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.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The blurry line between the enterprise and consumer world



I’ve been catching up on the industry blogs the past couple of days and it's been really interesting. I found myself confirming -again- that there’s huge value in some of the posts from the world of business software.

What are those posts about? They talk about a trend that has been pretty obvious for us who have been in the industry of Software-as-a-Service with our online ERP solution of course.

The trend? Businesses are increasingly moving to smaller and leaner web-based platforms for their operations. This transition makes perfect sense as cloud-based software is overally more cost effective when compared to desktop software. However, there is another trend that slowly emerges. Read on.

It dawned on me when I read this post by ex-Techcrunch Sarah Lacy. There, she gives a detailed account of how a large company - Oracle - has been playing their game. She gives the journalist’s take of how - in the late 1990s and the early 2000s - Oracle tried to and successfully stayed in the ever-changing business of enterprise software.

However, both Oracle and other large enterprise software providers stayed current by constantly adding new features and elaborating their offerings. This led to a situation in which roughly speaking the salesmen sold features, reliability, extensibility, maintenance etc. which the software simply could not deliver.

This went on for a bit 
only for Oracle and the rest to find that by the late 2000s most of their customer base had become totally disillusioned and just wanted something that did what it said in the box. Customers wanted something that just worked.

What Sarah Lacy is saying is what most companies have been wanting (and still want). That is simple, elegant and intuitive 
technology. She refers to it as “consumerised” technology; people want to use in their business equally simple tools as the ones they use in their own consumer world. People want to be spoilt by technological wonders.

In other words, they want something that just works the way an iPhone application works or how 37signals or Yammer for example has solved collaboration within a company: 1) focus on a single core feature, 2) add smaller and simple features around it and 3) do everything well.

So much has changed in the past few years and that trend is quite common by now. Software technology is increasingly accessible - both to consume and to develop - and the market has loudly spoken: clean, lean, specialised, low-complexity applications is what everyone wants.

Oracle, SAP, IBM and the rest are behemoths that have grown too big for their own and their customers good. Up until recently there was nothing anyone could do about it - including themselves. But those of us in business software have known for a few years now - and the rest of the world is quickly catching up too - that something can be done now.

You can move to the cloud and choose lean and flexible software-as-a-service approaches out of a multitude of offerings out there. It’s scalable and cost-effective. It’s fast, mobile and takes most of the worries of running and maintaining it off your shoulders. It can be fun, even social and at the same time effective.

It’s like a consumer product but one which also addresses most of your business needs. What more could you ask for to make your work day?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Tutorial Video on Purchase Orders, Sales Quotes and Sales Orders

We've just posted a new 5min short video explaining the basic workflow in Purchase Orders, Sales Quotes and Sales Orders. You may view it on YouTube or click to view it below:


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Customer Analytics

So far we’ve come a long way both in terms of features development but also in growing our relationship with our customers. Now, having just launched a major upgrade, we feel ready to take on more businesses which can benefit from our new features and so, we thought it’d be a good idea to look at who our current customers are.

So, drilling down to our database and after some simple slicing and dicing, we can present the following data of our customer profile. Company names have been left out to comply with our privacy policy.

1. Number of users per business


True to our mission we serve very small and small businesses having less than 15 people in their staff. In fact 90% of the business have 1 to 5 employees with a fairly uniform distribution within this range.



2. Number of different products


Whether talking about thousands of different products (SKUs or stock-keeping units to use the appropriate jargon) or just a few tens, megaventory is up to the job. About a third of our customers have less than a hundred products, half have between 100 and 1000 and the rest have more than a 1000. Any type of small to medium business can essentially be catered for.



3. Number of locations

Another important parameter when it comes to inventory & order management is how many locations products are spread across. Locations might include both a warehouse where stock is stored but also a shop or shops where the goods are sold or distributed from. Although we offer a range of services even for single-location businesses (about a third of our customers has just one location), the rest are multi-location with a significant portion having 9 or more locations. It’s clear that regardless how far a business spreads, megaventory can handle the complexity easily. In fact our seamless simultaneous handling of multiple locations, multiple users and multiple currencies is one of the strongest points of megaventory.




4. Number of clients & suppliers


So far we’ve covered metrics which are inherent to any business that buys, manufactures, sells or distributes goods. Let us now take a closer look to the number of people a company actually collaborates with; its clients and suppliers. Efficient handling of clients and suppliers makes sure a company can build and keep track of all the business relationships involved. Even if this number grows large, megaventory can help with easily tracking all interactions and operations involved.




When it comes to clients, although most of our customers (40%) have a relatively small number of clients (<6), the rest of them coordinate their operations successfully with as many as 200 clients or more in a uniform distribution. Essentially this means that megaventory enables companies to keep track of their client base equally well at a broad range of volumes. In other words, any complexity or overhead involved when managing 10, 100 or 500 clients is hidden entirely.



 

Similarly, the number of suppliers tracked for our customers is in almost a third of the cases less than a handful - this is to be expected from a small business which usually has a relatively simple operation in place with few suppliers required. On the other hand, as many as a 100 suppliers can also be handled seamlessly and with ease using megaventory as the relatively uniform supplier distribution shows. As with clients, megaventory is immune to the complexities of handling large number of suppliers and manages to remove any related overhead.

