Mini-ERP: affordable integrated solutions for SMEs?

This is a message to all SMEs out there. You can now afford cloud-based ERP that encompases CRM, order processing, stock control and accounting in a single integrated system.

Pause to think how much time is wasted in your organization as a result of either having no systems, or more likely, a number of disparate systems that are cobbled together to ‘act as one’ - typically a CRM system plus the standard Quickbooks/Sage or equivalent.

Yet it doesn't have to be so. What if there was a native, integrated system built from the ground up that could take care of all of this, but with less of a hassle? Well...there is, and we call such systems Mini-ERP because they do not incorporate some of the more peripheral functionality of ‘big’ systems like SAP, JD Edwards or Oracle. However they do integrate the key features of sales fulfilment and accounting, and at a fraction of the cost. Indeed, they bring the essential power of ERP to the SME market - and we think this revolutionary.

The power of real-time data

Most SMEs run a separate accounting system, such as Quickbooks, Sage or equivalent. These products are very good, and have been development over many years. Moreover, the big players have moved into the cloud with online variants of their desktop products. New kids on the block such as Xero are also effectively competing for this market.

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Yet these are just accounting systems, albeit good ones. They are still viewing the business as being in distinct silos, of which accounting is one. The power of the cloud and current internet technology means that this view of business is essentially outdated. It is now possible to have a completely integrated view, that combines sales, fulfilment and accounting into a single system. What does this essentially mean? Well apart from dramatically reducing re-keying of data, with the associated staffing requirements and error prone processes, it means you can run your business in real-time. That is, all the information you need, including accounts (P&L, balance sheet, profitability etc), is available at any time you want it to be, and not just at the end of the month.

Moreover, these figures can include the current sales forecast, which means that any cash flow forecast or pipeline predictions have the potential to be far more accurate. You can make business decisions instantly, rather than waiting again until the end of the month when the necessary data had been keyed into the accounting system. Given the highly dynamic nature of the typical SME, this is clearly of great benefit.

The 360o customer view

The 360o customer view  is a worn out phrase that CRM vendors have been touting around for years. However, although we are not denying the clear advantage in being able to see all interactions for a given customer CRM systems fall short for obvious reasons. In particular, there is no transactional data! So you cannot really ask the question ‘how much revenue/profitability has this customer generated’.

Now, some CRM systems do incorporate orders and products/items. But even then, unless you have access to the accounting data that is actually being posted, you cannot have accurate information. Even with CRM/accounting integration mashups (e.g. SalesForce/Quickbooks) this information is very difficult to obtain accurately (try taking into account credit notes for example). The only way to have a true 360o customer view is to have an native integrated system built from the ground up.

So there we are. If you either run an SME, or are considering starting one, and find yourself looking for a good CRM, order processing, accounting or stock control system, then pause for thought. Your budget may enable you to invest in a Mini-ERP that will truly transform the efficiency of your business

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Robert Taylor

About the author…

Robert is co-founder, CTO, and chief architect of Salesorder.com - a fully integrated cloud-based inventory management, order processing,CRM and multi-currency accounting tool for small and medium sized businesses

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Robert Taylor

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