Online Management Takes a Load Off
Which model to choose, however, is the question.
It's not quite daybreak when the buyer of one of TopForm Software's clients sits down at a computer to get an updated report on the status of the company's print product orders. Without a single phone call or fax, the buyer retrieves the information and is free to start the day.
That is just one of the great benefits of online forms management, said Julie Pritchard, president, TopForm Software, Norcross, Ga. "Customers can check a real-time status of their orders whenever, and from wherever, they want."
This no fuss, no muss solution explains much of on-line management's popularity which, for TopForm Software—a software supplier to mid- and large-size distributors—actually began about 10 years ago.
"At first we offered a dial-up service via modem where our clients' clients could access all forms management information—including online requisitions and reorder authorizations," said Pritchard. "Within the past year we've taken this capability to the Internet, where end-users can check real-time data on all of this information through our WebEC module."
Features of the service include order detail, inventory status, order status and usage reports. In addition, distributors' clients can request an e-mail order acknowledgement and track up-to-the-minute packing and shipping information.
Currently, about 18 percent of TopForm Software's customers have adopted WebEC. "It's a big part of our marketing plan right now," said Pritchard. "In fact, we are planning for another 15 percent this year, bringing our adoption rate to 33 percent."
While the system offers great relief for distributors and their clients, Pritchard assured that new technology does not erase the middle guy from the big picture.
"Distributors must, of course, maintain personal contact with their customers so that they can modify their offerings as their customers' needs change or expand," she said. "Also, when they expose their data to their customers, they need to be even more diligent about maintaining accuracy. The old adage, garbage-in, garbage-out, applies and you certainly don't want to have garbage online."