Megaventory Blog - Online Inventory Management Software, Order fulfillment and Control System
This is the company blog for megaventory, an online software that helps small businesses that buy, sell and manufacture physical products to manage sales, purchasing, manufacturing and inventory. We blog about new features and updates but also about enterprise software, small businesses, cloud computing and the industry in general.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Delay in upgrading megaventory

Dear megaventory friends,

the upgrade of today just got delayed for at least one more week. The reason is that the testing of the ordering module is taking longer than anticipated and we did not want to introduce a half-baked and buggy edition. We need a bit more testing before the new version goes live but we really believe that the result will exceed the expectations of our users.

We are sorry for the inconvenience,

The megaventory team

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A study for business & manufacturing software

Our previous posts on what is ERP, how ERP software can help your company and how to choose what's the best service for your business out there should give a nice introduction to our 'software for businesses' world. There's another important aspect however, before a company can benefit from ERP - its employees need to fully embrace and use it!

In 2011 a study was undertaken by IFS North America among middle to large manufacturer professionals in order to understand which type of software employees want to use so that they can actually do their everyday work without headaches.

The reason of the study was that very often companies spend considerable sums of money to set a management system that ends up being underused and the employees resorting to other solutions (primarily the all too familiar Excel spreadsheet). This results in lost value for the company which paid to buy the management system, less security when working outside the specified standards and less ways to attribute credit (and blame!) where it's due.

The highlights of this study are better understood by the feedback the participants gave -  here are a few of their comments:
  • “The interface needs to be seamless and intuitive. We don't have learning curve time anymore”
  • “Make the transition between new and legacy systems less painful”
  • “Make it very easy to access -including from smartphones- and user friendly”
  • “The tools must be reliable & flexible, safe and secure over network access”
  • “Make it easy for me to use remotely but with fast data transfer speeds”
  • “Just show me the information I need and don't waste my time with 'pretty' graphics”


In essence, according to this study, for a new management system to be successfully adopted by the employees it should be quick to set up and ready to use as soon as possible (including importing existing information from whatever previous system is being used). It should ensure security in the transactions (whether on a desktop or a mobile device) and it should focus on the important information without too many bells and whistles (while at the same time of course being easy on the eye). Obviously all this should also come at an appropriately fair price, which is also flexible structured (who needs to commit to long contracts these days?).

Do you think the users ask much? We think they have the right to do so!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Megaventory Upgrade & Scheduled Downtime [Sunday, 18th of December 2011]

Megaventory will be down for a scheduled upgrade on Sunday the 18th of December 2011, starting at 8AM (UTC). In this upgrade we will proudly introduce some very cool features, including:
  • New Improved Ordering Module:
    • Partial Sales Order Shipping & Purchase Order Receiving
    • Faster ordering page loading speed
    • Sales & Purchase Order history logs
    • Multiple file attachments per Sales & Purchase Order
    • Better Sales & Purchase Order integration with Inventory Transactions
  • Sub Location / Bin Location Support
  • ProForma Printouts
  • Contacts Import
We have also fixed more than 30 bugs based on the feedback we got from our users so, please keep the feedback coming. We are committed to make Megaventory easier and faster so you can run your business better!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What's cloud ERP and why it's better than traditional ERP?


Once you're in the market for an ERP solution for your business sooner or later you're going to have to choose whether to have one installed in your offices or whether to use the more modern subscription based Software-as-a-Service (or 'in the cloud') approach.

The traditional solution means finding and approaching vendors who'll make you an offer in order to install and customise their desktop based (mostly PC-based) solution for your particular business needs - usually charging per user or installation plus monthly or yearly support fees. Once there, you'd have to devote (your or your employees’) time to learn the new way of handling things and later spend more for maintenance and extensions to it. You do keep the significant advantage that all your data and its handling is in your hands instead of an external party. However, that may also become a disadvantage: you're the only one responsible if something goes wrong or you have to call external help to handle it.






