Small business steps up to enterprise accounting

EDI still wins over Web services

Going from five to 25 staff in three years and selling internationally has called for an enterprise-grade accounting and ERP system at Sydney-based manufacturer of the Skins label of sports clothing.

Skins is a specialist "compression garment" that works by improving an athlete's circulation and blood flow during physical activity.

Skins chief financial officer Ron McKellar told Computerworld that MYOB is a "great little product" and is good value for money but it failed to scale to Skins' burgeoning business requirements.

"As we got bigger and bigger we needed more users so we moved to the enterprise product but some reports were taking up to 15 minutes and the server was grinding to a halt with 650MB files," McKellar said.

Skins also needed a global system as it opened operations in the UK and US over the past 12 months.

After evaluating ERP accounting software from Oracle, Sage and SAP, Skins chose SAP's Business One as the best for price and features.

"Oracle was too big for what we could justify," McKellar said. "SAP was able to offer a great range of solutions. We can write reports easily, create purchase orders, and important and export to our other database easily."

After doing the ground work through April to June, Skins stopped processing with MYOB and migrated debtor, creditor, and stock information into SAP, which went live on July 2.

"We also wanted a decent stock line and now have a stock matrix that was developed for us," McKellar said.

Having moved to a 500 square metre warehouse three years ago, Skins is planning to relocate to a 3000 square metre facility before the end of the year.

SAP has also streamlined data interchange with third parties, which can use EDI to import orders without manual intervention.

"Our biggest customer is Rebel Sport and they send through orders through EDI and we can import them into SAP, with MYOB we couldn't," McKellar said. "Every week we had to sit and code all orders in so it has saved an immense amount of time and it is more accurate."

A veteran of some 10 accounting packages, McKellar believes they are all a bit different and can be "a bit strange when you first look at it" but reporting capability is paramount.

"The reports we can drag out of SAP for sales is far superior," he said. "With MYOB we could only report on three variables but with SAP the number is huge."

"Can you afford not to have the best product available for your requirements? SAP is not the cheapest or the most expensive. It's good value for money and we have built a very good base for future requirements."

Skins has integrated its e-commerce site with SAP so some $25,000 worth of orders per month go directly into the accounting system.

The company will now look at migrating MRP and sales data off spreadsheets and into SAP, and it is designing a new reporting package for the board.

Skins' IT manager Grant Bayley said the SAP Business One application is hosted on a Windows 2003 R2 server in Sydney and use Microsoft's SQL Server database.

"It's a single server and the load on the thing is not bad," Bayley said, adding it is linked into an EMC Fibre Channel SAN.

Business One is a Windows client-server application, and although a Web-based product was evaluated, it only hooked into fully-fledged SAP environment.

"Anyone that is relatively familiar with Windows won't have trouble running SAP," Bayley said.

When asked why Skins is using EDI and not Web services, Bayley said it is due to demand.

"Web services may be the future but every customer is requiring EDI," he said. "I haven't had a single supplier or customer say we need Web services but we are using it on the back end of our Web site."

See CFO World's Accounting Software Guide for Small Business

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