ERP without Custom Code?

In the 1980s and 1990s, writing custom code was a standard part of an ERP software implementation. Custom software development was used to fill gaps in ERP functionality, work around unique processes, and integrate outside systems. In many cases, off-the-shelf technology like Visual Basic, FileMaker, Access and FoxPro was leveraged alongside the ERP implementation to make this type of development efficient and somewhat affordable.

However, in recent years, custom software development as part of an ERP implementation has become an outdated and cumbersome solution, thanks to new best practices filling the voids present in legacy software. Just a few of these practices include:

Seamless customization features. Modern ERP systems offer an array of options for customization without bespoke code, such as robust custom fields, tailored printed documents, advanced workflows, and user-modifiable reports. These types of features allow many processes that previously necessitated custom code to instead be handled with the software’s built-in capabilities.

Out-of-the-box integrations. Legacy ERP systems were often limited in their integration capability. Modern solutions offer a wide variety of out-of-the-box, direct integrations with e-commerce systems, payment processors, business intelligence (BI) tools, shipping carriers, and third-party products.

Increased capabilities. Many legacy ERP systems were limited in scope to basic financial and operational applications – financial accounting, order processing, purchasing, inventory, and manufacturing. More complex tasks, such as customer self-service, shippingwarehouse management/barcoding, CRM, and time tracking needed to be handled with third-party software, which in turn necessitated custom integration. But many modern systems, including Bizowie, provide these advanced functions right out of the box – no third-party software or custom integration necessary.

Simplified EDI. In the past, EDI integration was often a costly endeavor. Custom code and mappings would need to be written linking the ERP system to each counterpart you wanted to connect with. But cloud-based solutions and broadband Internet have made EDI much easier than it used to be. Third-party VANs (Value-Add Networks) allow you to maintain only one EDI connection – between the ERP and the VAN – with the VAN performing mappings directly with the vendors and customers you wish to communicate with.

When custom code is necessary

Sometimes, custom development is unavoidable. Perhaps you have a homebrew e-commerce system handling unique facets of your business that you can’t easily move away from. Maybe you need to integrate with a vendor or customer who isn’t able to use industry standard methods of communication like EDI. Or perhaps you even need to collect data directly from a variety of equipment or IOT-based sensors throughout your plant.

In cases like these, working with a software developer may be the right way to achieve your needs. But keep these best practices in mind to ensure a seamless experience.

Utilize APIs instead of bolt-ons or direct database access. Many modern ERP systems offer Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that make it simple for third-party coders to manipulate data and perform functions in the software. Instead of providing a direct connection to the software’s source code or database, APIs use a predefined set of inputs and outputs to perform actions, meaning that upgrades won’t break your functionality or force you to re-implement your code… even if the software source code or database schema changes.

And unlike the unwieldy APIs that were all too common in decades past, modern systems like Bizowie offer simple JSON-based interfaces that allow programmers to rapidly prototype and develop integrations without complicated XML.

Limit the scope of your integration. When working with your developers to put together a specification, carefully consider the process being utilized and any unusual exceptions that may come up. If there are many possible exceptions, consider which ones can be handled manually and which should be handled by your custom code – as code becomes more complex, the probability of error increases.

Future-proof your code. While use of APIs provide a standardized way to communicate with ERP systems, it’s possible for the data they provide to change. The data structures returned by APIs may be expanded to provide a broader range of data, and actions you perform in your ERP (like changing settings or creating/deleting custom fields) may impact the data returned by your ERP’s API. Make sure that your programmers build their integrations in such a way that unidentified fields are ignored, instead of erroring out.

Why Cloud ERP?

Modern cloud-based software offers significant value over installed solutions

Cloud ERPOver the last few years, the media has been atwitter with reports on the exponential growth of the cloud computing market. A 2014 Gartner study revealed that an astonishing 47% of organizations surveyed plan to move their ERP operations to the cloud before 2020, while another revealed that organizations who had already moved systems to the cloud saw ROI within 6 months of adoption.

There’s no doubt about it: cloud software solutions can be a valuable tool in increasing productivity and managing growth in your organization.

