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Hiring an Asset Tracking Company

Underestimating the Cost to Create the Database

Over the years, we have seen many successful implementations of asset tracking software both ours and others. Regrettably we have seen far too many unsuccessful attempts. We've noticed several patterns among those projects which missed the mark. Those discussed below are particularly conspicuous as commonplace problems that could easily be avoided.

1. Price Shopping

The easiest yardstick by which to compare packages, and the most tempting, is price. Often, purchasing practices require that the least cost alternative be purchased. Getting the best price is always a priority and easy to defend.

However, relying on price as other than a final tie-breaker in selecting software suggests that the analysis of features, benefits and requirements has lacked sufficient depth to point a clear path forward. The reality is that price points usually indicate value points - software packages are unique and not interchangeable. Comparing a shrink- wrapped package with a 30-day guarantee with a heavily supported, semi-turnkey solution with unlimited support for a year makes little sense.

The best way to prevent allowing price to dominate the consideration is to avoid the RFP mentality. Asset tracking is not new and virtually all of the contenders will have the basics - database, user interface, reporting, auto-ID, network access, etc. - well covered. The job of the evaluator is to look below the surface to determine how the design and features contained in each program with perform within the organization. A mismatch will spell, if not disaster, years of operationally awkward performance. If you find yourself looking at price as your final criteria, you may well need to rethink your evaluation.

2. Feature Fixation

All too often, we see a single feature become an absolute requirement in the buying process at the expense of success. There are cases where it is appropriate but they tend to be rare. We have seen organizations purchase unsuitable software, waste valuable internal resources attempting to implement it and ultimately abandon the system because the single issue selection process eliminated solutions that would work. The solution is to simply avoid imperatives during the selection process. If a criteria is framed in such a way that otherwise suitable software lacking a specific feature will not be considered, that is a red flag. While it may correctly be an absolute, it needs to be carefully considered during the process.

All asset tracking applications are built on a foundation of data, often a considerable amount of data. Creating the original database with the needed accuracy will usually cost several times the cost of the hardware and software needed to manage it long term. We often find organizations will budget for the tools to track assets without considering data conversion/creation costs.

Best practices suggest that you understand, at least in broad terms how the original database will be established. Is there data which is able to be converted? Is it accurate? Is it complete? Is it current? Has it been developed with the level of granularity that the asset tracking system requires? Does it cover all assets to be tracked and, if not, how will that missing data be created? Are assets presently tagged with usable labels and, if not, how is that to be addressed? If the data measures-up, conversions are always preferred. Developing the data and tagging a single asset from scratch typically costs from $2.00 to $5.00 per asset so costs can become sizeable quickly. (Note: some software has features that dramatically streamline this process).

4. Not Considering Vendor Support and Insight

Most organizations are not tracking their assets and those which do often have incomplete or out of date systems. Implementing a new solution is a journey to the unknown aspects of recent technology, best practices and implementation imperatives. Any vendor of substance will be willing to discuss the pros and cons of various technology and provide examples of how it fared in real client situations. A vendor who is willing to work with your team hand-in-hand during the implementation will help you avoid the inevitable missteps that any large project affords. Using the vendor in the development of the on-going procedures to maintain the data base will provide an intimate connection between the data and software, minimizing your operational demands.

Of course, the corollary is equally important. If the vendor is unable or unwilling to provide this level of support, any purchase must be framed in the knowledge that you are likely purchasing a product and not a complete solution.

5. Overly Reliant on RFPs to Select Vendors

The asset tracking market is dominated by small vendors so most unsolicited RFPS will not receive a broad response, eliminating from consideration many potentially viable alternatives. Furthermore, this approach assumes that you know specifically what you need and all the features from which you can benefit, and can accurately articulate them, before researching the market. Asking for certified financial statements, onerous insurance requirements or nontraditional contract terms will further limit response. Finally, RFPs often place an undue importance on up-front price. (See above). Balancing internal requirements for RFP's with a more nuanced approach can be tricky. Spend some time investigating and have exploratory calls with a number of vendors to get a feel for their products and approach to the market place. Let them know, up front, that you will be issuing an RFP so that they understand your process and have the opportunity to decline a discussion. Listen carefully to these vendors for topics which may be missing from your requirements list. When complete, consider identifying 3 to 5 vendors for proposals and select from those. You will have already demonstrated your interest so their response and genuine interest in winning your business is all but assured.

While we can't assure your success by merely avoiding these pitfalls, you can be confident you will not inadvertently repeat the common the errors of others. Implementing asset tracking need not be disruptive or chaotic; indeed, it should follow a methodical and predictable process to achieve a successful end result.