The past couple of years the tables have turned and it's much easier, more flexible, cheaper and generally more efficient to allow your business to benefit from improved organisation. These days the sensible thing to do is to look for a cloud-based ERP solution. This practically means that you don't install anything in any of your company’s computers but rather you buy a subscription-based license to run an already installed package running securely somewhere on the internet. Moreover, the software runs from any web-browser so you can even access it from your smartphone or tablet device.

Without going into too much technical detail though, it most importantly means that somebody else takes care of pretty much everything non-core. All the installation, customisation and maintenance troubles go away which is a huge gain as it allows the employees to focus on work itself and not the tools. And - assuming your cloud ERP vendor has built an intuitive and quick to learn system, all you have to do is just choose a vendor and import the company’s data (also a largely automated process).

Overall cost is much lower this way and you get 'for free' what is complicated and expensive in the traditional method: the capability to use the ERP regardless of your physical location. So if your business has a number of venues spread across the country or countries, e.g. a number of shops with separate warehouse locations, you can benefit from a cloud based ERP for a fraction of the cost you would need with the traditional approach.





If you want to quickly get an idea of how all this works in practice, go on and give megaventory.com a try, the perfect example of what an ERP that targets small businesses should look like these days. And don't forget to tell us your impressions!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How would you choose ERP for your business?



Having asked ‘What is ERP’ and having shown what it can do, the question that comes naturally is how to select which solution is right for my small business or organization. The options are numerous and there is in fact an entire business ecosystem around this specific question (consultants, resellers and companies that help you decide and/or implement the solution for you). It's a huge subject but we'll try to cover the basis to get you started.



Regardless of the specific nature of your small business, there are a number of criteria that you need to consider and apply in pretty much all cases. So here’s what you should take into account as a small business owner.

Features: Obviously whatever you choose needs to cover the basic aspects of your business requirements. Your choice will be different if you want to make your inventory management more efficient compared to handling better your customers and sales leads - or if you want to improve how you work on both fields. It’s important to prioritise your goals as most of the best solutions out there -targeted to small and middle size business- also focus on doing one or two things well. So, the feature set they offer should match your goals as closely as possible. Note that having more features than needed might sound like a good thing to have but, in reality, it adds unnecessary complexity and increases the learning curve (and drives hidden costs higher).




Data visualisation & export: Can your ERP generate a printable report of all interactions with customers, suppliers, affiliates etc? How about aggregate data graphs or end of month/year reports? What level of detail can the ERP provide in how your business works?  Again, simplicity but also completeness in data visualization is key to understanding your business with a snapshot. Can you easily share this information among employees? Also, if you decide to change systems in the future is your information locked in the current ERP?

Usability: Perhaps a make-or-break aspect is how easy it is to understand how the software works in a glance. Do you and your employees have to undergo lengthy training to learn and change the way they work? Or is the solution so well designed that you’ll hardly ever need a manual? The abundance of solutions out there makes this particular criterion potentially the decisive factor: The ERP with the shallower learning curve usually prevails over the ERP with the most features. This is true especially in very small businesses.






Security: You’re trusting your crucial business data somewhere that at least initially feels foreign and you should be sure that proper encryption and security measures are in place where necessary. At the same time, security should be as much as needed, it shouldn’t get in the way of usability and you should ‘buy’ to the extent that you need it (e.g. there’s more reason for it if you know that in the past a competitor has been after your data)

Data import: It’s important to consider - especially if your business has been running for a few years now - how and to what extent will you be able to import your existing information into the new system. This is a function of what format your data are in currently, how well organised and easy to process are and to what extent you’ll need to manually edit in order to be able to start to actually work with them.




Maintenance: Once the system is in place, it’s not the end of the story. You will not to consider who and how much it will cost to maintain it and in what way it can be upgraded to include further features or needs that will arise in the future. Also, consider hardware equipment and additional licenses you might need as well as what the backup scheme in case of disaster. Hosted or Software-as-a Service solutions usually offer this out of the box so small business owners do not have to deal with upgrades, maintenance and installations. All is needed in the latter case is a web-browser and an Internet connection.

