Companies in other industries typically use specific software programs to manage specific parts of their business — it is very unusual to use one program to handle all the different aspects of a business.
One of the biggest advantages of modern, cloud-based software is the ability to use multiple programs that “talk to each other.” This means that the data generated from one system is automatically passed to the other, and all tools function based on the same information without having to enter it manually every time. Because Farm Management Software (FMS) is the system of record for operational, financial and agronomic data, it should integrate
with all the other software systems on the farm. FMS is a significant investment decision, one that requires resources, time, and team buy-in. Successfully adopting FMS also requires the farm team to part with some old habits, to evolve the way they work together, and to believe that their data is very valuable.
Before buying FMS you should evaluate the product and the company that sells it carefully — you should choose a FMS partner that you believe listens carefully to their customers and is expanding its product very quickly.
Who owns your company?
Some FMS programs are offered by input suppliers or retailers. These programs tend to be inexpensive or free because the supplier is offering the software to get you to buy its main product. Some farms may be comfortable with this type of arrangement — most are not.
Do I need an engineering degree to use this?
The software you choose needs to be powerful and customizable enough to accurately reflect and support your workflow, but it also needs to be easy enough for everyone to use (even the guy that was hesitant to part with his flip-phone). This is the strongest predictor of successful adoption and ongoing use.
Who’s using this already?
If you are going to use FMS to benchmark against other farms, you want those farms to be well-run businesses who manage their data well. You want to benchmark your farm against successful farms! Some FMS are trying to be “all things to all people,” while some others are focused on the most professional operators in the market.
How quickly do you update the product?
All FMS programs are works-in-progress. You should compare FMS based on the features they have today and how quickly they will launch the other features you care most about. A good way to judge this velocity is to ask the vendor which features have been launched in the last year.
Who’s running the numbers?
The big upside from FMS will come from analyzing data across time and across farms to generate actionable insights — financial, operational and agronomic. This is tricky work and requires a very specific type of personnel. You should make sure your FMS has the right analytics team in place to deliver value over the long haul, and above and beyond the features of the software.
Who’s available to help me?
Particularly in larger farms, your FMS partner will need to help you configure the software, train your team and answer unexpected questions along the way. Before buying, you should clearly understand how these services are provided, by whom (e.g. size and location of the Customer Support team) and if there is an additional charge associated with training and updates.