Rental software: the key to successful implementation

04 August 2008

Orion Software says it can implement its software remotely.

Orion Software says it can implement its software remotely.

Implementing a new rental software system is one of the most challenging things that you will do with your rental business. IRN asked rental software suppliers for their advice on making implementation as pain-free as possible.

Question 1: What can rental companies do to prepare for software implementation?

Julian Archer, Marketing Director, Lawson Software
Recognise that this is a major investment and budget accordingly. I don't mean for the software, I mean for their own personnel; freeing up people to be dedicated to the project and not trying to implement software while they are carrying on their day jobs! Software is purchased to improve a business; improvement means a change in the way a company is doing something. This requires a recognition of change management, however small or great.

Jack Shea, CEO, Solutions by Computer
As a rental operator, the main thing is to prepare yourself mentally to devote the necessary resources to implementation. You are investing in an engine that will power your business, support your growth, serve your customers and help make or break your professional goals. Technology and human resources are the two most critical investments a business can make - these days they go hand in hand. A successful implementation requires a genuine commitment of time and effort, but it's time and effort well spent.

Derek Robson, Managing Director, Result Group
Because every employee is fully engaged in the business it is very important that the key people who will be involved in the implementation of a new solution - not just the IT team - understand how much extra work they have to undertake. All the key parts of the company must be represented in the process, from front desk to service, accounts, sales and directors, to ensure the selected solution meet the exact needs of every part of the company. The secret of a successful implementation is that the key directors/managers sponsor, lead and drive the implementation process.

Graham Dobbs, Director, InspHire
We always provide a ‘things to do list' for smaller implementations as soon as an agreement has been made, although these aspects are always explored during any pre-sales conversations so as to set expectations. Ensuring the right level of resource is available for the project is extremely important as nobody knows your business better than you. Make available any documented procedures, and if you don't have any, look towards creating them as these will be invaluable for the future.

Wynne Systems
Scrub your data. Look for duplicate customers, vendors and equipment numbers. Have an outline of the business practices you want to implement with your new system and keep checklists for the data conversion.

Doug Mitchell, founder, RentalService (software consultant)
The vendor should have a strict comprehension and acceptance of reality. Too often, both sides of the rental software equation (buyers and sellers) get caught up in the emotion of how everything will be magical after deployment. Focusing on what features of the software will actually be used is a good start. Most times rental companies use less than 50% of what's available to them in these very powerful solutions.

Not everyone has a team of dedicated 6 Sigma Black Belts ready to create nice-looking process maps for every piece of your business. You may not even have that expertise in-house. Ask the vendor to dig into what's happening now or the ‘as is' process first. You may want to make changes to process or personnel before you plug in a new software fix. Your vendor may charge for this area of expertise, but it's worth every penny down the road.

The vendor should understand how to deal with your IT department. If your IT department is "strong willed," and it throws up some project roadblocks, will the vendor be confident and strong enough to confront it head on? It's a fantastic idea to use a Web-based project management solution. These provide transparency and visibility to task and milestone deadlines and highlights them as one side or the other misses them.

Question 2: How do you, as a software provider, make implementations as easy as possible?

Wynne Systems
Regardless of what people want to believe, it's not straightforward. Don't underestimate the immensity of this task regardless if you're a single location or have thousands of locations. This is the hardest thing you're going to do because you still have your business to run during this process. Depending on the role of the person, two to eight hours will be added to a typical work day. However, the results of this work will save both time and resources.

The success of a rental management system depends on clean data and well trained users. The implementation team's goal is to ensure clean data to start, with the ongoing goal of keeping a well trained staff that will continue to give you accurate data.

Derek Robson, Result Group
Result looks for clients who have developed a strong RFI (Request for Information) and offer workshops to develop/prove the business process scenarios. We also develop a Project Plan detailing all the resources required, and the number of days for each section of the plan. If development is required, we develop specifications and qualify the costs and timeline on the Project Plan. All of the pre-sale preparation and workshop details form part of the contract to ensure there are no surprises and to make the implementation as straightforward as possible for the client.

Julian Archer, Lawson Software
Lawson offer ‘QuickStep' solutions to help our resource constrained customers who are looking for a rapid and pre-configured approach. Lawson is a large ERP vendor, but we serve very few industries. We focus on rental and further we have a dedicated Equipment Service Management & Rental Business Unit that ensures industry knowledgeable consultants are on the job from day one. We have tools such as Lawson Learning Accelerator that allows customer to easily create customised web simulations of the software, providing interactive training simulations and step-by-step user guides.

Jack Shea, CEO, Solutions by Computer
I would characterise our nearly three decades of experience with rental software as being a huge benefit to customers during implementation. We have implementation specialists who work closely with customers to set realistic dates and shepherd the various stages. Typically, our specialist would send a package to the customer outlining the data we need to properly implement the system.
Usually, extensive discussions occur to make sure everyone understands the effects that certain decisions will have on the system's operation.

