ERPNext, an open source enterprise software developer launched an ERP suite that is designed to function more like the apps that users deploy on tablets and mobile phones.
Features include a Setup Wizard and support to help small businesses, tools to aid in customer relations and selling, including opportunity tracking, order recording and email management, plus tools that let users raise material requests and track orders and inventory.
Other features include manufacturing and production planning; billing and payments management, including customer billing and supplier invoice management; project management tools with time logs, tasks, billing, and tracking, and tools for tracking employees' leave, attendance, expenses, and payroll.
"Ease of use is a great contributor for sure. People's expectations from how software should be designed is based on their use of smartphones popular applications like Facebook," Rushabh Mehta founder of ERPNext, told eWEEK. "Also SMB clients don't have time for training so there is a very small window by which they can get hooked to the application. Having said that, implementing ERP applications can be very time consuming and takes a lot of discipline. Ease of use can help you get so far, but in the long run, it is the discipline that counts."
Mehta said selection is the earliest challenge small businesses face when deploying an ERP strategy.
"There are so many options out there and there is no clear market leader. So people tend to spend a lot of time evaluating various ERP applications. This is where cloud makes sense," he explained. "With cloud ERPs and especially with ERPNext where we offer a free five-user plan, small business can take their time to evaluate ERPNext the way they want."
Other features include a "Help Desk" to let small businesses receive and respond to customer complaints. It also issues retail point-of-sale tools to record bills, payments and inventory reductions by location and a website builder with support for product catalogs, shopping carts, blogs, customer portals, contact forms and Google Analytics tracking.
ERPNext offers free accounts for up to five users, and once the business grows, small businesses can opt for pricing plans that start at $300 per year.
"ERPs have been very slow to evolve, but that will change for sure, but I am not sure how fast. One reason is that ERPs have been traditionally only for medium or large businesses," Mehta said. "And these companies can afford to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, on these applications. This means that there are elaborate implementation and training programs for users leading in applications that are heavy and hard to configure. The established ERP ecosystem has no interest in killing this hen that is laying golden eggs."