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ERP Buyer's Guide for Small Businesses

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Posted July 7, 2011 By Drew Robb     Feedback

NetSuite, CDC Software and Syspro are just some of the names covered in our small business ERP buying guide.

In previous ERP buyer's guides, we covered the large enterprise and midrange ERP markets. This time, we take a look at the small business ERP segment.

Granted, some of these companies could quite easily fit in the midmarket or even the large enterprise markets. By the same token, some of those covered earlier would be well represented in this article. Microsoft, for example, has plenty of small business customers. Oracle and SAP, too, are steadily moving their products down the food chain. But to cover as broad a range of companies as possible, we'll limit our SMB ERP guide to companies we haven't covered before.

Broadly speaking, these vendors fit into what Panorama Consulting Group calls ERP Tier III. According to Eric Kimberling of Panorama, this tier constitutes a healthy 36 percent of the total ERP market. Part of the reason for claiming such a large slice of the market is a lower cost per project and faster payback time compared to the upper tiers.

"Tier III vendors typically obtain a payback period of less than three years 76 percent of the time," said Kimberling. "Average cost per project for Tier III is $1.1 million."

Exact Globe ERP

Gartner named Exact Globe a niche player in its latest ERP Magic Quadrant (MQ).

"Vendors like Exact offer their products in a multi-tenant SaaS mode, but this is mainly targeted at companies in the lower midmarket," said Christian Hestermann of Gartner.

Exact Globe is aimed at light manufacturing, distribution or is involved in service delivery. At its core is an embedded document management system that facilitates processes for money management, order processing and production planning. Up-to-date pricing in multiple currencies and languages is one of the features.

It includes project management, financials, document management, workflow management, CRM, HR and inventory management. In addition, its Synergy Web-based collaboration platform consolidates everything into a single database.

According to Gartner, this Dutch company has about 100,000 mostly smaller customers. Gartner said that Exact Globe is best suited to environments with anywhere from 50 to 100 users. Panorama Consulting noted that Exact accounts for 3 percent of the retail ERP sector.

Syspro ERP

Syspro is another ERP name that Gartner included in its last MQ as a niche player.

"Syspro version 6.1 introduced workflow services, inventory optimization, process modeling and more integrated analytics," said Hestermann. "The company focuses in areas such as medical devices, electronics, food, chemicals and fertilizer manufacturing."

The company has been introducing a SaaS product, and Syspro Version 7 is reported to be due later in the year.

Headquartered in South Africa, Syspro offers a Microsoft.net-based integrated supply chain suite encompassing ERP, analytics, e-commerce, CRM, and planning and scheduling. Specific to the ERP portion, it includes financials, distribution and manufacturing. A reporting tool known as Syspro Reporting Services (SRS) incorporates an embedded version of Crystal Reports.

NetSuite ERP

While NetSuite didn't make it onto the MQ, Gartner named the company as one of the few pure SaaS ERP vendors and as a viable option in certain cases.

With over 6,600 customers, NetSuite offers modules for financials, accounting, global consolidation, purchasing, payrolls, orders management, inventory control, material resource planning (MRP), production planning, shop floor control, engineering change control and employee management. The company also integrates its ERP suite with its CRM product. It characterizes itself as providing an ERP cloud. The company seems to be going after Microsoft's Dynamics business, hoping to convert those users to NetSuite.

"Businesses across a wide range of industries and sizes are on the move from Great Plains to NetSuite," said Paul Turner of NetSuite. "There are three key drivers behind the shift — business process fragmentation, onerous financial consolidation and the need to transform the IT budget from maintenance to innovation."

Its real-time dashboard integrates business data across departments and can be personalized for each employee. It provides snapshots of sales orders, commissions and forecasts, and a fast way of analyzing data. It also makes ERP accessible and easy to use for smaller firms by using a web-based approach. According to Panorama Consulting, NetSuite owns 2 percent of the services ERP market.

Visibility ERP

According to Panorama Consulting, Visibility has a 1 percent ERP market share in manufacturing and distribution, as well as in communication, energy and transport. Known as Visibility.net, it is squarely aimed at the ERP needs of complex product manufacturers. It includes modules for management, CRM, quotes, projects, costs, MRP, product manufacturing, financials and supply chain collaboration.

Most recently, it became available for use on the Apple iPad. It deploys all functions, transactions, reports, and business intelligence analytical capabilities through the iPad device.

Company President Jack Saint uses it to access the Visibility.net ERP system and run its own business.

"I bring my iPad ERP everywhere I go — the lunchroom where I can get up-to-the minute services backlog reports while having coffee with my services manager, the hallway where I can review our financial numbers with my director of business operations, the airport where I checked on the status of a deal while waiting to board my plane, and even my breakfast table before work where I check to see if my UK resources have entered their timesheets for the week," said Saint.

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