An ASP With Small Business Aptitude

By Patricia Fusco | Posted March 12, 2003
An application service provider (ASP) is a business that offers other businesses access to applications over the Internet. A full-service ASP offers all the related computing functions that would otherwise have to be located internally on your business network.

ASPs are an alternative to do-it-yourself business computing, and they're not just for large, multi-national companies anymore. ASPs represent another way for smaller businesses with limited information technology budgets and technical resources to outsource critical computing functions.

There many types of ASPs — some specialize in customer relationship management programs or human resources, others in transaction processing or e-commerce. Still others specialize in building specific applications for vertical industries like banking or transportation. But who focuses solely on providing application services to small businesses?

One ASP that seeks only to serve small businesses and manufacturers with fewer than 500 employees is apps4biz.com. Located in Wellesley Hills, Mass., apps4biz.com provides international businesses, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and service organizations with applications designed to automate the way they do business with other businesses.

Whether its managing manufacturing systems or straightening out a supply chain, forecasting distribution demand or long-term business planning, apps4biz.com could help run your day-to-day business better.

As a Web-based service, apps4biz.com applications can be run from nearly any Web browser. Because the system is Internet-based, small businesses do not have to allocate additional resources to learn, customize, and implement complex computing systems.

At apps4biz.com, the company takes a four-screen approach to running a business — people, items, actions and results. Within these four screens, small businesses can automate the processes of managing business-to-business relationships. For example:

  • The People Screen is designed for managing all types of human contact with suppliers, customers, employees and remote office works.

  • The Items Screen helps manage raw materials, equipment and tooling to keep track of bills, materials and routing.

  • The Actions Screen centralizes business activities and transactions in one location so sales orders, purchase orders, work orders and inventory moves are readily tracked.

  • The Results Screen provides a summary of associated details as to what's happening in your business, as well as what's scheduled or planned in the near-term.

Peter Lopes, apps4biz.com president, said that apps4biz.com's four-screen approach allows it to provide quick deployment of customized business operations solutions.

"It puts all the information you need right at your fingertips," Lopes said. "We've developed a very different application specifically for small businesses. Our workflow engine allows us to tailor our software solution to meet small businesses operational needs."

At the heart of the apps4biz.com system is the General Module. Using the same four-screen approach, the General Module provides you with the necessary controls and tracking mechanisms to manage your small business processes. The General Module can be tailored to meet your specific business computing needs or be deployed as a single solution for business-to-business communications within the same vertical industry.

The Manufacturing Module is an extension of the General Module in that it helps manage bill of material and routing processes, as well as associated cost roll-ups and related billing. The e-Business Module extends automated services ever further to include e-mail notifications of business events that have taken place, such as new orders, cancellations, quotes, and the like.

At Work In The Field
Located in Sudbury, Mass., Image Therm Engineering specializes in providing solutions for applications in the scientific imaging, industrial automation and process control markets. The company's primary focus is on temperature and fluid flow applications that require high accuracy optical measurements.

Dino Farina, Image Therm Engineering president explained how the company put apps4biz.com to work as an inventory management solution.

"In order to grow the business further, we needed to get our inventory and other business processes under control," Farina said. We had been using QuickBooks for inventory control but our business had outgrown its limited functionality. We looked at several possible solutions, but apps4biz was the only one that could address our needs."

Farina said that the apps4biz.com people proved they could add business processes on the fly during a demonstration — and he was hooked.

"We had struggled to manage these same processes for some time, and they had proved problematic for other vendors to deal with as well," Farina said. "The apps4biz.com system is so easy that I learned how to navigate and use the basic system in a few hours."

Farina said that as a result of implementing the system, Image Therm Engineering has realized productivity gains and cut costs.

"We're a price-conscious organization, but we've found apps4biz to be very reasonable," Farina said.

The Bottom Line

Deployed as an ASP module, pricing starts at $150 a month for non-manufacturing services with five users or less. Distribution center solutions start at $250 a month with the same terms. There is a one-time setup fee of $150 per user, but this varies with the total number of users.

Of course, if you prefer to control the apps4biz.com system on an in-house Microsoft-based network, per seat licenses are available for $950 to $1,800 — depending on the module mix.

In today's business environment, "I'll get back to you," just doesn't cut it. Moving at Internet speed means responding quickly — inside and outside of your business, which is why apps4biz.com is designed specifically to help accelerate business-to-business operations.

Lopes said that for everything the apps4biz.com system offers, one of its greatest strengths is what it doesn't provide — a back office accounting system.

"Most small businesses already have an accounting solution in place," Lopes said. "It might be MAS90 or Microsoft for Small Business, PeachTree or QuickBooks. We're prepared to provide an integration module that works with nearly any accounting application."

Keeping accounting functions in-house and outsourcing business operations to an ASP could be a cost-effective way to mange your small business operations.

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