Smart Online Offers Big-Business ERP to SMBs

Announced at DEMO, the OneBiz Conductor platform integrates a wide range of applications in a Web browser, while open-standards architecture allows plug-ins.

Smart Online has rolled out OneBiz Conductor, a web-based software platform aimed at providing small businesses of up to 500 employees with their own ERP systems. OneBiz Conductor can integrate sales, inventory, banking, accounting, human resources, shipping, collaboration and commerce applications within a Web browser.

Announced at DEMO, a conference that showcases new technology products and services, OneBiz Conductor has the ability to plug Smart Online Inc.s applications, as well as third party applications, into the platform.

OneBiz Conductor uses open industry communications standards to pass data between multiple applications. Smart Onlines open-standards architecture permits business users to expand OneBiz Conductor with applications from Smart Online and companies that partner with Smart Online.

Currently, Smart Onlines own calendaring and contact management applications are available, with accounting, shipping and banking applications rolling out in the next few months. There are also plans to publish a supply chain management application.

"OneBiz Conductor delivers big-business ERP [Enterprise Resource Planning] on demand to small businesses," said Tim Bajarin, president of industry-analyst Creative Strategies Inc.

"Hosted applications and utility computing for SMBs [small and midsize businesses] are markets that the elephants of the computer services industry ignore," said Bajarin, citing statistics from research firm IDC that show worldwide growth of software subscriptions increasing 16.6 percent, compounded, from 2004 to 2008, when subscription revenues will hit $43 billion worldwide, or 34 percent of the total software market.

"Theyre too busy chasing thousands of seats at enterprise companies. But SMBs create more than half the new jobs in the U.S. each year—and they need, but cant get, business solutions similar to the ones major corporations use," said Bajarin.

Michael Nouri, Smart Onlines president, says that his company used to offer shrink-wrap small business applications, but migrated to a web-native environment. The company focused on building a platform that offered not only its own applications, but also those of its partners.

A sales representative can enter data about a prospect into a sales management application, for instance, and then when that prospect becomes a customer, all of the data can be passed to the accounting application.

Data entered into the OneBiz Conductor platform resides on Smart Onlines servers, so it can be accessed from any web browser. Nouri says that banks are looking to integrate OneBiz with their online banking systems, giving small businesses the resources that enterprises have.

"Everything is visible within a customizable dashboard that gives you one-stop access to critical business information. The dashboard tailors information to each user. The vice president of sales sees different data than the vice president of operations. You can customize the look and feel of your calendar, planner and contact management system," Nouri said.

Private label syndication partners, such as banks and hardware vendors, can generate more revenues from small business customer without having to produce the software. For instance, bank customers wouldnt know theyre using the Smart Online applications because, from their perspective, theyre on their banks site. Each of the available products can be purchased through subscription or a la carte.

/zimages/1/28571.gifTo read more about new technologies on view at DEMO, click here.

While at the DEMO conference, Smart Online is looking for private label syndication partners, as well as software developers who can plug their applications into the platform. The network already includes, among others, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Union Bank of California and Bank One.

Nouri says that OneBiz will be available at Smart Onlines Web site at the end of February, allowing complimentary access for a limited amount of time to its calendar and contact management applications.

Smart Online plans to start charging a subscription fee once additional applications get plugged in, such as the accounting app due in early summer 2005. Subscriptions will start at $29.95 per month, which gives a company access to 15-20 applications. Banks will likely subsidize some of their more valuable customers.

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