How to select Billing Solution
Retail Billing Solution ensures that billing happens correctly and there are no leakages or scope for human errors. Moreover the billing solution is not restricted to billing only but has integrated itself with the routine Retail Operations which includes inventory management, customer management, supplier management, customer loyalty management, store employee performance and is an important source of business intelligence. Hence, it is important to select an appropriate solution that would work for the Retailer in the given environment. Thus decision to implement a solution would just not involve investments but also the time and effort in implementing and brining about change management. Let us evaluate some of the critical points that need to be considered while taking a decision on a Billing Solutions.
- Type of Solution
- Central vs Local - The Retailer would need to take a decision on whether the Billing Solution needs to be a desktop based solution which works within the LAN environment or a solution which is connected with central server. Whether the solution could be a cloud based solution or available on the mobile or would it a hybrid solution. In case of a cloud based solution, how would internet connectivity failure would be handled?
- Master Management - How is the item or SKU (stock-keeping-unit) defined? How would the variant be handled? How would be free goods associated with the SKU be handled and tracked? How would bulk-break management be done? Who would be responsible for maintaining the masters? What is the flexibility that could be provided to local store managers to overwrite the centrally defined masters? This could be in terms of adding a new product, setting a price books for a SKU, setting local taxes or giving special discounts or making promotion offers to liquate near expiry stocks. Would the pricing be dynamic or would it be defined? Dynamic pricing would allow the price of the SKU to be defined as per the mark-up or mark-down policies set in the system in such a way that margin are protected? The system could also allow for negative margin sale in certain event as may be required?
- Security - The data security along with the backup and restoration policy should be considered. Access to the system and menus should be password protected and should be role based? What happens in a situation of a failure of the system? Would the system allow for back-dated entry in event of failure? How does one ensure that the provision is not misused? How would Start-of-Day (SOD) and End-of-Day (EOD) be defined? Who is responsible for initiating the same and what is the process that needs to be followed? What would be allowed and what would not be allowed once the process is completed? When would the masters and data be synchronized? How would failure be identified and how would it be fixed? How are audit trails, transaction history maintained and how is it to be monitored and action to be taken? How is the financial year ending done and what is the process for handling previous year’s settlement in the current year?
- Ease of Operations - This is another important consideration to ensure that the billing is done in minimum time and the check-outs are done at ease. This is determined by how is the layout designed? Would the access be keyboard driven, touch-screen? How does the search work? Does the system allow negative inventory SKU to be sold? How does one reconcile the stock in case of such negative inventory sale? Does the system have provision for layaway / keeping the bill on hold? Does the system allow the person at the counter to search for the SKU in event the bar code scanner fails? How does one search for the customer/ enter new customer data? Does the system have a provision to inform the cashier the amount tendered and to be returned? Does the system have provision for multiple tenders and the rules associated with them for their acceptance? Does the system allow for return goods and how it has to be handled? Does the system provide for credit note issue and its adjustment? Does the system allow for credit transaction? If so, how is Sales Outstanding monitored and settled?
- Reports - What are the different types of reports available in the system? Can custom report be generated? Do the reports meet the business need of the organization? Can a customized bill be printed?
- Inventory Management - Does the system need to be integrated with the inventory system? How does one do the inventory count is it scheduled or a perpetual inventory count? What is the schedule for the inventory count? How does one reconcile the stock? How does one transfer stock from one store to another, one distribution center to the store, from the storage area to the store? When should a SKU be ordered? What is the minimum order quantity? What is the re-order level? How does one ensure that the terms of trade are in line with the actual purchase invoice? How does one account for shrinkages/ damages?
- Loyalty Management Program - Customer loyalty management is an important part of store operations. The customer loyalty program is integrated with the billing solution which allows the customer to know the points accumulated and redeem them directly without going through an additional process. The Billing solution should allow the accumulation and redemption of points in any of the network stores thus enhance the customer experience.
- Supplier Management – Does the system require to manage supplier? How are supplier outstanding managed? How are good returned managed?
- Integration with peripheral – How is the integration with the Mouse, Keyboard, Cash Drawer, MSR (Magnetic Strip Reader), Bar Code Scanner, Weighing Scale, Beacons, Bar Code Label printer, Receipt Printer would be done? How does one ensure integrity and calibration of the system? Is the application agnostic to the hardware peripheral? How is configuration to be done or is it plug-and-play?
- Integration with other system - A careful study should be made with regards to the possible integration with ERP, accounting or other third party solution which would need to be integrated into the system and how it would be executed and managed.
- Hardware and Software requirement – While considering a billing solution it is important to consider the form factor of the device, screen display, processing and storage space, load balancing along with compatibility with the different peripherals? This could be a desktop, a tablet or a full-fledged POS system which is touch based? This should be considered along with application operating system and other dependencies which would be required. These dependencies could be in form a licensing requirement for the reporting tools, anti-virus or any other such software.
- Upgrade and Bug Fixes - How would upgrades and bug-fixes be done? How would data be corrected or managed without losing integrity? Who would be responsible in managing this activity and what would be the roll-back policy?
- Credibility of the Vendor and Licensing - This is an important point in any decision making. The credibility of the vendor, the support available during installation and post installation, the quality standard followed while developing the application? Availability of source-code and system architecture? Right to make modification to the source code to meet ones needs? Is the license based on per user or per location or per organization, perpetual or subscription based? Whether the vendor would provide migration support? What is the SLA (Service Level Agreement) committed the vendor and how it would be enforced? Would the vendor have access to the data and necessary precaution to be taken? Necessary field visit should be made to see personally how the application is working in a similar situation. Based on these factors a comparative scoring needs to be made after due consideration of feature available, customization required, licenses required and over all vendor comfort factor.
- Summary - To sum up the buying decision should involve all stake holders keeping the customer experience in mind. A complex system would be difficult to implement and a basic system would not make sense to business. A time period in which the investment needs to be protected should be considered along with the cost of migration to another system at a later date.