Throughout the last year, our team has been hearing from farmers who are disappointment in their farm management software (FMS) systems. They feel frustrated. Or unsupported. Or both.
The technology of FMS is amazing, but tech should be a part of a much bigger picture. If a tech company doesn't think carefully about the user experience and users’ needs as they build technology, they might build tools that seem helpful in theory, but are really more of a headache than anything. If they don’t invest in good support, their customers are likely to have steep and frustrating learning curves, never allowing them to experience the full value of the tools at hand.
Technology for technology’s sake is not the way we roll at Conservis. But don’t take our word for it! Listen to some of our customers who’ve used other systems and seen the differences for themselves.
Helpful and ongoing support
There are lots of companies making technology for the farm, but not all of them have close relationships to the farm itself. We see it like this: these are tools for the grower, so we must have a solid and transparent relationship with our farmers. Frankly, it’s a different way of doing things in the tech space, and it’s something that’s central to who we are.
We’ve heard time and time again about farmers who are sold a product and then left to figure it out themselves. They feel they buy into a promise and then are left standing in the field alone, or the help options aren’t as helpful as they need, making it feel more like 1-800-no support. When farmers adopt new tools on farm, they need them to work. And they need to be able to get ahold of a human being who can help them when they have a question or run into an issue.
Wiens Family Farms in Beatrice, NE, are grateful for the support they receive as Conservis customers. “The customer support that Conservis offers… I can't even put a rating on it,” said Andrew Wiens with a huge smile on his face. “It really has been great.”
Andrew appreciates that Conservis understands farmers are busy and often need a question answered as soon as possible. He admits that hasn’t been his experience with other FMS providers. “We've tried other companies, but the customer support has really been, truly, the kicker with everything,” he said.
Andrew’s dad, Scott, agrees wholeheartedly. “One of the things that has been extremely helpful for us is the tech support that Conservis has,” said Scott. He mentioned the importance of good customer service for farmers especially. “We deal with a lot of technology in farming these days and tech support is huge, being able to call and talk to a person and have them walk you through something,” he said. (Read the Wiens Farms case study.)
BWT Holdings in Jackson, MN, is another farm operation that appreciates our great customer support. Prior to Conservis, BWT used another farm management system, and they’ve been thrilled with the supportive relationship that comes standard with our tools. “With the other company we were using, we never saw a face,” said Mitch Hogrefe, General Manager at BWT. “We were always on the phone with them, but now with Conservis, we see a face four or five times a year.”
Conservis has a person dedicated to each customer’s success. Chris Green at BWT talks about their Customer Service representative by name: “I call Alex (Conservis customer support rep) and guess what? He either answers the phone or he calls me back very soon.” It’s not uncommon for Chris to spend one-on-one time with Alex as well. “That's extremely valuable. They've just been awesome to work with, very open minded, very flexible. They try to figure out what you need and help you,” he said. (Read the BWT Holdings case study.)
Reno Brueggeman at Brueggeman Crop Services in Miller, SD, especially appreciates the proactive nature of the support he gets from Conservis. “My experience with the Conservis support team has been great,” said John. “They stay on top of things and they stay on top of us, making sure we're getting the most out of the program we can.”
We don’t just provide technology—we provide the supportive relationship that needs to go along with it.
"The customer support that Conservis offers… I can't even put a rating on it. It’s been tremendous. We've tried other companies, but the customer support has really been, truly, the kicker with everything."
Flexibility in the system
All businesses are different, and that’s especially true for farm operations. Farm technology must be nimble enough to adapt to the needs and preferences of different farmers and their unique businesses. “Even though they both may raise corn and beans, no two operations are exactly the same. The flexibility has to be there,” said Scott Wiens.
The Wiens appreciate that our system isn’t one-size-fits-all. “Generally, that's been one of the things I've noticed is that they're pretty good about tailoring their program to yours,” said Scott. He acknowledges that some processes have shifted with the technology, but generally speaking he feels they’ve adapted the software to their farm. “I've just been impressed with their tech support and their ability to kind of tailor their program to your operation, rather than vice versa.”
Flexibility also needs to exist for easy changes on the fly. Aaron Lee of Cornerstone Family Farms has used other FMS systems and sees the real value of our system’s flexibility. “We've really enjoyed this piece of Conservis because things change every day,” he said. “We’re able to keep our data accurate as we move, change and switch from corn to soybeans or a specialty crop or whatever opportunities might come our way.” (Read the Cornerstone Family Farms case study.)
