2016 is here, and with the new year comes a whole new set of financial, operational and agronomic decisions to be made for the next growing season. With the economic environment expected to continue to be tough, 2016 also seems to be the year when farmers will truly begin to look at their farm’s data as a way to make better business decisions, get a tighter grip on their margins, and build a competitive advantage with Farm Management Software.
This is where all the talk about Farm Management Software (FMS) comes in. There are countless options for investing your limited time and resources in technology, but before you jump into evaluating features, price, and other product-related aspects, make sure you have the right mindset. In our experience, successful implementation and use of FMS comes when farmers exhibit the following characteristics:
- Have an ability to recognize and act on opportunities, even during hardship. Growth historically happens during challenging times. Farm management software can help you manage more acres as you expand, but recognizing this means having a longer term perspective on the future of the farm business and making an investment for the future.
- Be open to change. FMS should transform how your farm operates, for the better. But transformation implies a willingness to do things differently. You may have relied on paper work orders for generations, and implementing FMS may require you to apply that same discipline to using a mobile app instead. While good FMS should be highly customizable and reflect your particular farm’s workflow, you will inevitably have to change your processes to get the most out of these tools.
- Even if you’re the one writing the check, recognize that it’s a team decision. You may be the one evaluating options and deciding to implement new software, but if everyone on your team isn’t bought in and committed (see point above), you won’t be utilizing the software to its full potential. Include your ops manager, bookkeeper, and operators in your decision making process.
- Believe in shared information. With good FMS, everyone on the team will have access to the information they need to do their jobs in the field and in the office (this is what makes the operation work more efficiently). Not everyone is okay with this – some farmers still want to control the flow of information and decide who should know what, and when.
- Measure ROI in your own terms. Every farmer we speak with wants to understand what is the ROI for FMS. There is not a single answer to this question: operational efficiency, better understanding of where profits come from, talent attraction and retention, succession planning, etc. are all benefits from FMS (and some are easy to quantify, some are not). Know what you are looking for in the short, medium and longer term.
Implementing Farm Management Software on your farm is an investment, and like any good investment it may take a bit of time to get full value. But the sooner you start, the sooner you will reach your goals.