Question for my readers: ERP System

erp

I am currently researching ERP Systems for Tattly. Talk about growing up. ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planing.

Research in this space is quite overwhelming, especially, when you’re a small shop like me, but with ambitions to grow and eventually having multiple shipping locations around the globe. There are the big known systems like Netsuite, Sage or Microsoft Dynamics but I am hoping to stumble across a well designed system that is the Justworks equivalent of ERP systems.

It is our goal to have all facets of our operations in one place to handle our order, inventory and warehouse management. As well as function as our CRM system, help us track our financials and overall planning.

I was hoping that some of you, might have some insights and have gone through this decision process as well. If so, anything you’ve learned along the way? Any word of advice?

(Obviously, my over-ambitious maker gene just keeps thinking to build my own.)

37 Comments leave a comment below

  1. Hi. Have you considered using Xero.com + a custom range of addons e.g. Spotlight Reporting for beautiful financials, Unleashed for inventory, any of the CRMs, etc. see Xero.com/addons/

    All very scalable, cloud based and (for the most part) beautiful…

  2. You’ll really want to build your own once you finish your research. Well designed and ERP are not normally found in the same town. The issue with building your own ERP is getting to work with your partner businesses systems (accounting, logistics, etc.). You’re mad clever, so maybe that will not pose a real issue.

    OpenERP has some nice features and looks good. https://www.openerp.com

    OpenBravo is web based and has some appeal.
    http://www.openbravo.com/

    Good luck,
    Aris

  3. I’d say to explore first options within SaaS. Sage? Plex?. 3plCentral is very nice, but not really for your case. hope this help

  4. Getting down to the theory part of it, “ERP” is a process and not software. It may seem like a strange distinction, but you want to design/redesign your processes, and then select software to match those new processes. If you start out looking for a software solution, you end up warping your processes to match the software’s capabilities.

    I have that sort of a problem now at my workplace, where the existing ERP system was brought in as a piece of software that suited the convenience of the IT staff, without noting how the other departments could improve. This predates me, and I desperately want to replace it. There are unfortunately not a lot of good resources about this out there – lots of consultants, though.

    I did recently read “ERP: Making It Happen” by Tom Wallace and Michael Kremzar. It’s written just before the real advent of the Internet, and it has a large-corporation planning style, but the advice about planning and how and why to implement is written in a useful and software-agnostic way.

    I also had the books of Carol Ptak recommended to me; they are more recent but I haven’t read any yet.

    Short version of all this: define what you’re going to do first, and get software last, otherwise the software will determine your limits for you.

  5. Oh, and don’t build it yourself, even though that can be very fun. You want to do this to make your business better, not reinvent the wheel of resource planning.

  6. Quickbooks enterprise seems sufficient.

  7. Hi,

    I will go with Salesforce. It does not need to install anything and it just works.

    http://www.salesforce.com

  8. I have some experience in this as I used to work for a Microsoft partner that implemented Dynamics NAV. As a result I can only give advice in the area of how Dynamics NAV is implemented and costs that will be attached to it.

    Licensing costs have changed since I last worked in this field. Previously licensing costs were based on the modules that you required to use in Dynamics NAV. There are a number of standard modules that you get out of the box, but there are also additional modules that required an extra licensing cost. This licensing model has changed to what I believe to be a user based licensing module.

    From implementations I worked on, there was a significant cost in implementing changes to the stock system that the customer gets. There are a number of modules such as Financial Management, Sales Order Processing and Inventory that come with Dynamics NAV and most companies could run their business with these modules without being modified, but when changes are required to make the system work with the business, implementation costs can start to rise. Typically in the UK you can be looking at around £1000 per day for a Microsoft partner to fulfill any changes that you require to your system. There is also a cost for support should you require it from your partner.

    Software that works directly with Dynamics NAV isn’t a big market in terms of vendors, but there is a company in Toronto called Digital Vantage Point that sell an e-commerce package called Nav-to-Net. It works directly with Dynamics NAV so that orders placed on the sent are sent directly to Dynamics NAV. All your financials, order planning and inventory is then handled by Dynamics NAV. It’s a nice setup and works well but there is a cost in licensing for this and also for implementing any changes required for the e-commerce site. I just mention this as I imagine you will want some integration between the Tattly site and your chosen ERP system.

    I can’t make any recommendation towards a specific vendor or even towards the use of perhaps OpenERP. With my experience in working with Dynamics NAV, you are tied to the Microsoft platform as Dynamics NAV will not run on anything else except Microsoft Windows. This especially holds true for the server side of the software stack as Dynamics NAV does require Microsoft SQL Server for data retention.