5. Number of Work Orders


Another extremely powerful feature is that of being able to organize the manufacturing part of a business. Megaventory is one of the few companies among SaaS ERP solutions which offers this functionality and approximately 10-20% of our customers have adopted the manufacturing module in their day to day operations.




Looking at the data, about a fourth of the companies are putting the manufacturing module in limited use having issued only a handful of work orders (2-5). The rest of our customers have been using manufacturing considerably or heavily given the tens and hundreds of orders respectively. Even considering the limited sample size and the corresponding small numbers statistics involved overall, the above serves as an excellent proof megaventory can also deliver on the manufacturing front too.

Looking at the big picture this all demonstrates that our customer base can manage their day to day business tasks regardless of their staff size, the number of products, the different locations and the number of clients and suppliers. It’s important to know that there exists a service that can take complexity out of the equation and can keep track of all your business needs seamlessly. Moreover, it’s exciting to know that all this will be true both now when you might be 4 people strong and later when you have grown to having 40 people on your payroll.

The only question left then is simply where does your business fit in the above profile?

Monday, March 12, 2012

New feature - French Language in Megaventory

We are extremely happy to announce to our French speaking users that megaventory has been 100% localized to support the French language! Here is a screen-shot of the 'On-hand Inventory and Alerts' page in French:

French version of the 'On-hand Inventory and Alerts' page

Major localization improvements will follow for the rest of the supported languages (Arabic, Italian, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese) which are still in -beta- testing. The target is to remove the -beta- tag from all supported languages in the next 3 months.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Market research: erpnext.com - The open source ERP

This is the last on this series of posts reviewing the best and most popular online ERP vendors for our imaginary MegaComp company of 9 employees and 4 locations. So, last but not least, it’s erpnext.com.


 

Features: Quite feature-rich itself, erpnext offers a lot of services a business may need and it is clear the focus is on the business instead of a particular set of functions - we're not sure whether that lack of 'doing one thing well' is a good thing though. In particular, they can help with accounting, sales and purchases and inventory management but also throw equal weight on human resources, project management, even manufacturing. They also offer a bit or CRM focusing on after-sales and of course business analytics and reporting. A wide range of functions to be sure.

Data visualisation & export: erpnext is quite versatile when it comes to manipulating data in order to extract some conclusions regarding your business - it essentially allows you to create SQL queries just by filling in appropriate fields allowing for considerably detailed reports. Data are then exportable in CSV and HTM format - nice and simple with no frills. Employees are then left to their own devices to create a graph or a chart for presentation purposes - although the dashboard does offer a somewhat better visualisation.

Usability: Given the wealth of features erpnext struggles a bit to fill most of the information in a couple of drop down menus. Each menu item leads to a number of tasks an employee might need and the corresponding reports for that menu item while on the sidebar further tools provide additional functionality per menu item. That may seem concise but given the amount of menu items the information an employee has to master quickly adds up - and you’re probably better off with a seminar of sorts for a group of 9 employees to become adequately familiar with erpnext. Lack of (or minimal) on-site help (hover panels, tips, etc) does not alleviate this.




Security: erpnext is deliberately secretive regarding their security measures but we’ve seen things we like regarding the issue - such as the email informing their clients whenever engineers have to access their data and the NDA erpnext staff signs. Other than that, regular Amazon S3 multiple backups are there as expected, granulated permissions for your employees, multiple encryption layers and last but not least the fact that their entire code base is open source, in theory at least, provides an additional level of overall quality.

Data import: Although not very intuitive to find the standard data input via CSV is available with a number of parametrisations that should be able to make the first dip in erpnext easier to manage. Other than that, there are no pleasant surprises to be found here such as integration with existing platforms or other file formats - but erpnext can’t be blamed for simply following the industry standard, or can it? The fact that the platform is open source though means it is also expandable to accommodate such features if any of your employees are technically capable and can be spared to develop a plugin (or if you can afford to outsource it).





Maintenance: A number of channels exist for supporting once you’ve chosen erpnext. From phone to live chat and from community fora (both user and developer) to a manual (or should we say.. blog) there are probable ways for your employees to relatively directly address any issues that may arise. The open source community behind it is probably the best characteristic on this front and something that competitors should envy.

Miscellaneous: The open source nature of erpnext is probably the most striking feature along perhaps with the cost - see below. Although we couldn’t find any data on usage the site itself admits to ~50 companies using the platform for their operations which is nice for a start - presumably this doesn’t include independent downloads and installations.




Cost: The pricing is very straightforward for erpnext.com and very cheap too: at just 7 USD per user per month - that's probably the killer feature of this solution. Although to properly understand the value of the price tag you really have to take the service for a spin for some time, you’d think it’d be hard to find something cheaper in the industry. You’d be wrong but we’ll let you work out which vendor is even cheaper compared to the 63USD/month you have to pay for MegaComp...

Overall, erpnext offers a lot of bang for the buck and can be one of the best options out there provided it fits your requirements and your standards. The expandability that comes together with the openness is a huge asset as well as is the fact that you can download an install your own implementation of erpnext in an environment you fully control.

This post wraps up the series of five that presented who we believe are the main players in the SaaS ERP market: megaventory, myerp, erply, brightpearl and erpnext. Let us know in the comments, if you feel a service has been wronged or has been wrongly left out.