To understand how the cloud can help us achieve our business goals, one must understand what the cloud is. In short, cloud computing simply refers to leveraging a third-party vendor’s central infrastructure (“the cloud”) instead of maintaining your own set of systems and servers in your office. If you use web-based software programs, outsource email or backups to a third party, your business is already in the cloud!

Nearly every leader in the ERP and accounting software market, including Bizowie, have either launched or announced their intention to launch a cloud-based offering within the last few years, primarily due to significant customer demand — from start-up companies to Fortune 500 firms. These are just a few of the reasons industry leaders demand nothing less than modern cloud ERP.

Access from anywhere with mobile-friendly systems

For today’s on-the-go workforce, the ability to enter and retrieve data from outside the office is imperative. Your C-suite needs to be able to keep tabs on real-time financial data, the sales team need up-to-the-minute information on customer and prospect activity, and access to KPIs such as process time and stock levels keep your operational management informed.

This is an area where on-premise systems consistently fail to deliver. Many installed solutions offer no connectivity from outside your network, and a surprising number of the ones that do offer an off-site solution do so using slow, unreliable VPN links or screen sharing. In short, a premise system is ill-advised for any business looking to provide reliable access to employees on the road or in off-site facilities.

Cloud solutions, however, provide connectivity from anywhere, via laptop computer, mobile phone, or tablet PC. And the robust security settings offered by many cloud solutions make it easy to ensure that offsite access is limited to only those who need it.

Increased security and stability

The data housed by your ERP system is among the most valuable resources your business has — including your full general ledger, customer lists, and HR and payroll records. Maintaining the security and availability of this data is critically important.

However, in-house IT resources are often insufficient to properly ensure that the ERP system is kept secure and stable — applying security patches to the software and server operating system, maintaining and verifying off-site backups, and ensuring network connectivity to the ERP server. One small oversight by your IT staff (who likely have many more tasks to perform than ERP management) could result in years of financial data being lost!

By virtue of the technical nature of their business, cloud ERP vendors maintain teams of technical specialists dedicated to the security and resiliency of their systems, and have well-tested internal controls ensuring that offsite backups and security audits occur with regularity. Allowing these specialists to manage your ERP environment allows you to rest assured that your data is safe, while freeing up your internal IT resources for other projects.

Software and infrastructure that’s always up-to-date

Your business isn’t the same as it was last year, and it won’t be the same a year from now. It’s constantly changing — growing, improving, and innovating. But installed systems simply remain the same — the same features, the same configuration, and the same user interface — year in and year out. And since updates come infrequently (if at all) and break legacy customizations, many forego updates entirely, leading to systems that don’t reflect the reality of how the business operates.

Because cloud ERP systems are managed by the vendor, it’s easy for updates and enhancements to be released on a weekly or even daily basis, ensuring you’re always up-to-date. And since most cloud systems are tailor-fit using robust administrative functionality instead of custom code, you don’t need to worry about bolted-on legacy enhancements getting broken by an upgrade.

Additionally, since cloud vendors leverage vast data centers worth of computing and storage, you have the ability to scale to nearly infinite growth, all without investing in new hardware and software. If you choose the right ERP, it will operate without missing a beat — whether you process 5 orders a day or 500,000.

We’re Expanding!

Construction has begun on Bizowie’s new offices in Pittsburgh’s Law & Finance Building, just across the street from our current location. Stay posted for updates and photos of our expanded offices.

5 Ways to Innovate with Cloud ERP

InnovationIn today’s business climate, sticking to the status quo just isn’t enough. Innovative companies expect innovative ERP, and the “tried and true” solutions are showing their age. Luckily, cloud-based vendors like Bizowie are responding to the needs of modern innovators with robust, flexible solutions.

With good ERP system, the possibilities for improvement are nearly endless, but these are just a few ways you can benefit from a well-tuned ERP system.

Foster collaboration using social software.

Social networking is hot, but it’s not just about services like Facebook and Twitter. Enterprise software vendors are joining the bandwagon with exciting solutions for business collaboration.

Integrated social components allow your staff to electronically converse about any piece of data in your ERP. If an employee has a question for another department or employee, they can simply “tag” that person and they’ll be notified of the discussion. No more departmental silos or confusing “memo” fields.

Similarly, knowledge management and wiki functionality allows everything from procedures to meeting notes, R&D plans and lunch orders to be shared and edited in a group setting, with a full revision history and departmental access control.