    Having said that, Dynamics NAV does in fact have its own client that can be used in a web browser but there are other third party products as well that allow you to use Dynamics NAV from web browsers, tablets and smartphones.

    I hope that these points I made above help shed some light on the implementation side of an ERP system.

  9. I fully agree with you, Business Software hardly ever manages to excite its users with its interface; instead of enabling the user to get his work done quickly, more often than not the user interface gets in the way of the user. BoxBrain was designed with a focus on a new, modern, and user-friendly interface. BoxBrain is for small medium enterprises, it’s intuitive, it doesn’t have orgies of fields and forms to fill in, it just communicates with you through a “chat” like interface.
    I would like to invite you to briefly look at our website here, if interested we can organize a live demo: http://www.boxbrain.com
    Ciao,
    Marco

  10. I have been through 2 ERP implementations at my place of work and i agree with Justin – decide and think through what your business processes are first, and make a vendor selection based on what will them. Don’t underestimate the power of a traditional RFP process! If you know exactly what you need, put all the details in your proposal and have a vendor show you a detailed demo specific to your needs.

    And, don’t forget about the future! I’ve been through 2 implementations because we outgrew our first software in a few years.

  11. I’ve been involved over the years in implementing many ERP solutions including JD Edwards, MAPICS, BPCS/ERPLX and more.

    The problem with all of them (and most CRM systems)? They’re all complicated and expensive. And then there’s the suitability issue. Are you selling fast-moving consumer goods or are you a ‘complex sale’ B2B organisation?

    From what I can see re: Tattly, they fit in the FMCG group which means they don’t need a CRM. CRM is useful for consultative sales cycles and tracking complex sales/opportunities/pipeline, not mass order taking. For that you want:

    a) a great website and brilliant marketing
    b) a seamless order-taking system and/or the correct number of order takers (not salespeople – just taking orders, not doing a consultative sell)
    c) good supply chain management and just-in-time ordering systems
    d) an accounts package

    An ERP would do a lot of the accounting, SCM and JIT stuff (if you pick the right one), but you don’t need a CRM in my opinion. Good marketing automation or email marketing would suffice.

    The low-cost route would include systems such as FreeAgent, Xero, QuickBooks and any number of ecommerce systems, plus MailChimp, Aweber etc. for the marketing. The high-cost route would suggest MS Dynamics (ERP and NAV).

  12. +1 for Manuel’s recommendation of Salesforce. Have implemented it in two different organizations and was very pleased with the results.

  13. We went through a similar struggle at United By Blue last year as we struggled to manage both ecommerce and wholesale inventory and orders. After all the research we did and people we talked to, we left with the impression that an ERP wasn’t going to be a good fit for our small startup–they all added too many steps and, while solving some problems, created others.

    What we did find along the way were a few different solutions to help manage different parts of the process. We use Brandboom (http://www.brandboom.com/) to manage wholesale orders to some degree of success. I know you do your distribution in house (real stamps!), but several distribution companies offered great reporting. Specifically, ITS Logistics and Navarre/SpeedFC (http://www.speedcommerce.com/). We’re still too small for these guys, but they may be an okay fit for you!

    Thanks for asking this question! I look forward to following the comment thread.

  14. Don’t build your own, the wheel is already invented. Instead, as previous comments have pointed out, first look at your processes, map them out and then choose an ERP that suits your needs.

    That said, choose an ERP with flexibility to accomodate peculiarities of your process. (For example, eliminating processes required for larger organizations but they are overkill for a small shop).

    I highly recommend http://www.openerp.com it has a nice looking interface, totally customizable if needed, and flexible enough to modify and accomodate your processes (meaning, you can eliminate steps not needed at this moment). Also, it is very modular by design so you only install and configure what you need and it grows with you.

    It is a good idea to have a consultant who knows about business processes standards and that sort of things to help you in the customization and implementation. This consultant needs to be able to internalize your business process and objectives and streamline the process on the ERP.

    Just My 2 cents.

  15. I have implemented ecommerce solution linked to microsoft dynamics nav for 10+ years, I can recommend this as a tested and tried piece of software that is getting more and more web enabled.

    Depending on the ecommerce solution you add on top of dynamics nav you get more or less control over the source code and how much you can modify it.

    Regards
    Anders Pedersen

  16. Hi,

    I work for ERPLY.com, in New York City. We’re monthly SAAS model, and we offer a free trial, as well as an import of your inventory. We started at inventory, and we do that well. If you’d like we can give you a demo and talk to you about your needs and how they’d fit in our system.