We’re proud of our system’s ability to handle the complexities of farming, and even prouder that our customers feel the flexibility. “Anytime we’ve said, ‘hey, we want to do this,’ it seems like we've always been able to get it done," said Scott at Wiens. "There's never been a time when someone has said ‘no you can't do that.' There isn't a set, canned approach to anything about [Conservis]," he said.
Integration with other tools
To truly get a full picture of what’s happening in an operation, it’s important that farm technology communicates together. While silos are good for grain storage, they're bad for data. The tech needs to “talk” to and understand each other for the best business results (and a non-frustrating user experience).
Having used different FMS solutions, Wiens Farms has experienced the lack of communication between farm technology. They appreciate that Conservis handles machine integration with Climate Fieldview™ and John Deere Operations Center in house, because they know that when companies outsource different parts of a platform, they can get into trouble. The result the Wiens saw with their previous farm management system was that different colors of equipment didn't communicate properly and the data wasn’t transferring accurately.
Their farm has relied on MyJohnDeere for decades—"My underwear's pretty much green and yellow," joked Scott—so it was important that the FMS they adopt work well with their existing technology. “It's talked very well with MyJohnDeere,” said Andrew. “I think Conservis has done a really good job of pulling data from different locations and being seamless in that data transfer. It’s been fairly seamless, which we haven’t seen in other platforms.”
Reno Brueggeman believes machine integration is key to fully utilize the capabilities of modern farm equipment. He tried another FMS company, and his experience wasn’t good. “Before we got onto Conservis, we used [a competitor's product] for one year, and I've never heard so much yelling back and forth between two offices in my life. ‘This isn't working, this isn't flowing through!’” Reno stated. Once things were set up with Conservis, he was impressed at how the software communicates with his farm equipment. “How it streamlined as we applied everything from our inventories onto the field, it was a way better product than I've ever seen on any other platform that I've used,” he said.
Reno searched for an organized solution that would work in tandem with their Climate FieldView™ yield monitors and planting data to calculate an accurate cost of production.
“We wanted to be more specific field-to-field, and we did a lot of research looking for that one company that would tie in with our integration and get it down to a cost per acre basis.”
Reno is pleased with Conservis’ seamless integration with Climate FieldView™ and our Zone Economics platform, which shows him how his in-field decisions are (or aren’t) making sense financially. Farmers want to use the resources they have. We’ve made sure our farm management software integrates with reputable, trusted technology on farm.
Easy to use, period
You can expect some challenges when you adopt anything new in your operation—it takes time and work to learn new tools and to integrate them into your workflow. But the time and energy you put into learning a system should feel like an upfront investment. If the effort and challenges are ongoing, you might have some tools on your hands that aren’t as simple as they should be.
We know that technology for busy famers needs to be easy to use, period. Our CEO, Sherman Black, discussed this priority at our recent Customer Summits. "When I say easy to use, we think about a handful of things, but number one, it needs to be intuitive. You shouldn't have to read a book or watch a video or something like that to tell you what to do," said Sherman. "We have all that of course, but our goal is that you look at it and it's obvious what the next steps are."
“It's very, very user friendly,” said Reno Brueggeman. “Before we got onto Conservis, we used a competitor's product for one year… It wasn't a very user-friendly platform, and when we went to Conservis, it all went away.”
Reno's brother John attests to Conservis rising above the competition with regard to ease of use. “About three years ago we tried another farm management system and it was a fight from the get-go. We had to have all these work orders put in. You couldn't just go out and do the job, you had to set up a program first before we went and did it,” he said. “With Conservis, everything falls into place,” he said. (Read the Brueggeman Crop Services case study.)
Aaron Lee at Cornerstone also noted the user experience as a reason he switched from another FMS to Conservis. “It was much more user-friendly, and it allowed us to work within our operation more smoothly and seamlessly,” he said.
Your FMS should meet your needs
Yes, the core of farm management software is digital technology, but it should be more than that. Tech solutions for farms need to meet the needs of farmers.
Farmers are busy, independent people who need things to work without complication: their FMS should be easy to use. Farm technology is rapidly increasing, and farmers value efficiency: their FMS should integrate with what they’re already using. All farms are different (and so are all farmers): their FMS should adapt to their operation, needs, and preferences. Farmers value relationships and need quick, effective troubleshooting: their FMS should be one where great support comes standard.
Digital tools need to be thoughtful and effective in their specific contexts. Technology for technology’s sake isn’t what a farm (or anyone) needs.
Are you looking for a FMS system built with farmer input at every stage? Does it seem like your current FMS is letting you down? Let’s see if we can help.