Enterprise Resource Planning for Small Businesses

By Patricia Fusco | Posted June 18, 2003

Enterprise resource planning, ERP for short, is an industry term that represents a broad set of integrated business activities supported by different applications. ERP software is supposed to make your business fluid — it's supposed to help you run your business more smoothly and make more money faster. Only true ERP solutions are usually too high-priced for a small business to consider. And it's not just the licensing fees that stop small many small businesses in their tracks — deploying an ERP system can involve considerable business process analysis, employee retraining, new work procedures and even a network upgrade.

That's where Icode's Everest Standard Edition 6.0 has found a niche. Formerly known as Accware, Icode has rebranded its relational database software to make it one of the first integrated mini-ERP solutions designed specifically for smaller businesses. The newest release includes nearly 20 enhancements designed to save time for small businesses, support multiple online stores, increase protection against credit card fraud, and to automatically calculate complex pricing strategies.

Jeff Lizik, co-founder and president of Action Fanatics, an online paintball supply shop, will be upgrading to Icode's Everest Standard Edition 6.0 this month. When he and Jim Nagy, a neighbor with a common interest in sporting goods first started their online venture 18 months ago, accounting and inventory functions were handled by QuickBooks and manual walk-through inventories of over a thousand items. They quickly grew out of QuickBooks and started looking for an integrated software solution to manage their burgeoning online business.

The two considered developing their own software, but decided that it was not in their best interest. They had opened a Yahoo! Store and were paying $125 an hour to have their Web store customized, as well as four percent off the top of every sale to Yahoo. Lizik said they looked at different solutions from Oracle and Microsoft, as well as other storefront programs. In the end, they opted for Icode's Everest.


"It was a battle for us to get things done and also fulfill commitments to clients," Lizik said. "In order for us to get a competitive site up and running with the functionality we needed, it would have taken 16 to 20 months, and that wasn't fast enough."

Lizik said Action Fanatics needed a real-time, up-to-date inventory system combined with an accounting system, and they needed to be up and running in weeks, not months.

"Icode's Everest got Action Fanatics up and running in about two or three weeks. One thing Icode offered was one place to sit down and look at all the features Everest could provide for us," Lizik said. "With Microsoft we had to look at module after module and we were worried about over buying and over paying for our solution."

Within eight months implementing Everest, Action Fanatics now operates out of a 4,000 square foot facility and is opening up a bricks-and-motor retail store in Pittsburgh, Penn. this week. Action Fanatics ranks among the top ten U.S. paintball suppliers. Its website lists over 1,400 paintball supplies and accessories and Lizik said they will be launching a wholesale paintball outlet on the Web soon.

Lizik said the Everest Standard Edition has the robust marketing and reporting options they needed all rolled up in one package, which has helped them quickly grow their businesses.

"With Yahoo, we were tied to a template, but with Everest we're able to allow for volume discounts online and make recommended purchases," Lizik said. "We don't spend much on marketing outside of our site, we spend time marketing to customers already at our site. The ability to flex our pricing and cross-sell has increased our average order by about 30 percent."

Additionally, Action Fanatics ability to integrate business functions allowed the newly incorporated firm to double its daily productivity from processing a maximum of 90 orders each day to processing over 200 orders a day — without any additional manpower.

Lizik said Everest earned a full return on their initial licensing investment of about $11,000 within 30 days — but that was just part of Action Fanatics total investment.

"With the software licenses and training we spent about $16,000," Lizik said. Then we had to purchase our servers, get a shopping certificate, and upgrade our infrastructure. We spent about $73,000 in total and covered the investment within seven weeks of setting up shop with Everest."

Action Fanatics estimates that it also reduced excess inventory by $20,000 and saved about eight man-hours a day through Everest's comprehensive, automated and integrated reporting capabilities.

"We now have access to unlimited real-time information that's critical to our business," Lizik said. "Everest gives you a real-time view of your financial status, even though your bank is about twelve hours behind."

With the document-tracking tool to check the order status and verify credit card information, Action Fanatics follows a step-by-step method to get the order processed. If a customer's address on file does not match with the credit card company, the system prompts an AVS failure.

Instead of keying in every single order, Everest's integrated Starship feature lets them tap right into the UPS shipping system, cutting down another hour of order processing per day.

Action Fanatics uses rotating banners as a marketing tool on their website. "It definitely gives our site a different feel and it really gets the products right in the consumer's face," Lizik said.

Going with Everest has been a major transformation for their business. "Everest allows us to make better business decisions. Now, we are planning to expand into another product line," Lizik said. "Opportunities are endless with one software solution."

Icode's Everest integrates backend accounting and operations in functions in real-time. Its powerful shopping cart allows for rotating advertising banners based on different categories of items. Sales functions account for credit card address verification and can ship to multiple addresses. Everest's online order management provides real-time order status online and its comprehensive accounting program tracks purchases orders and prepares financial statements. Inventory Control

"As a software package, Everest has fully integrated every single aspect of our business and allows us to make quicker and more sound decisions based on our integration," Lizik said.

Pricing and Availability
Icode's Everest Standard Edition 6.0 will be generally available on June 30. Pricing is based on the number of concurrent seat licenses starting at $2,500 to $3,500 per seat.

Accware customers with current maintenance agreements may download the new version at no cost. Everest Standard Edition 6.0 will be available through Icode's direct sales force as well as its newly launched "ICE" network of Icode Certified ERP representatives and Icode's reseller channel. Version 6.0 will also be bundled with Toshiba's SG-20 wireless server. Everest Standard 6.0 supports Linux database servers, in addition to Windows and NetWare, which were supported by previous versions of Accware.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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