It's essential that someone from the rental business who is in a position to make decisions devotes the time to understand the various options, parameters and other selections that "customise" the system's operation.

Most customers 'run parallel' toward the end of implementation, which means operating on both the new and old systems until everyone is satisfied that the new system produces the desired results. This places additional work on the rental company's staff, although it's not a huge burden and the benefits are substantial.

Graham Dobbs, Director, InspHire
inspHire sets out customer requirements and customer expectations. We always know the end goal and communicate what will be delivered, and when. inspHire uses Project Plans with milestones, along with extensively detailed project notes which are retained for future use. We always remind the customer of the reasons they invested in inspHire software and set these as overall project goals. It is all too easy to sit back and think that the job is done once the system is in and running. It is important to remember the reason for change was for enhanced functionality, more than just a replacement system.

We involve key users from the start as they tend to be more aware of the detailed day to day activities than higher level management. Processes are often carried out differently from how the management set them up. We provide a full checklist before go live and this is reviewed by both customer and inspHire before the final agreement to go live.


A key differentiator for MCS here is its ability to offer a ‘total solution', with full accountability for the whole process. The term ‘total solution' is often over-used, but in the rental industry it isn't a given from solution providers. Often, third party software applications are used for financials, reporting, extranet capabilities and so on. By offering a complete solution MCS can control the entire project, making the whole process straightforward. MCS believe this is a key requirement for organisations today.

Question 3: Should efficient implementation be a key consideration when a rental company chooses a new rental software system?

Julian Archer, Lawson Software
"Absolutely. Fit for purpose software is of course a given, but it is ‘speed to value' for the customer that is vital, however much the software is capable of. It's having the knowledgeable consultants with the right industry background and, in the case of multi-country projects, the right language skills that is key to help the customer implement".

Wynne Systems
"Time is important to our clients and therefore important to us, but time needn't be a factor as long as progress is continuously being made. When choosing a new system, rental companies should start by picking an implementation date and work back from there. We find that setting goals at the beginning of the process and meeting each milestone along the way is much more fulfilling way of spending time."

Jack Shea, CEO, Solutions by Computer
"Yes, these are important issues, partly because of the costs of implementation but also because an extended time span could cause disruptions in normal operations. We've found that a more concentrated effort over a shorter time period produces better results. System suppliers should be able to provide a roadmap of the tasks needed to complete the job efficiently."

"Yes, of course, this should be a major consideration in the decision making process. MCS has recently received its ISO 9001:2000 and believes this process has helped to ensure it follows a strict implementation procedure. To assist with the process MCS uses Vertabase, a software project management system. This tool is open to customers to view and check on key stages of the implementation cycle. They can see how MCS is fulfilling its obligations to work towards the agreed ‘go live' date. It makes the whole implementation process transparent to the customer. This software tool is also backed by MCS' own ‘AIM' - Application Implementation Methodology structure. A 10 step plan to ensure business continuity throughout the process".

Question 4: How long should you allow for implementation?
All the rental software suppliers were at pains to point out that giving guidance on the time it takes to implement software is dangerous, because it depends on the complexity of the project, the commitment from the client, whether or not the new system is replacing multiple systems, and the quality of the data used in the existing system. However, most were willing to give some rough time-scales:

Wynne Systems
Typically, implementation takes 60-90 days for a small company, 90-150 days for a mid-sized company and 8-12 months for a large corporation.

Result Group
Result offers three alternatives: EXPRESS, our off the shelf total package, including financials and CRM, which can be delivered in 2 months; CLASSIC, which is tailored to fit your business and can be implemented in 6 to 12 months, depending on the level of customization; and CUSTOM, where a client can build their own solution and this can take from 12 months to 2 years, because customers often use it to re-engineer their total business process.

Jack Shea, CEO, Solutions by Computer
Depending upon the availability of information to build the initial database, the time could range from two to three weeks, to two to three months. In some cases where data can be imported from a compatible system, we've completed transitions in a few weeks. The size of the company has only a small effect on the overall timeframe.

Graham Dobbs, Director, InspHire
inspHire has implemented systems within a week where a company is just starting out with a few assets and has an accounting solution in place already, but typically a small company would be expected to be up and live within a 1 to 3 month time period. A medium sized company would usually have a higher level of requirement due to the number of users and assets and can often take between 3 and 6 months to implement. Larger multi-country implementations can take 2 years to completely implement, but often these kinds of implementations are phased roll outs with the first phase rolling out within the first 6 to 12 months.

As a rule of thumb, from receipt of signed contract through to implementation, MCS' rental software solutions take approximately 4 - 8 weeks for a small organisation, 3 months for a medium organisation, and 6 months for a large implementation. Unlike many of its competitors MCS offers static and transactional data loading. By importing live contracts (not re-keying), we ensure data accuracy and reliability. This is a fundamental part of the implementation process and one that can have a major impact on time.

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