Agricultural cooperatives have been slow to computerize in least developed countries, but this fact is changing rapidly as computers become cheaper and access to the Internet grows in the regions. In order to compete effectively in liberalized markets, many cooperatives, especially larger ones, are finding computerization an indispensable tool for improving member services and cooperative business performance. In summary, computerization can improve cooperative business efficiency, provided a few practical rules of thumb are followed. Here are some of the most important rules:
The automation of accounting and administrative records, and the traceability of grain has allowed the Asociación Cooperativa Argentina (ACA) to comply with legal requirements on information management and quality requirements to export their product.
The Ten Commandments of Computerization
You may find these final Rules of Thumb useful:
1. Have a clear business goal. What is the business problem that computerization will solve? What do managers, employees and members want?
2. Learn from others who have already computerized. What will be the expected benefits and costs of computerization? Do not just think installation. Also think maintenance, upkeep and training. What risks are involved?
3. Prepare a Business Plan that carefully lays out your arguments. Find a champion: you may be convinced that computerization will solve many of the problems facing the cooperative, but many may not believe you. You need a champion.
4. Establish a core development team. Two heads are better than one.
5. Examine the system development issues carefully. Adopt a modular, step-by-step approach.
6. Take sufficient time to develop the implementation plan. Define clear business goals and objectives, outputs, tasks, responsibilities, timing and costs.
7. Be careful with contracting. Set measurable targets and time schedule. Consult a lawyer. Documentation is important.
8. Keep running the manual system until you are completely satisfied with the new system.
9. Be sure to train each person adequately. Training should be continuous.
10. Do not forget about maintenance and updating.
...And good luck!!