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Top 5 ERP software for small businesses

ERP for small business promises better financial and business processes and access to analytics. Here's a look at five of the top choices in the marketplace.

As ERP software providers have created cloud-based versions of their products, they've opened up these capabilities to small businesses.

The per-user, per-month pricing model makes ERP software more accessible to small businesses, and running it in the cloud means that they don't need to invest in servers or IT staff to deploy, manage and troubleshoot it.

ERP software is ideal for small businesses that have outgrown their spreadsheets, paper-based systems or general small business accounting software. These software systems are now more widely available to businesses that had outgrown spreadsheets or small business accounting software and are looking for something that could better handle accounting, customer relationship management and other business functions.

There's no hard-and-fast rule as to when small businesses should switch to ERP software. But if they're struggling with a lot of manual tasks, want to get a better picture of the financial health of their business and take advantage of analytics, it might be time to start evaluating different vendors. Some other indicators that it's time to look at ERP software include spending too much time trying to integrate other software packages to get a full picture of inventory, supply chain and customers, as well as difficulty meeting customer demands.

Here are the top five ERP software choices for small businesses:

OnCloudERP

Aimed squarely at small businesses in the distribution, wholesale, retail and services sector, OnCloud ERP is a fully cloud-based ERP software product. The OnCloud ERP suite of applications includes the expected accounting modules for real-time information on cash flow, as well as sales, inventory, purchase order and receipt tracking, inventory management and production planning. Add-on modules provide the ability to manage payroll, track and maintain assets, leverage CRM functions like lead tracking and manage projects.

One of the most attractive features for small businesses is that companies can implement OnCloud ERP without an IT department and uses a single platform for all the ERP functions. The software also offers mobile device and remote access capabilities.

OnCloud ERP offers a free trial for 14 days. Pricing starts at $10 per user per month for the "StartUp" plan, with a minimum of five users.

Microsoft Dynamics Business Central

While Microsoft Dynamics 365 is geared toward larger businesses, Microsoft offers a Business Central application for small businesses. This product includes financials, supply chain management, customer service and project management in one product.

The analytics capabilities in Business Central include the ability to connect data across accounting, sales, purchasing, inventory and customer transactions, then run reports in real-time using business intelligence dashboards. The product also enables users to access data modeling and analysis to create financial forecasts.

Because it's a Microsoft product, users can integrate the product with Excel, Word, Outlook and Azure. Microsoft also offers pre-built add-on products like Continia Document Capture 365 for recognizing documents and approving invoices and Jet Reports to create financial reports inside Excel.

The pricing model is a per-user, per-month fee, based on whether the company chooses a basic or premium version. Microsoft delivers Business Central entirely in the cloud, and the vendor also offers a mobile application for remote access.

Oracle NetSuite

While Oracle markets NetSuite as ideal for businesses of any size, where NetSuite really shines is with smaller businesses. It's an all-in-one software suite that includes financials, customer service and e-commerce capabilities, so small business owners don't have to figure out how to use APIs to connect different software packages. NetSuite also packages analytics in with its ERP software to provide insight into how the business is performing, using key performance indicators.

NetSuite is delivered entirely in the cloud, on the NetSuite Cloud Platform. This enables organizations to add other applications and modules -- such as SuitePeople, its human capital management system -- to the software. The product is billed as good for manufacturing, media and publishing, nonprofit, retail, services, advertising, distribution and wholesale and software industries.

Potential users must contact NetSuite for pricing information.

Sage Intacct

The focus of Sage Intacct is finance and accounting, and Sage bills it as being "built for finance by finance." Some of the features it offers includes the ability to automate complex processes, analyze data, create structured transactions and approvals, and manage multiple currencies and locations. It also provides the ability to track multiple accounts in real-time.

For companies that want to extend Sage Intacct beyond core financial functions, the software offers modules for fixed assets, inventory management, and time and expense management, among others. It also offers web services in the form of APIs to integrate with other software systems, as well as a built-in Salesforce integration.

Sage Intacct is priced on a quote basis and is cloud-based.

SAP Business One

As SAP's ERP product for small businesses, SAP Business One is a single suite that includes financial management, sales and customer management, purchasing and inventory control, and analytics and reporting capabilities. It also includes a mobile access module so that users can check inventory, manage sales and service, and complete approvals from iOS or Android devices.

Companies can customize SAP Business One for their industries, including consumer products, manufacturing, retail, wholesale distribution and professional services. The can also customize the software using application extensions from SAP partners, create web applications that run on desktops or mobile devices, and use self-service options within SAP Business One to create additional fields, tables and forms.

Unlike a lot of other small business ERP products, companies can implement SAP Business One on premises. It's also delivered in a cloud-based model, priced on a per-user, per-month basis. It's sold exclusively through SAP partners.

ERP selection advice

Before beginning the ERP software evaluation process, small business leaders need to first identify the business problems they're trying to solve. They will also want to audit their existing processes to see if the ERP system they're considering has these processes built in or will let them create workflows.

As small businesses begin the evaluation process, it's important to keep in mind what the company actually needs and what it can support. Most of these systems will let companies add users as needed, as well as extend capabilities using APIs. These top five ERP software for small business have features that go beyond basic accounting and let small businesses compete with larger companies, using tools that previously were not affordable.

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