And unlike Facebook and its ilk, enterprise social software is completely private and limited to your employees, so you can rest assured that your competitors won’t have access to your valuable data.

Automate day-to-day tasks.

Modern ERP solutions offer a wide variety of options for automating recurring workflows based on sets of rules. Take a few minutes to walk through your company’s processes and identify areas where automation could save manual effort. A few common examples include:

  • Sending shipping acknowledgements to customers
  • Sending invoice reminders when past due
  • Accurately costing production
  • Recording and paying sales commissions

Leverage business data — rapidly and affordably.

The installed ERP solutions of the 1980’s and 1990’s had a reputation for being sluggish. This was partially because of the technical limitations of the hardware and software of the time, but also because of simple cost constraints on installed solutions — the speed of the ERP depends on the quality and quantity of infrastructure purchased to maintain it.

Today’s Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud solutions operate from the ERP vendor’s data centers, with infrastructure far exceeding that of yesterday’s onsite systems. With a click of the mouse, you can have your ERP redundantly operating overseas and expand from 100 users to 1,000 in a matter of seconds.

But most importantly, thanks to the shared infrastructure of cloud solutions, you have nearly limitless power. This means that data is recorded in real-time, and reports load in a matter of seconds. With a modern ERP solution, you can be assured of ready access to your data.

Receive automated reminders of anomalies.

A good ERP system will allow you to subscribe to reports and receive them via email on a recurring basis. Consider configuring reports on anomalous events, so you can proactively respond to potential problems, including:

  • Past-due bills
  • Late shipments
  • Late delivery of POs
  • Unusual shrinkage
  • Out-of-calibration machines

Some systems will allow you to set these reports up so they only email you if there’s data to report. This allows you to rest assured that anomalies will be reported, without receiving daily notifications that there’s nothing to report.

Integrate shipping and logistics carriers.

The shipping department often winds up left out in an ERP implementation, even though the potential for cost savings can be significant.

If your shipping staff are using outdated external software to send freight manifests and print labels, they’re wasting valuable time – minutes per shipment – re-entering shipping data and manually entering freight costs and tracking numbers into your ERP or customer emails.

Fully integrating your ERP with your preferred carriers ensures that the shipment is sent to the customer’s correct address, data entry is minimized, and accurate costs are recorded. Plus, it allows your sales and customer service staff to immediately access the location of a shipment in progress, without having to use the carrier’s website.

Bizowie Launches Service Industry Software Suite


Pittsburgh, PA (December 7, 2015) – Bizowie, the Pittsburgh-based leader in cloud-based enterprise resource planning software, today announced the launch of a new software suite for management of service-based businesses.

The new modules, which are part of the Bizowie ERP business management suite, allow users to quickly and easily manage operations of service-based businesses, including scheduling, project management, dispatching, time/expense reporting, and costing. As day-to-day operations progress, the “big data” involved in complex service operations is retained for fast and accurate reporting.

Because the Bizowie Service Suite’s modules are integrated with the rest of the Bizowie ERP system, data moves seamlessly between service applications and the system’s core modules for financial accounting, inventory control, human resource management, and other back office operations.

The release of the new software comes after years of in-house development and testing within Bizowie and a roll-out of the software in pilot customers’ organizations.

Bizowie’s focus on providing solutions tailored to their customers’ unique business processes led them to the decision to expand the software suite. “Our customer base has always been quite diverse – from manufacturing to distribution, engineering, financial services and beyond,” said Bizowie CEO Michael Flickinger. “We’re excited to be able to broaden our reach and provide the service industry with the same revolutionary, disruptive technology we’re successfully delivering in other markets.”

About Bizowie

Bizowie is the Pittsburgh-based leader in cloud ERP software. Established in 2008, Bizowie provides secure, tailored, high-availability solutions to industry leaders in a wide variety of markets.

Bizowie Announces Launch of BizowieBase Database Application

DB1/5/2015 — Bizowie, the Pittsburgh-based leader in cloud-based enterprise resource planning software, today announced the launch of their new BizowieBase Database Management Module.

The new software, which is part of the Bizowie ERP business management suite, allows users to quickly and easily build customized business applications without employing programmers or expensive software development firms.

