Small or medium company owners are well aware of the advantages that good technology brings to their business.

It is also highly likely that they appreciate the growing necessity to have an integrated business management solution and a Web presence as an integral part of a service offering, especially if users are involved in the sale of products – whether to end-customers or to trade.

That’s according to Taryn Cromie, sales manager, HansaWorld South Africa, who says creating systems with an eye on the future not only means the ability to operate a professional organisation with a Web shop fully integrated into your other business systems, it also means that as your company grows, your business systems can grow with it.

“Choosing the right technology at the beginning is important as it provides for a very simple growth path that matches your company’s trajectory,” says Cromie. “Where many companies find upon reaching a certain size they are obliged to migrate to new systems, a good choice early on can completely avoid this expensive, time consuming and disruptive activity.”

She notes that one of the highly attractive features of modern technology is that enterprise solutions, which were once alarmingly expensive and therefore limited to big businesses, are today affordable to a far greater cross section of companies.

“That certainly applies where enterprise resource planning is concerned. Today, even single-user businesses can download and install a system which meets their immediate needs, yet provides a base upon which they can grow to as many as 500 users or even more.”

Cromie strongly advocates choosing a system which provides certain key functionalities.

“Look for a solution which is user-configurable. You can today download self-installable solutions which form the basis of what can grow to become a complete enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. These solutions feature easy-to-use set-up wizards which will guide you through the process of establishing a single user account system,” she notes.

Cromie says these “beginner ERP solutions include the ability to later integrate a professional Web shop that supports sales both to business and retail customers, share information electronically inside the company, and create a corporate Web site.

“Even at this entry level, these solutions can provide the basis for an ecommerce system that can be connected to from anywhere with an internet connection, fully integrates e-mail and online chat, provides conferencing for sharing documents, publishing news or participating in discussions.”

She notes, however, that “self-implementation” isn’t advised for larger companies.

“Of course, if your company is already at a certain scale – perhaps employing 50 to 100 people – the initial system setup will be more complex.
“However, even the most basic solution will scale from just one user, to hundreds. And as it is a fledgling version of a full-scale ERP solution, it provides the ability to add further modules and components as business needs dictate, including for example, a Quotation module, Customer Relationship Management, Warehousing, Logistics, and many more options.”

A “mini” ERP project can be instigated by a business owner without significant technology knowledge. Cromie agrees that it does sound a little like something out of a science fiction movie.

“However, we live in a world today where astoundingly powerful devices are in our pockets, providing the ability to navigate, take and send pictures and videos, and access all of the world’s information.

“Technology advancements have made sci-fi a reality in many areas, including making ERP accessible even to the SME, with single user systems which can be created by a business owner quite capable of serving as the base upon which a future company-wide system, replete with Web shop, can be built.”