Popular ‘shrinkwrap solutions’ Quickbooks and Peachtree have been the launching point for many a business. These products are easy to use, flexible, and with the built-in two dimensional reporting, are outstanding for accounting, and even some advanced application areas like project billing and procurement management.
When is it time to move on, some company owners may ask? While there are probably 50 or so good reasons, but for the purposes of this article, I will highlight a few. If you are running a standalone Ecommerce solution that does not tie to your accounting system, that may be reason one. If you are running a simple sales force automation system like ACT!, Salesforce.com or Goldmine, and the quoting and customer master records are not tied to your accounting systems items, that may be another. In both these examples, integrated systems allow you standardized pricing by customer, item, promotion, or even dealer (partner).
The biggest justification may come with people running simple production planning and scheduling functions on spreadsheets. By passing around spreadsheets, companies are wasting time, and errors can be easily made. Also, once your production scheduling is complete, there is usually no ‘put back,’ to the accounting system. The justification for a systematic planning and scheduling system tied to your back office may be in inventory reduction, improved customer service, or lead-time reduction. If you can add an ‘available to promise,’ to commit an order to a key prospect or customer, you may be able to improve your top line as well.
From an IT infrastructure standpoint, you may start to wonder why the servers in some hidden room in your company are growing. Well with all these disparate systems, it is often time easier to add a server than to try to consolidate applications on one server. This adds complexity and increases your reliance on costly IT personnel.
Find an online, subscription based solution that combines ERP, CRM, Ecommerce and business intelligence in one simple solution. All you should need is a web browser and a high speed line. In summary, small companies can benefit by:
1) Reducing the ‘islands of automation,’ that require rekeying and are conducive to mistakes
2) Reduce the dependence on internal systems and IT personnel
3) Dive into advanced integration application areas like aftermarket service, planning/scheduling, Ecommerce and configuration management and comprehensive sales force automation.