Today’s software market is filled to the brim with tools for businesses, but what about those in the cannabis industry? Cannabis software has historically been limited, but the last few years has seen a drastic influx in options for cannabis companies.

From dispensary software designed for front-of-house operations to inventory management software mandated by state regulators, the industry is now overflowing with software providers.

Finding a single platform to manage all plant-touching activities can be a nightmare, especially when all you want to do is improve your operation.

This article will cover the six most important types of cannabis software.

We’ll look at tools for operations of all sizes at every step of the supply chain, from the home growers to the multi-state, fully vertical companies. By the time you reach the end of this article, you will be able to choose the right platforms to build the perfect tech stack for your cannabis business.

What is cannabis software?

Cannabis software are digital tools that industry professionals use to improve their business operations and products. For many years the cannabis industry have been underserved by professional tools. Companies have had to settle for platforms designed for other industries, or tools that over-promise and under-deliver.

The good news is that cannabis operators have good options now. There are a number of solid solutions out there that solve the challenges operators have been facing.

Why can’t you just use spreadsheets?

Before getting into the cannabis software and what it can do, it’s important that we address the most common question we get: “Why can’t I just use spreadsheets to manage my business?”

The answer is not that you can’t use spreadsheets, because you definitely can, but because it’s not a system that scales. Spreadsheets are not designed to manage your inventory, report on compliance, or track COGS. They don’t offer integrations, automations, reporting, user permissions, or any of the other tools that help a cannabis business grow and thrive.

Types of cannabis software

  • Seed-to-sale Software
  • Enterprise Resource Planning Software
  • Point-of-sale Software
  • Track and Trace Software
  • Marketplace Software
  • Laboratory Information Management Software

Seed-to-Sale Software

According to G2.com, “Seed to sale software provides cannabis businesses with the ability to track and regulate their inventory from planting to final sale.” The primary feature offered by seed-to-sale software is traceability. Functionality can range from basic Metrc reporting to real-time inventory levels.

Core benefits and key features:

No two seed-to-sale software are similar. Each has its unique modules and extensions

  • Cultivation Management: It helps manage the growing process and track the location of any plant for easy navigation.
  • Manufacturing Management: It oversees the manufacturing process from uprooting to the product and everything in-between.
  • Distribution management: This feature can take and make orders in real-time, inventory feeds, and automate order fulfillment.
  • Retail Management: This seed-to-sale software feature allows you to monitor your costs, profits, budtender performance, and any other retail information.
  • Inventory Management: A sound system should uniquely identify every marijuana product with barcode numbers and exclusive ID, as well as record your entire inventory.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Software

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software does everything a seed-to-sales software does plus manage everyday business activities like supply chain operations, accounting, risk management, compliance, forecasting, business intelligence and project management. ERP software is essential as they help companies implement resource planning by integrating all process needed to run their business in a single system.

Cannabis ERP software is considered a step above seed-to-sale and a good choice for medium to large cannabis operations.

Core benefits and key features:

  • Finance and Accounting: The ERP system helps your cannabis business track income, expenses, and growth plans. Overall, your business can make better spending decisions, manage assets with robust data analytics.
  • Inventory Management: Businesses need to interact with suppliers to obtain products for their consumers. ERPs help mitigate this need by determining the cannabis and non-cannabis inventory and ensuring replenishment to keep up with the demand and supply ratio.
  • Regulatory Compliance: States need cannabis businesses to track their plants from cultivation and retail. A good ERP will have a well-built tracking system and reporting feature to help ease this process.  

Point-Of-Sale (POS) Software

A point of sale (POS) system is a combination of hardware and software that allows you to accept payments from customers and make sales. POS, retail, or dispensary software allows for all types of payments, whether they are made online, at the counter, or picking an item from at a stand or booth.

Core benefits and key features:

  • Orders Management: A POS system can assist suppliers in planning orders for restocking products. On the other hand, you can improve customer satisfaction by using the system to track out-of-stock items and setting up alerts on restocking. This enables you to notify your customers as soon as products become available.
  • Integrated Supplier Purchase: The platform should record purchases sent to suppliers. The records can help with inventory tracking. It also enables you to easily limit customer orders based on the stock available.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM): A CRM tool built into your POS software lets you see what and when your customers purchased your products. This data assists you in creating customer profiles, which allow you to personalize your marketing, communication, and customer service.
  • Compliance: Especially with the cannabis industry, your POS system needs to be state compliant and adhere to state guidelines for monitoring the marijuana supply chain.  
  • Security: Dispensary POS systems possess a lot of private information, such as patient records. The system needs to have advanced security features that will protect your information. Check for sign-in authentication, secure cloud services, and data centers when evaluating a platform.

Track and Trace Software

Track and trace software helps pinpoint any item’s current and past locations in your supply chain. The software is an answer to regulations that mandate track and trace requirements and capabilities for recording and sharing supply chain data.

Core benefits and key features:

  • Integrates with internal and other processing systems
  • Documents product history from manufacturing to consumer  
  • Recall management with specified workflows that direct recall or stock withdrawals
  • Automates tracking based on scanning technology: RFID, barcode tracking, and QR codes

Marketplace Software

A marketplace software is a platform to create and manage digital storefronts that aggregate product or service offerings from multiple sellers. These tools simplify and streamline the entire process of creating hosting and managing an online marketplace, including shipping, website design, and vendor communication.

Core benefits and key features:

  • Order Processing: Marketplace software automates order invoicing after payments and accommodate splitting orders when processing orders from different vendors.
  • Inventory Management: The software will manage inventory in multiple locations and warehouses.  
  • Vendor Management: The platform offers operators total visibility and control of vendors and their organizational structure.
  • Communication: The marketplace platform facilitates a good flow of communication between operators, vendors and buyers.

Laboratory Information Management Software (LIMS)

Laboratory information management software (LIMS) is a tool that allows you to manage test results, samples, and associated data to improve lab productivity and efficiency.  

Core benefits and key features:

  • Sample Tracking: The LIMS software should record data on a sample form testing to storage
  • Protocol Execution: A laboratory has a standard operating procedure when processing a sample which a LIMS needs to ensure lab techs follow for consistency and accuracy of results.
  • Storage Organization: The LIMS platform should track a sample throughout its laboratory lifecycle.
  • Instrument Integration: The LIMS needs to be integrated with lab instruments for better sample tracking and data collection.

How to choose cannabis software

#1. Know your framework: When picking any software, it’s important to consider how it will fit into your operational framework. For example, if you’re a vertically integrated operator, you will want a software solution that supports more than just cannabis cultivation or just distribution. You will want a platform that can be used by all of your employees and departments.

#2. Do your research: Many software solutions can look perfect on paper, but that does not mean they are the best solution for you. Make sure you get demos from each of your options, ask about pricing, looks up reviews and testimonials, and ask trusted colleagues for their recommendation. Websites like G2 and Crozdesk are great for this.

#3. Consider the ROI: Investing in a business solution, especially software, can be pricey, so it’s important to know what the return on investment will be for you. Ask yourself a few of these questions to know if the prices is worth it:

How does this reduce my labor costs?

Does this optimize my workflows?

Will it help me improve my profit margin on products?

What does this do to improve data entry practices?

#4. Get to know the company: It’s important to know if the company behind the software is one that you want to work with. Imagine signing up for a solution and quickly realizing the customer experience is not what you were hoping for. Ask the employees if they care about the cannabis market and research the software company to see what they have been up to. For example, a company that secured funding and has a large customer base is much more likely to be a better choice than a startup.

Where are You Located?

Do you have over 15 employees?

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Are you operating in multiple states?

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