• Software as a rented service is now “the name of the game”.
• Short rental contracts provide an ideal opportunity to sample software.
• Service systems aren’t suitable for all businesses.

The industry is abuzz with a new way of using computer systems – renting the software.

Traditionally, if your business needed a trading system, you went to a supplier who sold you a package of hardware, software and services. You then paid an ongoing maintenance to provide cover as you used the system over the years.

That worked well when servers were as big as a fridge-freezer, needed a specialist engineer to install, and had to run whole timber merchant businesses on an 8MB disk (an iPod Nano has 1,000 times as much capacity). Even then, chances are the software had to be half written for your specific requirements and the implementation would take many months, if not years.

Times move on, and the way companies look to use software systems has evolved – software as a rented service is now the name of the game.

Simple tools for complex jobs

Not many timber companies need large computer departments writing reports, keeping users happy and fettling the system to keep it running smoothly. Expectations now are much more that a business trading system is a simple tool for a complex job, rather than a beast that needs to be fed and tended.

There are questions over the future state of the economy but I am pleased to say that when Ten-25 has been talking to its customers and other businesses across the timber market, the anecdotal evidence suggests that demand is strong and shows little sign of slowing. However, if there is going to be increased competition in the coming years, every business wants to be as well equipped as possible. This is where the new service systems are of potential appeal.

They offer a complete package of the trading software, installation, training, helpdesk service and system upgrades on a monthly rental basis. Initial investment can be literally nothing for some online service systems, or a modest sum to cover an application server package.

These service systems offer the flexibility of expanding and contracting to meet your changing business, always having the latest version of the software available to you and the back-up of a helpdesk and training services. They are quicker to implement and require less day-to-day management, making the advanced functionality available to a wider range of businesses.

Modest investment

By offering a short initial contract you can try out a system for a relatively modest investment. It’s a lower risk alternative to an upfront capital investment, or finance agreement, which you have to make work for at least three to five years. And the most logical change with service systems is a shift to paying from when your business starts using one.

But they won’t suit all businesses. Some companies will commit to a longer-term investment by negotiating a deal up front and keeping the ongoing costs to a minimum. Ideally a good software supplier will be able to offer you both options, without there being marketing limitations placed on the either option.

Software companies will continue to add features to their systems such as web trading, mobile devices and radio frequency identification product labelling, to keep offering you more information and automation for your business.

Service systems are an exciting step forward, with the opportunity for more timber companies to build a foundation of sales, purchase and stock information using the latest generations of systems, all backed by reliable, professional services. A position of strength for an uncertain future.