Many small business get by with Access databases, or even Excel spreadsheets. While these solutions might get you by, they quickly become inflexible, frustrating, unreliable, and all to often unsupported, as the person that created them moves on or is no longer available.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is a broad term, encompassing many different areas of managing a business. A fully implemented ERP system can manage every aspect of a business, from marketing to shipping, even payroll and more. Traditionally, this type of all-in-one solution has only been available to larger companies, at very high costs, however over the last few years it has become more and more accessible to the small business market.
The specific parts of an ERP system a business would use is very dependent on the type of business, for example a Lawyers office would have no use for warehouse management functionality, however would likely make use of Project Management and Time Tracking features.
One of the most important considerations to take into account while evaluating ERP systems is flexibility, so as to allow the solution to grow with your business. Typically a SMB would initially use only a small amount of the functionality available, for example invoicing and accounting, and over time make use of additional features such as CRM, Marketing, or Manufacturing management and Stock Tracking, integrating their data into a single source of truth.
The "Big Three" in ERP Systems are SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft, however increasingly these systems are being challenged by products aimed specifically at SMBs and open source alternatives. SAP and Oracle solutions are typically high cost, and take extensive, multi-month projects to implement successfully, even to a small business. Microsoft has a product called Business Central which is much faster and cheaper to implement than it's competitors, which bundles the most common functionalities needed by a small business - However, for businesses at the smaller end of the SMB spectrum, this can still be too much.
Open source competitors such as SuiteCRM or Odoo (Partially Open Source) are quickly catching up with the traditional leaders, and in many ways present a superior offering to traditional ERP systems. These solutions are feature rich, fast, easy to implement and cheap to run, making them suitable for all sizes of business from sole-traders and up. While these solutions typically don't have some of the more advanced functionality built in, they can be easily expanded with either commercially available modules, or thanks to their open source nature, easily expanded with custom modules by any developer.
In overview, while the existing vendors of ERP solutions continue to dominate the larger end of SMBs and Enterprises, the smaller end of SMB and Sole Traders are increasingly able to take advantage of ERP solutions thanks to low-cost, high-value, open source offerings now available and mature.
If you're a business struggling to keep track of your data, using an Excel spreadsheet or Access Database to manage your business, get in touch for a free consultation. IT+X provides ERP solutions including Odoo CE, SuiteCRM, and Microsoft Dynamics.