Can Mid-Market ERP Packages really give you a Competitive Edge?

Whether you are selling goods or services, trading in today s highly competitive business environment can be very challenging. It is especially tough for mid-market companies who face all of the hurdles of getting their products and services to market with none of the economies of scale enjoyed by their larger competitors.

Furthermore, the notion that smaller companies have more simple system and process requirements than their larger counterparts is seriously flawed. The truth is that they face exactly the same complexities as their larger brethren but generally on a smaller scale. So, whether you are a FTSE 100 heavy weight, or a ?10 million turnover family run business the rigours and disciplines of, for example, trading overseas and the implications of multi-currency processing are exactly the same. Even though the challenges are great, small companies are not necessarily at a disadvantage when it comes to trading against larger competitors. The entrepreneurialism which guided their early success, the ability to make quick decisions, take risks and change direction often allow them to out-manoeuvre larger companies, particularly if they have the right systems and information at their fingertips. This is where their choice of accounting and ERP system can be vital. Andrew Blit, financial controller at The Libra Company, a ?3 million turnover importer and wholesaler of quality furniture and giftware, remembers the leap from an old Pegasus DOS based system to a modern Access Dimensions system. Although, The Libra Company is a relatively small family owned company, he is in no doubt about the competitive edge that the new system has given the business. He told FSN, ?We do a lot of business at trade shows and fairs such as Birmingham and Harrogate . The speed with which we turn around sales orders is vital to competitiveness. We purchased a hand-held mobile sales solution from an organisation called Trisoft. It is tightly integrated with our Access Dimensions system and updated on a daily basis so that our salesmen, reps and agents can get up to the minute information on customers, stock, pricing and discounts and can quickly enter sales orders on site. It means that the system is always up to date and the salesmen have the very best opportunity to close deals.? Integration with Dimensions is also the key to competitiveness for Kath Jenkins, finance manager, of Hills Number Plates, a specialist manufacturer and supplier of vehicle number plates and security systems to the motor trade and the general public. ?People tend to think that we are a one product business that simply churns out number plates, but this is far from the truth. Every single number plate is of course unique and there are stringent rules and regulations around the conduct of our business and lots of extra information that has to be recorded. In practice we have to deal with very high numbers of transactions of relatively low value. A pair of number plates can cost as little as ?6 and we generate over 2,000 sales invoices a week.? It means that processes have to be slickly integrated and is one of the main reasons that the company replaced its old Tetra 2000 DOS based system around two years ago, in favour of an Access Dimensions system purchased through Hoge 100 Business Systems Limited, an Access Specialist Centre. Hoge 100 Business Systems supplied a customised front end sales order processing system that drives the production process, but for every sales account, Hills Number Plates has to be sure that they have a SID Supplier Identification Number- to comply with the law. Kath Jenkins told FSN, ?It s a major undertaking because we have 7,000 live sales accounts. Furthermore if we are selling directly to the public we have to see the customer s V5 form equivalent of the ?log book - and other identification. All of this additional detail is recorded using configurable data fields in Access Dimensions and integrated with the order entry and production systems.? Complying with the stringent legal requirements is of course fundamental to staying in the very specialist business of supplying number plates but like any other company Hills Number Plates faces competitive pressures and Access Dimensions helps management to keep ahead of the pack. Jenkins explains, ?We have been live now for 18 months and there are frequent requests for information from the management team. They are constantly re-appraising existing products to make sure that they remain competitive in the market and looking at the progress of newly launched products as well. Margin analysis by product and customer allows us to see where we are making good sales and in a competitive situation we can identify where we can price more keenly. It s very easy to produce reports so we can give helpful feedback to the sales force. For example, we can tell the sales force where accounts have been inactive and need re-visiting.? ?We had very good training from Hoge 100 so now we can produce our own reports or use the Excel integration to produce them and email the results to whoever needs them,? adds Jenkins. Even not-for-profit organisations such as charities have to battle it out for donations and to remain competitive on the high street. Access Accounts has been a cost effective solution for the Sue Ryder organisation, an international charity dedicated to palliative care, neurological care and homecare. But with around 400 shops, it has also underpinned the detailed analysis of performance necessary to ensure that its retail ?business remains competitive and generates the funds the charity needs for its 17 care centres across the UK, for people living with conditions such as Cancer, Huntington s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Acquired Brain Injuries. Roger Cunningham, the organisation s Finance Director, told FSN, ?We use the analysis codes in Access Dimensions to look at the profitability of individual shop units, by type of property, such as, freehold, leasehold or temporary.? It s helped the charity streamline its retail business and reduce the number of shops ?We can also analyse the effectiveness of our spend on marketing initiatives and individual campaigns, as well as the more typical spend by function, such as legal, marketing and human resources,? he said. There are of course a large number of factors that help mid-market businesses and not-for-profit organisations compete effectively but proficient systems come pretty high up the list. Comprehensive functionality ?out of the box , easy to use applications and a supportive reseller network are givens, but experience shows that two extra elements can really make the difference. The ability of the accounting solution to integrate closely with specialised third party applications and the capability of the system to deliver timely and relevant management information are crucial to success. Talking to these organisations, it seems that Access Accounts has it all. Source:>