small business management tools
Every enterprise relies on a careful management of resources, not the least, when speaking in terms of inventory. When an enterprise expands it becomes successively more difficult to coordinate activities and allocate resources as the range and scope of management is extended beyond current limits. Most managers will either delegate their decisions up to a critical point, when recruiting another body becomes unavoidable. Another avenue is to look into tools which will allow a better coordinated effort across the whole enterprise.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software can be a tool to help stratify and allocate the available resources across an entire business. Resources do not merely consist of inventory or services, but also manpower and information. Communication is key to managing any resources, and the effective ERP system will allow communication across the enterprise, bringing relevant information to those that require it.
A simple business management system for such industries as retail might have several vital functions involved in its makeup, such as stock control or sales order processing and invoicing. An effective ERP must cover all areas of the business pertaining to daily operation, with the facility to aggregate data and present pertinent reports for forward planning.
ERP systems are invariably expensive beasts, and not usually a feasible investment for the small business owner. However, the small to medium enterprise may not require all the functions defined by the large scale ERP. The smaller business operating in the various retail industries might find they require purchase order processing, inventory management, sales order processing, despatch handling, invoicing or billing, returns, credits and some form of contacts management as the main elements regarding operational productivity. A small team might need little in the way of a Human Resources management facility, but might require access to pertinent information, such as the amount of available goods in inventory, at all times. The application of user access rights helps to keep information secure and relevant to each person’s role in the enterprise.
Effective business management tools must be able to combine specific industry advantages, such as a Barcode printing and scanning based system for inventory management, sales orders & billing and warehouse management (storage, despatch, logistics), also often seen in EPOS (Electronic Point of Sale or POS) systems, in order to capitalise on the operative model used in the design of the system. A working ERP might see a centralised database model with distributed clients across varying network topologies, LAN, WAN, Intranet, Extranet or Internet, to allow coordination across a widespread site or even different geographical locations. A large enterprise might also require the need to have both localised and globalised data and statistics, whereas a smaller enterprise may not be affected as much by international influence.
The prime arguement for using an ERP system is being able to see the enterprise’s movements and activities in both an holistic and a specific viewpoint, with the aim of identifying where resources are stretched or surplus to requirements, thus making the information-gathering process less time-consuming, with the knock on effect that decision makers can be better informed and able to make committments at a quicker pace. An effective ERP will include, integrate or replace tools used in the operation of an enterprise, thus able to summate all information in one place.
With the rise of the small to medium enterprise (SME) market, there is an increasing demand for software which is targeted to these vital players in their chosen industries. No one piece of software can ever satisfy all or even a majority in any diverse market, but various industry leaders have evolved by providing software which meets several of the requirements of any SME. Most of these have become household names, providing a familiar recipe of sales ledger and purchase ledger components and are usually dedicated accounting software. Few have the specific functionality required to be called an ERP, but usually possess an array of add-ons to cope with various industry requirements, such as barcode stock control and end-to-end nventory tracking. However, due to the generalised nature of most of these packages, and with their origins lying in the accountant’s office, mean they are somewhat lacking with regards to other essential operations.