On the flip side, most mid-sized businesses grow from small business roots. With growth comes the possibility that you may outgrow the capabilities of software such as QuickBooks or Peachtree accounting applications. You may one day (or maybe have already) find that you need to integrate your back-office accounting with your customer service and e-commerce storefront.
One of the programs built to meet those needs is Everest Advanced, an all-in-one business management suite designed to help companies in wholesale/distribution and retail industries, in particular, manage and track their online and offline business operations.
"A lot of small businesses are growing businesses," said Ali Jani, senior vice president, product management at Everest (last month that company changed its name from iCode to Everest). Products such as Everest Advanced are designed for businesses that have reached the point where information needs to be distributed. "The owner is making all the calls and becomes the bottleneck as the company grows."
"Growing businesses look for customization," Jani said. In a move to deliver that, Everest Software today announced Everest Advanced 3.0, which offers several new accounting, inventory, analytics and performance features. Also, to help its resellers and channel partners better customize the software for small businesses, the company announced the Everest Software Development Kit (SDK) and Form Designer.
Everest Advanced and competitors such as NetSuite are designed to offer a 360-degree view of the business. That is, because it's based on a single integrated database, you can manage business operations such as accounting, inventory management, order management and fulfillment, e-commerce, customer relationship management and point of sale through a single interface and access point.
Accounting is at the heart of any business management software. Everest Advanced 3.0's multi-segment accounting features are designed to offer a configurable structure to better track cost and profit centers. It also offers expanded budgeting capabilities and business segment reporting.
To help you better manage inventory and support more daily transactions, Everest Advanced 3.0 now offers custom design of barcode labels, stock availability calculation based on location or items and improved fulfillment with single-click pull sheets. To help improve security and navigation, the new version also offers detailed audit trails.
The new inventory features help you "serve customers quickly," Jani said. You can easily see, Jani said, "how many of a item are on order and what's available to promise." You can also configure the software to determine what "available" means to your business. It also supports larger transactions and multiple-location operations and lets you consolidate purchasing by tying it into inventory.
With version 3.0, Everest Advanced for the first time offers a Web-based dashboard. Jani said the dashboard analytics combine Microsoft's SQL Analysis OLAP technology with Microsoft SharePoint Services. The dashboard isn't limited to just Everest data, he added. For example, you can add a stock ticker to the your dashboard.
Through Everest's new SDK and Form Designer options, Everest Advanced 3.0 is designed to be more easily configured and customized to meet a specific business' needs through an application programmer interface, a documented database model and a role-based data entry screen designer. The SDK will let channel partners develop add-on applications or integrate with vertical applications
David Gutch, senior vice president, worldwide sales and marketing at Everest, said the company is investing $3 million to relaunch its partner program. Partners, he said, will be relied on to configure, customize and support Everest Advanced 3.0.
"It's not our plan to flood the market with partners. It's to be more selective," Gutch said. He added that the company is working to certify partners that have dedicated salespeople and technical knowledge. Gutch said that experience with SQL and accounting are examples of the areas of knowledge in which partners need expertise.
Everest's biggest competitor is NetSuite, an entirely Web-based application that also offers accounting, e-commerce, CRM, inventory and other applications for small businesses. The two products represent the two models for delivering software. NetSuite has no upfront requirements in terms of servers and other hardware. However, Jani argues, it's reliance on the Internet to transmit information is an inherent disadvantage. "Performance is key. You won't want hosted applications if you're processing 100 invoices a day."
Pricing for Everest Advance starts at $6,500, which includes two seats. Each additional seat costs $1,500. Gutch said the average customer has 20. Assuming each employee needed access to the software, the cost would $33,500. The software fees typically make up about 50 percent of the expense, with the service and support fees being the other 50 percent. He added that the company does offer a three-year lease with a $1 buy-out. "With NetSuite, you'll never own the software."
In the end you have to decide how you want the software delivered -- on your own servers or over the Web," Gutch said. "The customer has to make the choice to go virtual or traditional. Each method has benefits and drawbacks."
(Editor's note: If you want more insight into the question of Everest vs. NetSuite, this discussion thread is one of the most active and passionate ones in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forum.
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