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 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.