Miscellaneous: Apart from the above points there are a number of other details that are easy to forget but can hugely limit your solution if left unchecked. Most likely the system needs to support multiple currencies (e.g. in its reports) or have product tracking capabilities. Furthermore, there might be industry- or business-specific individual needs that must be covered in your particular case. Finally, government or institutions might require that certain regulations are met and a system that doesn’t support them is of little use.




Cost: Of course, once you have an idea of what you’re after, then comes the issue of what it costs both to begin with but also in the long run. Usually the core spend is a function of the users (or machines) the software will be installed for but other costs may also be involved.


Another important distinction is whether the ERP will be installed in your computers or whether it should run on the cloud. We look at this issue in the next post but before that let us know in the comments if you feel there are there any other factors that should be considered before deciding on ERP.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How we met Mark Suster: a non stalking approach




VIP people are difficult to get a meeting with. So, how do you get to arrange a meeting with them? One may follow the stalking approach which Christine Comaford supports that worked for her every time. However, at the end of her post, she felt she had to ask for apology from the person she met (in her case Steve Jobs). Why? Because stalking just doesn’t feel right. And when you approach people in such ways, the problematic nature of this approach usually sticks around for quite a long time, even if the two parties grow a business or friendly relationship afterwards.


There are numerous alternative ways to approach someone famous; simple and innovative ways mostly work. If you are an entrepreneur, you should know that Mark Suster is a VIP in this ecosystem. Here is what we did do get to meet him.


Our technique was inspired by Alec Brownstein, who placed an Ad while he was looking for a new job. If you don’t have the time to go through the above post, here is a short video that explains what this guy did.


Brilliant! Think of it as waiting for the fish to come to the bait. Then, the only think you have to do is just wait (it is not unusual to forget you placed the bait out there in the first place). This is how our Ad looked like:


In our case, we got the idea a bit further by also adding a nice landing page. The landing page included a small gift: a handmade sketch of Mark Suster and looked like this:


(kudos to isketchyouridea for the handmade sketch)


So, not only you inform someone of your presence and intentions, you do it unobtrusively (no stalking) and you also give a small personalized gift that can draw a positive reaction and a smile. Here is how Mark Suster reacted (twitter screenshot):




Great! Everything is going according to plan.


So, next step is to connect. We screwed up a bit here because we did not know how to connect. The easiest think that comes to mind is to use e-mail and that was what we did. Unfortunately, Mark Suster is known for not responding much to e-mails and we did not do our prior research on that. So, two of our e-mails and reminders went unanswered and we thought that it just did not work out. Then, after nearly 3 months, an e-mail pops in our inbox:


“Were you the team that wanted to meet?”


Wow! Mark Suster was actually looking for us in the internet. He visited our website and made the step to connect to us. We replied back and at the same day we set up a later meeting in his offices in LA. The reason he searched for us after almost 3 months is that our approach towards him made a very positive impression. One that I doubt you could have with the stalking approach.


I am not suggesting you should copy the same approach nor that you shouldn’t do so. This post is about expressing innovation in the approach procedure just as you express innovation with your startup. It is an example of thinking out-of-the-box (again, the original idea is not ours but Alec Brownstein’s) to get from point A to B.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Why do you need ERP for you business?


We briefly explained what ERP is and what’s its power is: that it can handle in a unified and efficient way - and as such simplify - many aspects of your business.
So, what can an ERP solution help you with? What problems can it help you solve and what does it allow you to do practically?

To begin with, it can allow you to properly keep your books in order. Hugely important and something every business needs to address from day one, getting your business financials straight is essential. That includes general budget uses, paying your employees their salaries and covering their benefits, managing your cash and assets, to name a few. Whats more, all this is laid out and organized to include all the best practices and industry and regulation standards - so that you don't have to implement them on your own.


