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.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

New Feature: Import of Bills of Materials from Excel

For those of our users who are into manufacturing and are utilizing the Works module of megaventory, we are excited to announce that we have introduced the feature to import Bills of Materials from an Excel template.

When the Data Import page loads up, the Bills of Materials icon is now visible as shown below:
The new Bill of Materials Import tool Screen

After choosing the Bill of materials option, the user gets prompted to download an excel template. This is how the simple Excel Template looks like.
Excel Template for Importing Bills of Materials

Just fill in the data and you're good to go!

Note that the Bill of Materials import tool may be used both for inserting new Bills of Materials and for updating existing Bills of Materials. However, a BOM update is possible when certain conditions are met; for example, when no Work Order exists for the Finished Good SKU of which we intend to update its BOM.

So here you go! We hope you will enjoy the new feature and please do send us your feedback and suggestions if you think there is room for improvement.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Market research: - All round SaaS ERP

Brightpearl is an online ERP and inventory management provider (among many other things as we'll see in this post) which could cover the needs of a small or medium business, much like MegaComp. It’s the fourth we present in this series of posts after megaventory, erply and myerp.

Features: Brightpearl will be able to cover a wide range of functionality for MegaComp and to varying degrees. Accounting, contacts and customer support (all falling under a broad CRM suite of products), inventory management, point of sale (POS), quotes and invoicing all are included in the offering. At the same time reporting is provided for all those features and to top it all off, if MegaComp has been left without an e-shop (or needs to update to a more modern or quick and dirty solution) Brightpearl can even provide a e-commerce solution. That has considerable customization capabilities which however are no match for its other operations.

Data visualisation & export: In terms of reporting and presenting the data, Brightpearl despite its heavy feature set is simply decent with definite room for improvement. In fact, data visualization is a point most providers we’ve used are found to be lacking. The majority of online ERP providers simply dumps the information in a printout without putting the effort to create something more pleasant or exciting - and Brightpearl is no exception. To be fair, that is a minor point given the rest of the features and as long as the basic export capability (CSV, PDF, print) is there, we shouldn’t complain.

Usability: The very large number of features, modules and sub-modules in Brightpearl makes for a daunting task to organize its capabilities in a way that makes sense. And although the team has put in a brave effort a by-product of trying to do everything is that your MegaComp employees will have to spend some time to learn the service and get basic stuff done. To Brightpear's defense, they have all the nice ideas (help tips while working, quick tutorials when first logging in and clever color coding) but the sheer amount of information to be processed can be overwhelming.

Security: Brightpearl is built on Amazon Web Services - something which alone provides a minimum of security and quality in its services. The usual characteristics apply: SSL encrypted connection, a dedicated database per client and each accessible through certain IP addresses. User permissions are granulated enough for each employee to only have access to what they need to know and backups take place nightly - but only go back 7 days.

Data import: Importing your information from one or more established platforms is something that is lacking in Brightpearl, contrary to what you’d expect from such a complete service. They do offer the usual methods though (CVS, VCF, Outlook) and then some (Sage, MYOB). The strongest feature of Brightpearl when it comes to importing though is that once you have imported your products they are also easily available in the integrated e-commerce platform it offers.

Maintenance: A number of ways to solve your problems exist - a dedicated support portal, video tutorials, a telephone line and a blog are all channels of keeping in touch with their customers. Furthermore, they offer consulting and training courses for those inclined and we have to admit we were pleasantly surprised with their followup call when we signed up for a trial account. Their email ‘course’ they send on regular intervals once you’ve signed up is also helpful.

Miscellaneous: A number of other complementary issues are there to make the experience better, such as integration with Mailchimp for your email campaigns, a POS solution if your business requires it and an API for more advanced users of Brightpearl and even SMS messaging.

Cost: Pricing is somewhat complicated - as you’d expect from so many features - but if you want inventory management for MegaComp, and five of terminals (Brightpearl charges for concurrent users not just for separate accounts) the price tag will be 199 USD per month plus 120 USD if you want them to do your e-commerce. Not a small amount of money for a beginning company - but there's always the alternative of packages without inventory management starting from USD 59 per month. Also, this whole pricing per concurrent users is confusing and does not help to minimize costs as we believe it's impractical for employees to have to cooperate to minimize concurrency - MegaComp will have to buy all white collar staff an account.

Brightpearl is an important player in the industry and a solution to consider. Special attention should also be given to whether the many features it offers are all necessary (as they increase complexity, extend and steepen the learning curve) and whether the corresponding cost makes sense. A company realistically expecting to rapidly grow will probably need the power but for a smaller shop with linear expected growth it’s probably an overkill.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Market research: - the innovative SaaS ERP

Next on our series of review posts for online ERP providers for small and medium businesses is - always with an eye to cover the needs of your fictional MegaComp and of course we'll be reviewing myERP with our usual set of ERP selection criteria.

Features: Following the very positive and minimal first impression of myERP, you can see from the main menu that it address many of the most common everyday issues of a small business. From project management/time logging to CRM and from product/service to vendor management it has split all its tasks to intuitive commands allowing easy creation and viewing of business data. myERP also allows tracking of the company’s financials as well as report creation (P&L, Ledger, Balance, etc) - although there is no manufacturing module.

Data visualisation & export: Visualisation is simple and effective: pretty much everything is either in table or form format, inviting the user to familiarize themselves quickly - also to bore themselves a bit too. Export capabilities include the usual CSV and aesthetically laid out PDF files - always a plus to grab straight from the printer without embarrassing yourself to a collaborator. Also, the myERP API is still in development at the time of writing.
Usability: The most notable feature of myERP is its minimalism and its innovative interface which on the one hand resembles the Google homepage and on the other invites you to type natural language commands. This is impressive and appealing in the beginning but at the end of the day you keep using the main menu and the search bar kind of gets in the way of navigation. Although no help tips or a tutorial is available within myERP there is a separate community site dedicated on handling issues that may arise.
Security: Although not immediately obvious (had to Google search for it) your data in myERP is as reasonably secure as you’d expect. It supports the expected encrypted user authentication and database isolation and also the databases are backed up daily in Amazon S3. In general, myERP offers the levels of security, certification and redundancy offered by Amazon and its AWS given the entire infrastructure is on Amazon.
Data import: Nothing extraordinary or innovative here but the expected method of CSV, while also Quickbooks importing is also supported. It is however worth mentioning that there is some amount of integration with Google Apps if you already keep customer and supplier data there.

Maintenance: As mentioned, there is a medium-size community built around myERP with this and a blog being the primary method of support for any issues that arise. This should be adequate given that most of the problems that one might have with a traditional ERP are handled internally in the case of the Software as a Service myERP. For all other cases, the myERP staff should be standing by.

Miscellaneous: Preset options in many of the fields indicate that myERP taps on the industry’s experience in operations and can probably save you from some trial and error if you’re not from a relevant background. Our data integrity testing was not fully successful though; the gross profit report figures were not correctly updated after the deletion of some items in a document. That can be a quite serious glitch in the system.

Cost: Being free for two users and with any additional users meaning 29 USD per month per user, it’s quite a good bargain - especially given that you can experience the full suite of features before signing up even for a trial account. For MegaComp however, a 9-employee company, that would cost 203 USD per month so it can get quite expensive as users add up. The fact however that myERP is location agnostic helps in keeping costs down.

Overall, myERP is a solution to definitely consider. With a few tens of thousands of users from a 100+ countries and USD 4M raised there is bound to be a level of quality behind it. Polished as it may be though, we find the interface too bold for our preferences and would prefer a more traditional optional alternative. Unless of course myERP is preparing a voice operated version in which case we’ll wait for that...