An Interface Any Employee Can Master
While NASA is a glitzy example of a Fishbowl customer, the product is no shiny toy. The user interface is straight-forward, easy to use, and absent of pretty fluff, although that leaves it feeling deceptively limited and a bit outdated.
However, that means finding the right field for information is an easy task, as is calling reports forward. The program prevents anyone from gaming the system by requiring clear permissions for designated users, and stop-measures if employees try to duck out of entering all the information.
The system requires no IT intervention to use as is. Customization, depending on the degree you wish to drill down, will likely require some IT help for most businesses. However, most small businesses will not need to tweak the system beyond the built-in customization options.
Fishbowl Covers the Front-End and the Back-End
Essentially, Fishbowl Inventory 2012 comes in two parts: one for wholesalers and manufacturers (Fishbowl client) and the other for retailers (SalesPoint). Both parts operate pretty much the same way, with the difference lying almost solely in the user interface.
Figure 2: Pipeline is Fishbowl's Web-based CRM capability, which is in Beta and due sometime in February.
Specifically, SalesPoint is more touch-screen, payment processing and barcode oriented. In other words, SalesPoint is front-end point of sale (POS) oriented whereas Fishbowl client is back-end inventory management. "It's not designed to take over the point of sale market, but to ease sales at manufacturing," said Hair.
Fishbowl Inventory 2012 is available in both on-premises and hosted options. It can't run on Macs, but it can run on Red Hat and Ubuntu, although other Linux flavors are questionable so be sure and ask before you buy. Windows is fully supported.
Installation of the system for basic warehousing takes less than a week if your data can be imported from Excel or QuickBooks, but can it takes longer if it needs to be scrubbed first or imported from a different source. Training takes an average of three to six weeks for basic warehousing and six to eight weeks for more complex usage.
Pricing is based on the number of concurrent users, and it starts at $5,000 for two users. Site licensing for 20 Fishbowl and 30 QuickBooks user bundles costs $49,000.
Fishbowl Enterprise includes several bundled options for mid-market companies. While the pricing may feel steep to some businesses, it is considerably lower than the average full-scale enterprise ERP system and is much cheaper than losing inventory which is, after all, cash in another form.
Overall, Fishbowl Inventory 2012 is a strong, albeit somewhat limited system, considering it has no means of capacity planning or CRM. However, both of those capabilities are in the works.
This product is ideal for small businesses and smaller-end mid-market businesses with basic to complex inventory and asset tracking needs.
Pam Baker has written for numerous leading publications including, Institutional Investor magazine, CIO.com, NetworkWorld, ComputerWorld, IT World, Linux World, Internet News, E-Commerce Times, LinuxInsider, CIO Today Magazine, NPTech News (nonprofits), MedTech Journal, I Six Sigma magazine, Computer Sweden, the NY Times, and Knight-Ridder/McClatchy newspapers.
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