The module features an intuitive database designer, powerful reporting engine, workflow builder, document management functionality, ability to create public-facing forms, and many more features that make it easy to build and design databases for nearly any purpose.

The new software is fully integrated with the rest of the Bizowie ERP platform, which offers a wide variety of business applications, including financial accounting, customer relationship management, order processing, inventory control, manufacturing, and much more.

“While ERP systems make it easy to consolidate standard business processes on one platform, many businesses still rely on inefficient external software programs or Access and Excel databases to manage industry-specific processes”, said Bizowie CEO Michael Flickinger. “BizowieBase makes it easy for our customers to make these databases an integral part of their ERP, allowing them to quickly and easily be cross-referenced with operational, financial, and sales data.”

While the updated module is a new release, the functionality isn’t. Bizowie customers have been leveraging the system’s integrated databases for a wide variety of business processes, including ISO 9001 compliance, membership management, engineering document control, and specialized manufacturing since the platform’s launch.

About Bizowie

Bizowie is the Pittsburgh-based leader in cloud enterprise resource planning software. Established in 2008, Bizowie provides highly secure tailored solutions to industry leaders in a wide array of markets, including manufacturing, retail, distribution, engineering, and nonprofit organizations.

4 Questions for your ERP Vendor

2bc3270A well-tailored Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system can deliver significant results in productivity, transparency, and collaboration. A recent study from Nucleus Research showed that the average ROI on ERP implementation is $7.23 for every dollar spent.

But if you’re not careful, ERP implementation can easily become costly. A 2013 study showed that 53% of ERP projects went over budget. And it’s easy for software vendors to over-promise with flashy demos but fail to deliver on the finished product.

At Bizowie, we frequently hear stories from customers, partners and prospects about problems they encountered with past ERP systems. Many of these problems can be averted by asking the vendor these simple questions to ensure that your investment in the software implementation is protected.

Will you provide a written statement of work dictating what work will be performed as part of the implementation? Is there a flat fee or capped number of hours associated with that work?

In their haste to close a sale, many vendors are quick to over-promise and under-deliver. The customer then winds up on the hook when the implemented system is missing important business processes, frequently-used reports, and other critical features.

Unless you have experience with the software package you’re using and are 100% certain that it can accomplish everything you need, insist that the vendor provide you with a written statement of work detailing exactly what functionality will be provided as part of the implementation. The statement of work should be tied to a flat-rate price quote or capped hourly rate, to ensure that mistakes on the vendor’s part won’t lead to costly overruns down the road.

Will necessary customizations be made using stock functionality, or custom code? Will the customizations prevent us from upgrading later?

I believe that customization is truly critical in ERP software. Even for small to mid-sized businesses, it’s critical that your software aligns with your processes, procedures, and competitive advantages.

Most ERP vendors and implementers share that philosophy. However, many turn to custom programming to achieve necessary customizations. Custom code is often a “quick fix” to cheaply obtain a desired result, but it can cause significant issues. Badly managed custom code can cripple your software, preventing you from upgrading to the newest version without hiring programmers to upgrade the customizations.

Today’s cutting-edge ERP systems feature a high degree of out-of-the-box customizability, allowing unique business processes to be accommodated without custom code. Don’t settle for less!

What investment will I need to make into IT resources to ensure that the ERP implementation is successful?

When choosing an ERP platform, it’s important to make sure you have an accurate picture of the costs involved – not just on the implementation side, but also in terms of ongoing maintenance and support.

Traditional premise systems generally require a hardware investment in the servers and network equipment necessary to maintain the system in-house. You’ll also want to consider the manpower necessary to maintain this hardware, either via in-house or outsourced IT staff.

Cloud ERP systems, with infrastructure maintained by the vendor, can deliver significant IT savings, but can also have supplemental costs. To ensure constant connectivity, many cloud ERP users elect to have backup Internet connections installed to ensure consistent uptime.

Whether you choose a cloud or premise system, ensuring that you have an accurate budget for supplemental IT resources will prevent costly budget overruns down the road.

Will I need to work with an outside vendor to exchange EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) transactions?

EDI refers to the exchange of traditionally offline transactions – such as purchase orders, invoices, and order acknowledgements – electronically, generally via the Internet.

