How to Test a New Inventory App Within a 14-day Free Trial
Choosing is confusing.
And that’s especially true when it comes to deciding on a new inventory app.
Luckily, most of them come with a limited free trial that lets you get to grips with the software before you make a recommendation to your team.
But the trials are short. And as you’d imagine, there’s a lot to cover.
So we’ve put together this guide to help you get the most out of your short free trial with a potential new inventory app – from exploring the basics through to testing your most complex products..
And it all starts before the beginning:
Choosing the right system for a trial
Testing a whole new inventory app isn’t a quick job. And there are so many different options out there that it’s just not realistic to spend 14 days on each of them.
So if you want to get the most out of your free trial period, you need to know before you start that you’ve picked an app that’s likely to have what you need.
You’ll need to dig in with a little research across multiple apps before you can pick a good candidate for a trial. And by doing that, you could save yourself hundreds of hours of fruitless testing on apps that aren’t a good fit for your business.
Which leads us nicely into something really important:
Remember what you’re really shopping for
When you’re planning a move to a new and improved system, it’s easy to get carried away.
Some business owners expect every inventory app to have the same functionality as a state-of-the-art system that was built on a budget of millions – a bespoke piece of kit that covers every detail of their industry and comes with infinite flexibility.
But you’re not here because you’ve got an endless budget to spend on a perfect system.
You’re looking for an off-the-shelf, cloud-based inventory app with an affordable monthly cost.
It’s important to remember that an off-the-shelf app probably won’t be able to cover every amazing feature you can dream of. (But you can hopefully get quite close!)
So once you’ve done your research and found a promising app – and you’ve made sure you know what to expect – you’re almost ready to start your free trial.
Wait! Before you activate your inventory app trial:
Once you boot up your new inventory app, you’ll usually only have 14 days of free access.
That might sound like a long time. But remember this:
It takes an experienced consultant between 10 and 40 hours to decide whether an inventory app is the right fit for your business.
And you probably won’t be able to commit several hours a day to testing your new app.
So before you start the clock ticking on your limited free trial, write down the answers to some of these questions and stick them on your wall:
- What are your aims and priorities for this 14-day trial?
- What are the terms and limits of this particular trial? (Things like length, access, or integrations)
- What are the must-have features and processes you’re looking for?
- What are the nice-to-have features and processes?
- And how much time can you spend on each day to test your new app?
That could be a demo with a sales rep from the company that makes the app. But if you want a truly impartial perspective, you can work through a free demo with an independent consultant (like us!).
Once you’ve got a list of goals and requirements, you’ll be ready to jump in with your 14-day trial.
Day 1 – Exploring the settings
Your first day inside a new inventory app is all about getting accustomed to how things work.
And the best way to do that is to explore the settings for each module inside your inventory app. This should give you a broad idea of the language and terms the app uses, as well as an understanding of where each module interacts with other modules.
Day 2 – Learning about the basic processes
Here’s where you can start to get to grips with some of the simplest functions and features in your new app. (The articles you’ve read in the app’s Help Centre should guide you to the best place to start.)
Along the way, you should also be looking at what kind of data requirements the inventory app needs. So when you’re ready to start uploading products later, you’ve already got some idea of how those categories relate to the old data you have for your own products.
Day 3 – Your first test
Most inventory apps with a free trial will come with some kind of demo data that’s ready to use: a few generic products that are easy to work with for someone who’s still learning.
This isn’t just a gentle learning exercise to break you in. It’s also the first time you’ll get close to some of the finer details and features the inventory app has or doesn’t have. And that means you might start to see some places where the app is missing things your business needs.
You might be a manufacturer who notices that the inventory app doesn’t have a data field for a bill of materials. Or you might be a wholesaler who realises that the app doesn’t let you upload pricing that’s specific to each customer.
If you can notice these basic problems at an early stage, you can start to find out if there are simple ways to overcome them – before you waste any more time on deeper testing in the days ahead.
Days 4 and 5 – Bringing in your real data
Once you’ve worked through the app’s demo data and you’ve got a feel for how things work, you can start to prepare and upload some of your own business’s test data.
But here’s the crucial part:
The best testing is about quality, not quantity.
It can be tempting to export every product you have on your old system (whether that’s a spreadsheet, or something like Sage).
So take a small sample of your products – ideally, the best-selling, complex ones – and bring that data over to the upload sheet in your new inventory app.
You should then be able to see:
- If there are empty columns in the new app you’re not taking advantage of
- If there are empty columns in the new app that you’re required to use
- Whether your old data fields (e.g. ‘Customer Grouping’) match up to the ones in the new app (e.g. ‘Customer Category’).