    Additionally, we’re all open API, so if we don’t meet your needs, you can tailor us any way you’d like.

    Hope this helps you out,

    Allena Buchholz
    ERPLY Support Specialist
    (ps. I love your blog!)

  17. A combination Salesforce and Zuora might be up your alley. I’m currently evaluating SaaS ERP solutions that integrate with Salesforce to replace our companies existing core financial system and Netsuite is our current frontrunner for a variety of reasons. Hard to go wrong with them.

  18. Hi Tina – we work with NetSuite and while the system does financials and inventory management well, the backend that supports our website leaves a lot to be desired. I’m a marketing person, so I know enough to be dangerous as far as IT goes, but in-the-know programmers tell me their web site platform is built on old technology. We have a very hard time making website updates and it has been a challenge to keep up with delivering leading edge web user experiences. You might find the system limiting in some ways. With ERP systems, in my experience, everything is a compromise. Good luck, let me know if you need more details! Happy to help.

  19. I am in a similar boat. Except we sell 100% custom products. So I need a CRM but one geared for smaller / quicker orders vs larger items that take meetings / calls / etc.

    Every time I look into solutions like these I want to bang my head into the wall, or into the developer who left out one perfect feature.

    I have about 40 tabs open right now and read / test / etc then close them.

    The one that is still open which may appeal to you is: https://www.sellsy.com/ It looks pretty slick and covers warehouses/inventory / crm / etc.

    I looked into Saleforce for my needs but to do what I would like it to do it is like 165 per user/mo plus the plugins I need. )c:

    I saw one yesterday that may work well for you too… http://www.stitchlabs.com/

    Anyhow best of luck

  20. Hello, I am a Managing Director at Eval-Source. We specialize in ERP Software Evaluation. The number of ERP software vendors is in the hundreds and each cater to a specific size and industry vertical, ranging from SMB to large organizations. First step is needs assessment, understanding the depth and scope of requirements for your organization.

    A common mistake companies make is categorization, they don’t know which vendors specialize in specific verticals, like ERP for inventory management and WMS. There are many inventory/WMS based ERP’s with proper CRM modules both on-premise or cloud.

    The majority of companies get the selection process incorrect and experience IT failure which can consume resources and cost your organization a lot of money.

    We offer free ERP assessment sessions which are ideal for uncovering options and/or validating the choice to go with an ERP.

    Please feel free to visit our website and download our ERP Cloud Buyer’s Guide. http://www.eval-source.com

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  22. You may want to check http://www.blastramp.com out. It’s more fashion oriented but would likely work well for you. It’s very simple to use and handles production through to shipping orders and handling returns. It ties nicely into Quickbooks or Xero for accounting too. It can also easily connect your e-comm store for orders and inventory.

    cheers, J :)

  23. Hi Tina,
    I feel your pain too. I fought this battle for ten long years, cobbling together a dizzying array of applications. I then went down the rabbit hole of designing my own. And now? I’m a full time UX designer trying to make a dent in the hideous world of “business” software.

    But with that said, things have gotten a lot better! For example Shopify is slowly coming around as a platform to build on top of, now that they have their POS (Point of Sale, just to be safe) out. And there are a ton of apps that plug into Shopify, like http://www.stitchlabs.com , https://lettuceapps.com , and Xero. All these guys seem to have a full time design staff and seem to care about experience and visual details (huge plus!).

    Going through the above links it’s just shocking how no one shows screen shots of the app. Instead they throw a ton of white papers at you, as if you have all month to read their junk. No thanks.

    I say, if you have the time, or if you can find some talent (not that hard in your circle of friends), F the corporate junkware and build your own!

    Viel Glück! ;)

    PS. Please keep us posted. Thank you!

  24. +1 Justin Sherrill
    +1 ElsieV

    We started in 1 country, and now we are in 3 and that has a lot of pain attached to it. In the beginning I got the advice ‘buy the best (largest) software you can’ and I completely underestimated what that meant – but a factor of 100.

    After much pain with other systems we switched to Netsuite about 6 years ago and now we have one platform that does all countries and all markets and I and 3 accountants and sales teams and customers can all access it anywhere anytime. It’s brilliant.

    +1 Susan – especially the part about ‘everything is a compromise’

    Netsuite support is spectacularly poor. New features absolutely never happen (they are always require some license we don’t have). Finding someone to talk to when catastrophe’s occur is not just difficult but mind-numbingly-impossible. But they are still 100 times better than any alternative I’ve seen/used. Of course a big part of that is that Netsuite does fulfil our business requirements (Justin Sherrill).

  25. Dear Tina,

    Reading the comments above, exactly this is the reason why you’ll end up building your own system.