Other than that, ERP can help with the manufacturing aspect of your business. Taken in the most broad sense this means the entire process of taking one set of components, using tools or machines and/or labor and turning them into a finished product. ERP can be there for you regardless of whether you're making and selling shoes or microchips. It can handle work order, bill of materials, general inventory management, placement of orders and purchases, supplier interaction and many other things along those lines.

Core business aside, ERP can greatly simplify interaction with the customers and improve the sales process, including marketing, promotion, following up and processing leads etc, In addition to this, it can do that seamlessly either on the retail/B2C level (end users) or on the B2B level (affiliates, suppliers etc). At the same time ERP makes it easy to understand what's going on in your company (what's collectively called Business Intelligence) by allowing you to create reports, enable alerts and perform simple or complex data mining. It can let you assign metrics to actions and assets and to generally be able to better judge what works well and what doesn't in your business - which is a hugely important advantage.

So, having this advanced level of organization is definitely crucial - but how does one select which solution is best for them? Again there is considerable literature on the subject out there but we'll give our version in the next post.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

So, what's 'ERP' really?


Since we've been in the process of explaining what ERP is via a video, we might as well put it in words for those who prefer this medium.

So, ERP (or Enterprise Resource Planning), is basically about how to manage whatever resources you have available for your business - simple as that. When you're just starting off and you're on your own or with just a few employees, running your company is quite straightforward; even pen and paper will do. But once business picks up and the customer base increases, you start expanding, hire more people, develop a broader range of products or services, etc, then things start getting complicated. Complexity can actually escalate pretty quickly and you need to be systematic and thorough to avoid mistakes and taking a loss - or worse.

The most immediate solution that people think of to solve this problem is to use a spreadsheet. Much as it is flexible and popular, a spreadsheet is simply not designed for this type of work and you will very quickly see its shortcomings. It takes a lot of time to do a simple job (especially given the repetitive nature of certain tasks), automation is limited and data entry errors start to become quite common. Also, connecting of the various spreadsheets between them can only go so far and it's generally hard or expensive or both to make a spreadsheet talk with the rest of the world. And even if somehow you can manage with the above, keeping all people involved synchronized and the business data updated is hugely impractical.




Since it soon becomes quite a feat to handle everything simply by throwing spreadsheets at it (let alone pen & paper), a number of software solutions have been developed to help businessmen and employees save themselves time and avoid making mistakes. It is these solutions that are the ERP and they come in all shapes and sizes primarily depending on the target business size, complexity and industry. Some are broad and can cover all needs a large corporation might have (including direct monitoring of a factory plant, for example) while others are limited and can support only basic functions - which can still make a huge difference for the small enterprise though. Some are specialized for particular industries while others are generic and can work for many businesses with minimum customization. The field is only a couple of decades old but has evolved considerably both in breadth and width - the literature and experience available out there is immense.

Before moving on to the subject of how one picks the right ERP solution we’ll take a look at what specific needs it can cover in a business and give detailed reasons why it makes sense to use it. In the meantime, if all this struck a cord and it feels too close to home, let us know how you feel at the comments.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Check out our new Megaventory.com promo video!

Given the major upgrade that took place here in megaventory.com (actually half of the upgrade, more features are coming up soon) over the past couple of weeks, we thought it'd be a good idea to create a short video explaining what it is we do and how you can benefit from it.

 

We hope you enjoy it and that you let us know what you think of it or share it with your friends or anyone who might have a business in immediate need of better organization. Also, huge thanks to isketchyouridea.com for putting it all together with love and craftsmanship.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pre-Sales in Megaventory: Sales Quotes


Since in the past couple of weeks we’ve been super busy implementing and smoothing the edges for a number of new awesome features and upgrades, it might be a good idea to go over some of the most important ones and show how dead simple it is to include them in your business work flow!

