Small to medium-sized business? Get professional with ERP
By Taryn Cromie, sales manager at HansaWorld South Africa.
As the owner of a small or medium-sized company, it is highly likely that you're well aware of the advantages that good technology brings to your business. It is also highly likely that you appreciate the growing necessity to have an integrated business management solution and a Web presence as an integral part of your service offering, especially if you're involved in the sale of products - whether to end-customers or to trade.
That's according to Taryn Cromie, sales manager, HansaWorld South Africa, who says creating systems with an eye on the future not only means the ability to operate a professional organisation with a Web shop fully integrated into your other business systems, it also means that, as your company grows, your business systems can grow with it.
"Choosing the right technology at the beginning is important, as it provides for a very simple growth path that matches your company's trajectory," says Cromie. "Where many companies find upon reaching a certain size they are obliged to migrate to new systems, a good choice early on can completely avoid this expensive, time-consuming and disruptive activity."
She notes that one of the highly attractive features of modern technology is that enterprise solutions that were once alarmingly expensive, and therefore limited to big businesses, are today affordable to a far greater cross-section of companies. "That certainly applies where enterprise resource planning is concerned. Today, even single-user businesses can download and install a system that meets their immediate needs, yet provides a base upon which they can grow to as many as 500 users or even more."
Cromie strongly advocates choosing a system that provides certain key functionalities. "Look for a solution that is user-configurable. You can today download self-installable solutions that form the basis of what can grow to become a complete enterprise resource planning [ERP] system. These solutions feature easy-to-use set-up wizards, which will guide you through the process of establishing a single-user account system," she notes.
Cromie says these 'beginner' ERP solutions include the ability to later integrate a professional Web shop that supports sales both to business and retail customers, to share information electronically inside the company, and to create a corporate Web site. "Even at this entry level, these solutions can provide the basis for an e-commerce system that can be connected to from anywhere with an Internet connection, fully integrates e-mail and online chat, and provides conferencing for sharing documents, publishing news or participating in discussions."
She notes, however, that 'self-implementation' isn't advised for larger companies. "Of course, if your company is already at a certain scale - perhaps employing 50 to 100 people - the initial system set-up will be more complex. However, even the most basic solution will scale from just one user, to hundreds. And, as it is a fledgling version of a full-scale ERP solution, it provides the ability to add further modules and components as business needs dictate, including, for example, a quotation module, customer relationship management, warehousing, logistics and many more options."
If you're shaking your head and wondering how it is that a 'mini' ERP project can be instigated by a business owner without significant technology knowledge, Cromie agrees that it does sound a little like something out of a science fiction movie.
"However, we live in a world today where astoundingly powerful devices are in our pockets, providing the ability to navigate, take and send pictures and videos, and access all of the world's information. Technology advancements have made sci-fi a reality in many areas, including making ERP accessible even to the SME, with single-user systems that can be created by a business owner quite capable of serving as the base upon which a future company-wide system, replete with Web shop, can be built."