    Growing business is not about buying an ERP system, it’s about designing and optimizing your processes, again and again.
    As I read your posts and as you said you are a maker person, I assume that you don’t like to adapt your processes to standard software, you want to have software perfectly adapted to your needs.

    Think carefully before buying licences, draw your process on the biggest piece of paper, discuss them with employees and partners. And finally take the best developer you know, the best webdesigner you for the UI and Work with them, hand in hand. Start small, where it hurts most, but think big and dont loose the big picture.

    (may you use standard software for finance, you probably allready do.)

    All the best!
    Daniel

  26. I would recommend checking out cloud ERP vendors like Acumatica or Intacct; Acumatica actually allows customers to switch between cloud and on-premise.

  27. Hi Tina,

    Looks like a lot of feedback already on the topic.

    I would suggest that its worth taking a look at SAP Business One.

    You can run it on your premises or on demand with SAP Business One Cloud and it includes all the functionality you mentioned in a single application unlike many of the other suggestions that talk about needing multiple apps “integrated” together.

    If you visit my web site at http://www.richardduffy.com and click on the link for Demos, you’ll find quite a lot of walk throughs explaining the solution.

    Also feel free to take a look at my YouTube Channel – http://www.youtube.com/duffyrichard for more related content.

    And of course, I can do a call with you to discuss what you are looking for as well.

    Let me know how I can help.

    Richard Duffy
    SAP Business One Product Evangelist

  28. TL;DR – Someone please build what Tina is describing. I will pay for it SO hard!

  29. Sorry, that’s a bad habit — the post / comments were not TL;DR, that acronym has become shorthand for “here’s my summary / take-away”. So, to restate: I read the post, and the comments, and have also been looking for a beautifully designed ERP system, and I believe there’s still an unmet need here. Though Sellsy, BoxBrain, and ERPly are looking promising.

  30. Have a look at Thingamy from my friend Sig Rinde. This is a tool to manage the flow of work and the ERP comes free with that.

  31. I was cleaning out my mail box today and stumbled across this post.

    As a business process engineer I advise on system selection often and have for more than 30 years. Here a some things to consider:

    #1 resist the urge to roll your own – the cost to build and maintain it will out weigh the benefits quickly – ask yourself this – am I in the business of software development? If you are then go for it, with your eye for design I am sure it will be beautiful.

    #2 Are you sure what you want is ERP. Are you an enterprise? or is what you need a good CRM ( sales – order – support ), accounting – Quickbooks, Sage or something like these, and a inventory management /manufacturing system ( Production scheduling | Purchasing schedule) this is MRP.

    It has been my experience that ERP is often overkill for small and medium business. And most of the real ERP systems force you to modify the way you do business to fit to the way the technology was designed to run business. Ask me about the company I worked for that tried 3 teams to install and configure Oracle Financials and still did not manage to get beyond General Ledger and HR functions.

    I am here to help – It is what I do – I love your blog – you have shown me so many things. I would be happy to help you get you on your way.

    Like design is easy for you :: Systems are easy for me

  32. Hi there – I feel your pain. I feel strongly that the future of the ERP is individual components that are able to communicate together, but still be light, lean, inexpensive and best-in-breed in their own regard.

    We launched http://www.pushpinplanner.com earlier this year as a Resource Planning tool and rather than trying to make time tracking, invoicing, pipeline management and all that stuff, we just integrate with folks that do it as their “thing”.

    This keeps costs down and allows each party to specialize – and also doesn’t lock you in. We’ve got plans for lots more integrations in the future, but the best thing you could do is find a solution that has a robust API and integrates with other solutions.

    There’s a reason why a Google Ad click for ERP costs firms $100+ per click. They are million dollar solutions and cash cows for the firms doing it the old way (and a real drain on the economy and clients that don’t need some monolithic dinosaur software suite that’s hard to master and way more than they need). But by taking the approach I’ve described, you can get a-la-carte what you want and pay much less.

  33. Hi there, for all time i used to check webpage posts here in the early hours in the morning, because i enjoy to learn more and more.

  34. Hi Tina, could you share which software you ultimately decided to go with? We’re just about to launch a small business selling handmade products and I’ve been put in charge of exploring inventory management systems, so would love to know your recommendation! Thanks!

  35. Hi there.

    I’m a founder at Sellsy and found this thread. Thanks for the positive comments :-)

    I just wanted to add that we since added a POS extension directly connected to our CRM/ERP.

    Check about it here: https://www.sellsy.com/features/point-of-sale/

    You can also contact me if you need help testing Sellsy.

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