees.

So how do successful cannabis business owners go about choosing an ERP?

There are four basic steps that need to be taken to assure that you’re getting the right ERP for your business:

  1. Determine your needs
  2. Research available options
  3. Discuss your options with ERP vendors
  4. Decide which ERP to implement

Let’s look at each of these in detail.

Determine Your Information Technology Needs

Before you begin the search for the right ERP technology, start by making a list of all the systems that operate within your company. A proper ERP should be able to integrate all those systems into one framework.

It’s also important to consult with your managers, employees, and even your customers to be sure that all their needs are being considered. Also, take some time to determine some of the bottlenecks and production inefficiencies that are not being addresses by your current systems.

Some of the obvious systems that cannabis businesses must have a good handle on include cultivation tracking, inventory and warehouse control, sales, accounting, and so on. But each company may have its own way of operating. You might have ideas about how to run your company that you’d like to implement into your ERP.

Once you have a comprehensive list of your requirements prioritize your technology needs by the determining the potential impact each will have on your business. This will give you some talking points when you’re ready to discuss a technology solution with a vendor and help to assure that all your questions are answered and your needs are met.

Another consideration that needs to be addressed, is which of your managers or employees will need to be involved in the decision making process so that they can be kept in the loop at all times and assist in evaluating potential solutions. They’ll be the ones most impacted by your choices.

Research Available Information Technologies

Researching potential ERP solutions starts with discussing it with your team including any consultants you may be working with. Often times these people have experience with a particular ERP that they can bring to the table.

The next step is usually to search online for things like “seed to sale systems” or “cannabis ERP” and so on. These terms are specific enough that they should bring up both vendor websites and media coverage of their solutions. Organize these sources into a bookmark folder so that you can quickly refer back to them later.

You’re probably going to have a lot of reading to do and videos to watch before you’re going to be ready to discuss your needs with an ERP vendor. Take the time to do it. Get as educated as you can on cannabis ERPs. The more aware you are of the pros and cons of these systems the more able you’ll be to make the right decision for your company.

If you know others in the business who you feel are a good model for your business, take the time to reach out to them and ask them what technology they use and how they feel about it.

Another great place to find information on cannabis data solutions is at trade shows and industry networking events. Find the people who are doing what you’re doing and pique their brains for information.

Discuss your options with ERP vendors

Once you’ve got a big picture of what your needs are and what your options are, and you’ve pored over the available information on a variety of potential solutions, it’s time to get on the phone and talk to cannabis ERP vendors.

Here are some of the questions you should be asking:

  • How does your software integrate with my business model?
  • Will it integrate with any current systems you have running?
  • Or will you need to replace your existing systems in order to implement their solution?
  • What are the total costs associated with implementing their solution including hardware, software, maintenance, training, and tech support?
  • Is it scalable, and what will it cost to expand?
  • Is the solution cloud-based?
  • What is their track record for updating and improving their solution?
  • Does their solution incorporate regulatory compliance features?
  • How often do they check your state’s regulatory board for updates to regulations?
  • What other companies are using their solution?
  • What are their future plans for their solution?
  • What is involved in implementing their solution?
  • How quickly can we be up and running with the solution?
  • How much training will your team need in order to properly utilize their solution?
  • What does the training consist of?

Of course all vendors are going to tell you that their solution is superior to the others. It’s not your job to determine which solution is superior. You just need to determine which is right for your business.

Integrating new technology is a significant financial investment for your business. Do your due diligence to achieve the best return on investment with whatever solution(s) you choose.

Decide Which Solution To Implement

Even after you’ve done all your homework, choosing the right technology for your business will be difficult. Not only do you not want to waste your limited time and money adopting ineffective solutions by unstable companies, but implementing the wrong solutions has the potential to create problems rather than solve them.

No solution is going to be a one-size-fits-all solution. No matter which solution you choose, it will need to be customized for your business.

You’re going to need to answer the following questions to assess the appropriateness and scalability of the technology options you’re evaluating.

  • Which vendors under consideration are innovating at the same pace as the industry and your company?
  • Which systems seemed the most user-friendly?
  • How well does the software integrate with your current systems?
  • Is the cost in line with competitive products?
  • What do current users of the system think about it?
  • What is involved in implementing each solution?

It’s important to not just take your vendor’s word for everything. It’s a good idea to take some time to talk to some other companies which are using the particular ERP in question. Here are some questions you might consider asking when speaking to them.

  • Overall, are they happy with the product?
  • How quickly were they able to implement the solution?
  • Were there any delays in the expected implementation and why?
  • Was the employee training adequate, or was more training required?
  • How engaged has the vendor been with your team?
  • Has any substantial tech support been required?
  • How quickly does the vendor respond to requests?
  • Does their solution thoroughly incorporate state regulations?
  • What aspects of the system do they think could use improvement?
  • Are they glad they chose this particular system and vendor?
  • Do they recommend a particular system?

Once you and your team have given ample consideration to all your options, and the implications of implementing a particular system, and you’ve spoken to managers at other businesses which have been using each system, you should be ready to make a final decision.   

Take the time to sit down with your vendor’s sales rep one last time to go over any last questions you may have and to get a complete understanding of the next steps involved in implementation. Be sure to also meet with your entire team again to discuss your choice and let them know what to expect next, how long it will take to implement, what training they will be going through, and so forth.

Further reading:

Using Seed-To-Sale Software to Scale Your Cannabis Business

Success Through End-To-End Cannabis Traceability


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