Animal Resource Management

16466 Bernardo Center Drive, Suite 283
San Diego, CA 92128-2533
Office: 619-596-9404
Email: info@armsd.com

by Joseph Gersztyn

This title is slightly misleading. What it really should say is:

“Why should I use … for my facility management?”

There are several criteria in selecting a system/service; I believe that the most important criterion is reputation. This is something that cannot be bought, only earned. Reputation is not appearance, likeability, flashy presentations, or the like. Reputation is a name earned by performance. Reputation is conferred on a company by their client, customers, and users. It is an overall evaluation of the level of satisfaction realized for the service or product provided.

In my estimation, that should be the number one factor in making a decision to enter into an agreement with a vendor in this business community. That is, assuming that you need or want the product or service they offer. You should ask for references early in the investigation cycle. This software market is small enough that each vendor could provide a list of all of their current customers, not just a select few. I don’t know anyone who is perfect; not all the customers adore their solution providers, except for mine of course.

Earlier, I alluded to the fact that you have already decided to purchase/lease/use a system/service. Now, I would like to backtrack and ask, “Have you done a complete Needs Analysis?” Did you sit down and quantify (with reasonable estimations) what you need?

  • How many orders per week do you process?
  • How many new protocols per year do you get?
  • How many active protocols do you have?
  • How many investigators and projects do you serve?
  • How much are you spending now to achieve what you are doing?
  • What would it cost to get to the level of service you are looking at in the next year or three years?

If you haven’t answered these kinds of questions then you are not ready to enter into an agreement with any of us. Okay, maybe you don’t have the resources to answer these questions now. Then, you need to contact someone to assist you in getting answers to these questions. Why not hire a consultant? Why don’t you contact one of us to help you do your Needs Analysis? We are qualified to find out this information; we should be honest and straightforward to help you in an un-biased evaluation. Again this should be done prior to your deciding that you NEED to purchase/lease/use one of our systems/services. This brings me back to my first point, reputation.

My next most important criteria is value and affordability. When deciding to use our offerings, your needs assessment could show you what it would cost to not use it. Now you need to collect the full cost of deciding to use us. There are several components of this cost.

  • Vendor’s initial cost, including setup, training, etc.
  • Vendor’s on-going charges for support, maintenance etc.
  • Equipment – computers, phone lines, etc.
  • Staffing costs – personnel, training, etc.

Many of these costs have two components, time and money. You have to be aware of both of them. Once having estimated these costs, you can then decide if the solution you have chosen is affordable and economically worthwhile. What is the Return on Investment ratio? Maybe you need to seek a smaller solution or a larger one. Most vendors offer more than one choice.

The cost of off-the-shelf software has potentially a few additional components about which you need to inquire - computer platform choice and customization. The computer platform is generally a decision made by the vendor. However, some vendor may offer a choice of platforms. Some of these platforms may require additional costs to the user. Ask about them.

Customization is a very interesting word. It sounds rather straightforward, but can get very expensive; be very wary when you ask for customizing off-the-shelf software. My first recommendation is that you look very carefully at the need for customization. If your current operation has features that are lacking in the new software, then you may want to inquire about customizing. First, I would recommend looking to see if there is some other solution that already has the features you need. Secondly, you ought to make sure you really need this feature or these features. The new system may have already taken care of the need in a slightly different manner. As when you purchase an automobile, you can get pretty much what you want and need from the factory/dealer. There are times when you have additional needs that are only available elsewhere.

With your needs identified and addressed, you should be able to decide on the level of customizing during the selection of system/software. This customizing must be specified in writing so that the vendor may adequately address the cost in terms of time and money. Sometimes all that is needed are just some simple adjustments in the system, which the vendor may provide for easily and inexpensively. I become concerned when the customization is significant. Again, if this really is a need, then customization may be the correct solution. I have found in the past twenty years of writing customized systems as well as the Animal Resource Management system, that the best approach is to try the standard system for six to twelve months before going ahead with major changes or enhancements. Sometimes the user finds that the new system has features that would amend the type of customizing desired. In any case, make sure that both you and the vendor are in full agreement about the type and level of the needed customizing as well as the cost. It is best when this is done during the negotiation phase.

My last criteria is long-term future of the application. We know that nothing lasts forever. Standard computer systems, hardware and software, have a life cycle of three to five years. For an animal facility type of application, you should expect your needs to be handled for the next five to seven years, assuming no major change on your part. We all know that the regulatory requirements will probably change and require you to change your operation in the unforeseen future. However, there is considerable amount of information available about the current regulations and potential changes so that there should be no big surprises. Ask the vendor about compliance issues; they should be identifiable and addressable. Here again look at the stability of the company, their track record, length of service; ask their existing customers.

Animal Resource Management has been in this business continuously since 1985. The original DOS version, enhanced over several years, is still operating at the University of California, San Diego and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Our other users converted to the Windows version with no interruption of service since they began using ARM. The Research Institute at Scripps Clinic in San Diego has been running ARM. with Cost Accounting continuously since 1986. Ask Beth Ford or Tom Barmeyer about it. There are many more long-term customers with whom you can talk about ARM.

So when you come to visit the vendors in the exhibit area, remember what I said. Ask for the information you need to make an enlightened decision.