Electronic transactions are nothing new – EDI has been used since the first computer networks were introduced. However, many large vendors have recently begun introducing EDI requirements for their suppliers, spurring an increase in interest in EDI technology.

Many ERP systems, such as Bizowie, offer built-in EDI functionality. Others require that you work with a third-party middleman, whose (often costly) fees won’t be included in a quote from your ERP vendor.

Regardless of which option you choose, it’s important that EDI costs are considered when budgeting for a new ERP platform.

6 Reasons to Implement ERP Software

28d4acbInnovative, cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platforms such as Bizowie ERP are making it easier for small to mid-sized businesses to quickly and affordably make the switch from off-the-shelf accounting software to robust ERP packages.

Adopting ERP can come at a significant cost, but the advantages it offers can be significant. Here are just a few of the primary areas in which a good ERP package can deliver immediate, effective results.

Instant, automatic accounting.

Financial accounting can be a significant source of overhead… but it doesn’t have to be. A good ERP can automatically account for common transactions as soon as they occur, including:

  • Revenue from sales orders
  • Accounts receivable from invoices
  • Accounts payable from bills
  • Cost of goods sold
  • Inventory movement
  • Sales tax accrual
  • Production costs
  • Credit card chargebacks
  • Commission accrual

With your ERP automatically recording all your day-to-day transactions, you can eliminate the need for manual entries and rely on consistently being able to retrieve accurate accounting statements and cost details on your sales orders and production.

Combined financial, operational, and strategic insight.

Individual turnkey software packages often focus on a particular area of operations (such as financial management, manufacturing, or inventory control), but keeping your business data in disparate systems means that it’s difficult to tie the data together to gain insight on your entire business.

ERP systems tie data and processes together so you always have a 360-degree view. Whether you’re viewing costing amounts on a sales order, pulling up a customer’s record and seeing their sales interactions and orders/shipments side-by-side, or forecasting sales using historical sales orders and production data, ERP gives you the “big picture”.

Increase productivity through integration of outside systems.

You might be surprised how much inefficient processes are costing you. If your employees are using outside systems to ship packages, manually copying data from one system to another, or using spreadsheets to manage day-to-day activities, you could be losing hundreds of productive hours every month while increasing the chance of costly mistakes.

Good ERP systems provide end-to-end integration with outside systems, so you never have to double (or triple, or quadruple…) enter data, rely on outside software, or prepare spreadsheets. A few common use cases include:

  • Generate shipping labels, manifests, and BOLs for shipping vendors
  • Synchronize orders from your ecommerce system
  • Transmit shipment instructions to an outside 3PL or warehouse
  • Use EDI to accept orders from large customers; or transmit POs to large suppliers
  • Automatically transmit tax information to government authorities
  • Push time and attendance data to payroll providers or temp agencies

High security… without added barriers for your employees.

A good ERP makes it easy for staff to manage common processes like order entry, stock counts, shipping, and receiving. But while off the shelf software often gives your staff full access to your sensitive accounting and payroll records, ERP systems allow you to restrict employees’ accounts only to the processes that are relevant to their roles.

This type of role-based security means that you can extend access to all your employees, while keeping their permissions locked down so they can only access what they need to do their jobs.

Some ERP systems, including Bizowie ERP, provide flat-rate pricing, which ensures that you won’t get hit with costly per-user prices when you add new employees.

Partner with a vendor that understands you.

Most software companies are focused on delivering a product that meets the needs of every possible customer with a cookie-cutter approach. But you’re not cookie-cutter – you have your own processes, procedures, and competitive advantages that make your business unique.

A good ERP implementation partner will work with you and your team to develop and understanding of how your company works, then tailor the ERP system to meet your needs and requirements.

Easily expand or pivot without costly system upgrades.

There’s no doubt about it – investing in an ERP system can be a costly endeavor. But unlike rigid “off-the-shelf” software, a solid ERP can provide the flexibility necessary to expand operations, bring new locations online, or even change your business model without costly new systems.

While some old-fashioned ERP platforms required custom software development to be truly customized, modern ERP solutions allow a great degree of flexibility without custom code. This type of solution gives you the best of both worlds – a highly tailored experience, without specialized code that will keep you from changing processes or upgrading.