To run your business efficiently, you must live by the credo that no application is an island. That is, if your e-commerce storefront isn't sharing information with your accounting, inventory management, point of sale and other business applications, you're wasting time, taking risks and perhaps missing opportunities.
That's where iCode's Everest Advanced 2.1 comes in. The new version improves on the software suite's e-commerce, accounting and inventory management features, according to the Dulles, Va. -based software vendor. The software is designed for companies with between five and 75 employees that are outgrowing their current business applications. "Maybe you have a Yahoo store, QuickBooks or Peachtree, ACT or Goldmine," said Dave Gutch, senior vice president, worldwide sales and marketing at iCode, "it's difficult to integrate all that information."
Gutch said that Everest's primary market is wholesale/distribution businesses focusing on computer equipment, consumer electronics, medical equipment and furniture. It's also strong among companies in the retail sector, he said.
The software is designed to cover three primary areas of business: sales (i.e., Web store, point of sale, sales force automation and marketing), fulfillment (i.e., purchasing, shipping and receiving and inventory management) and customer service (i.e., contact management, CRM, e-mail and RMA). Gutch said the software treats all operational areas equally. "It's not accounting centric, e-commerce centric or CRM centric."
New e-commerce features in 2.1 include optimized end-of-day reconciliation reports, improved pricing flexibility for retail point-of-sales systems, enhanced security through improved login and password requirements protection and a better shopper experience through drop-down menu displays that allow you to show combinations of styles, colors and sizes.
New accounting features are designed to let you set payment terms based on criteria included in credit memos, invoices, new orders and credit invoices. You can now produce accounts payable and accounts receivable in multiple report formats. It also supports tiered sales tax structures for states that impose sliding tax scales.
For inventory management, 2.1 features automatic stock assignments, which are designed to let you determine the sequence in which bins will be searched when an order is being automatically fulfilled. This is designed to eliminate redundancy and expedite order processing and fulfillment.
New credit card processing features are designed to automatically use prior-authorizations to complete payment, fulfill and ship pending orders in a single step. The new version also offers updated features to improve real-time Web transactions and batch payment processing.
The good news is that there are options that allow you to install one system to handle your online storefront, sales and customer management, and back office applications. One of the challenges, however, is deciding how you want to implement such a system. That is, do you go with a product such as Everest Advanced 2.1, which you install on your servers at your business? Or do you opt for a service, such as NetSuite, that is hosted off-site?
Which approach is better, of course, is open to debate. On-site software gives you more control. Hosted software means someone else worries about the details of keeping the applications running. iCode, as you'd expect, isn't high on the Web-based (aka ASP) model. "The ASP model presents lots of challenges," said Ali Jani, senior vice president of product management at iCode. "How much integration do they offer? All your data is with the hoster. The Internet is your lifeline. How do you do business if you lose a connection?" he said. "And there are also issues with responsiveness."
And, Gutch added, by hosting your own e-commerce site, you can keep more of the profits. "Yahoo Stores and many others carry transaction fees. By the time you make the e-commerce sale, you haven't made any money. There is also this myth about e-commerce applications being difficult to set up."
One thing is consistent between hosted and on-site turnkey business application suites: They aren't inexpensive. Everest Advance 2.1's initial cost is $6,500, which includes two seats. Additional seats up to five are $1,500 each. After five seats, Gutch said, the company offers volume discounts.
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