By taking things slow and focusing on quality (rather than quantity), you can get a close look at each aspect of your data and see any problems. And when it comes to uploading more data later on, you’ll know which parts of your old data need to be changed to work properly in your new system.
Day 6 – Testing your manual data entry
With your product data uploaded and ready, it’s time to practise bringing that data into the system manually.
The key thing to look for here is the ability to limit how your users enter data. Different users will need to enter different types of data – and you need to be sure that each user can only enter the data that they need to enter.
Some types of data can be easy to export from a spreadsheet, but difficult to enter manually. We know of one system where users have to access three separate pages inside the app – just to enter a single discount structure!
Day 7 – Setting up your document templates
This might not seem like a crucial step at first. But when you start to show your new app to your team later, this is an area where they’re going to have plenty to say.
You’ll need to work through your typical templates (like your invoices, quotes, delivery notes, and pick lists), and check to make sure they’re all looking and working the way they should.
Most inventory apps will come with an in-app editor or composer for these templates – but you can also upload your own templates if you need to include complex rules with things like HTML code.
Days 8 and 9 – Putting your real data to the test
With your exported data uploaded and entered into the system, you can now start to see how they work with the inventory app’s functions.
We’d recommend sticking to the most simple and common functions at first – the ones that you use the most on a daily basis. And we’d also recommend that you choose a variety of them, so you can be sure you’re covering all of your important areas (like sales, purchasing, and warehousing).
If you run into any problems with these tests (or if you find yourself getting frustrated), now would be a good time to go back into the Help Centre articles to see what you’ve missed.
It’s also a good time to take a second look at the settings and configuration for your inventory app. There may be some data fields you haven’t enabled.
(In fact, going back and checking over the settings is a good rule of thumb for any stage in the trial – especially any step that involves data!)
Day 10 – Bringing the app to your team
By this point, you should have a good feel for how the app works, and how to work with your data inside it.
And that means it’s a perfect time to start showing off some of the basics to your team.
(If you’re not feeling confident with the app just yet – or your tests haven’t gone as well as you wanted – don’t worry! You can always give us a call and we’ll set up a free demo of the app for your team.)
Just remember: this team demo isn’t a one-way process. You’re doing it to show the team how a potential app could meet their needs – but you’re also doing it to get their feedback.
So take a few notes of everything they say, and bring that with you to the next step:
Day 11 – Testing the changes your team needs
During the demo, your team probably raised some issues or asked some questions about the basic processes that you hadn’t considered. So now you can go back into your trial and start trying out the things they mentioned (and testing them!)
Days 12 and 13 – Testing the tough stuff
Now that you’ve tested and shown off the basics, it’s time to move onto the more complex processes for your sales, purchasing, and warehousing.
That could mean things like:
- Split orders
- Assembled or manufactured order
- Orders with special requirements (like special notes, or translations on your documents).
This is where things can get tricky. And it’s also where you’ll really start to realise some of the limits of an off-the-shelf inventory app.
(Remember when we said that an off-the-shelf app wouldn’t come with infinite flexibility?)
So when you hit a wall with a specialised requirement, this is when you’ll need to start thinking about how you can adapt to fill the gaps in the inventory app you choose.
In most cases, that means thinking about things like:
- Using spreadsheets outside the app
- Assigning admin tasks for manual adjustments
- Or getting a custom app built to fill a specific gap.
Day 14 – The final demo
You’re almost there!
With everything you’ve learned and tested (and every potential problem you’ve hopefully found a solution to), you should be ready to take a demo of the inventory app to the rest of your company.
That usually means a run-down of things like:
- The basic (and complex) functions and processes of the app
- How the inventory app fits your business’s needs
- Any places where it doesn’t fit your needs
- Your proposed solutions and workarounds to get past these problems
- And an estimate of the costings for moving to the app (including the subscription, the set-up, and any ongoing support costs).
(And again: if you’re sure it’s the right fit – but you’re not sure you can deliver the message to your team – we’ll be more than happy to jump in and prepare a team demo for you.)
So what comes after the trial
At this point, your company should be nearly ready to make a decision.
For some businesses, that means jumping straight in and making the move to a new cloud inventory app.
But you might still want a second opinion – a team of experts who can review your testing and discuss any issues or questions you still have.
And if you’re confident in your choice and you’re ready to plough ahead?
Remember that this trial was just the beginning. There’s a big difference between choosing an inventory app and actually moving over to one.
So if you’d like the experience of a team of inventory software experts to help you along your journey – book a call with one of our consultants and we’ll talk about what we can do.
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