Don't just take our words for this. Just to illustrate, let’s assume that we’re looking at bountifulpantry.com, an actual small business that is using megaventory's modules to produce and sell food products in the US market. In particular they sell some delicious handmade soup products and Gluten Free Meat Mixes. bountifulpantry.com is based in the beautiful island of Nantucket, MA where they have their main workshop facilities, offices and e-shop - all in one location.

bountifulpantry.com's main B2B client is the imaginary Hyper Supermarket chain and it is once again time to prepare a quote for them. Hyper Supermarket has asked for a variety of a quantity of 100 soup mixes that bountifulpantry.com makes. Pat, the employee responsible for sending the quote clicks on Orders in megaventory’s main menu and brings up the Sales Quote form.



The Sales Quote process consists of 3 stages. First, the draft is created and Pat can easily retrieve all related client data (including the contact person) simply by selecting Hyper Supermarket from the Client menu.

Once there, it’s just a simple task of filling in the Black Bean Soup code (SKU) of BLBESOUP and the quantity requested by Hyper Supermarket. It is certainly helpful to know that you can use the 'tab' key to move around the text fields.



Note that a special discount (agreed between bountifulpantry.com and Hyper Supermarket) also applies in addition to the usual tax. Special Remarks can also be added on a per-row basis.


Once Save and Update is clicked the Draft is saved so it can be searchable within the Sales Quotes list; Pat can now go to the Quotes List, select the particular Quote and print it out or send it via e-mail to Maria, their contact in Hyper Supermarket.

Later, when Maria calls back with some changes for the quote, Pat can edit the Quote, change and update it and then send it for a further last check. When Maria eventually accepts the Quote, Pat selects the Accept Quote option and by doing so, the process can wrap up by completing the Sales Quote and creating an actual Sales Order (last step of the process) based on the Quote without further hassle.

Using the above procedure, the intuitive user interface of megaventory.com makes the tracking of the pre-sale process easy as a-b-c.


In short, this quick example shows how easy to use and intuitive megaventory.com is. Pat can go through the entire process in practically one -complete with helpful tips- screen  and with most of the fields being automatically filled in. This means Pat had to spend only a few minutes and move on straight to the next item on her to-do list (while also saving time from the future job of placing the order). Finally, she could also be doing all this from the comfort of her home, as megaventory.com is web-based.


What does all that mean for you? It simply means that you can now better organize your sales efforts, regardless of where you are, save time and avoid mistakes during the early sales process of your company or organization. All around awesome.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Megaventory - Scheduled Upgrade

Megaventory will be down for a scheduled upgrade this coming Sunday (the 11th of September, 2011), starting from 8 AM GMT (UTC). In this upgrade we proudly introduce some very cool features, including but not limited to:

-Sales Quotes
-Personalized Megaventory URL and Login screen
-Printouts of Picking/Packing/Delivery Slips
-Contacts Management
-Better & easier User Permissions (separate user permissions for Orders & Inventory Transactions)

We are committed to make Megaventory better and faster so, please feel free to send any suggestions or feedback you may have about this upgrade.

Happy Megaventing!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Geographical Distribution of Clients



We have been analyzing statistics of our premium (paying) clients and the results show that the US is clearly leading the way in megaventory; more than half of our clients are US based companies/organizations. The US is then followed by European countries (EU & Switzerland) at 16% and then Middle East comes in with 7%. If we also consider the difference in internet users between US and EU [230M Vs. 340M] we see that the 16% EU figure is undoubtedly a very small figure.

To our understanding there are two main reasons for that a) Complexity of EU Tax requirements and b) unwillingness of EU users to work with cloud applications for their businesses (despite efforts put by EU to address that matter).

We'd love to see similar demographics of other -business related- cloud apps regarding their client distribution.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Delay in upgrading to version 2.4


Hello folks!

We are experiencing a small delay in the implementation of version 2.4 which will introduce -among other things- a manufacturing (work Order) module in megaventory. We had to deliver v2.4 about two weeks ago but we are working hard to upgrade any time soon. We are really sorry for the inconvenience!