Enterprise Resources Planning systems have been around for a very long time. The concept is not new, but until recently prohibitively high costs meant that these systems were used almost exclusively by large companies, such as the retail giants, banks and companies with a large workforce. Sold by the likes of Microsoft, SAP or Oracle, these solutions require costly customisation and maintenance. Traditional ERPs automate most, if not all, business processes within large companies: purchases, sales, administration, marketing, time logging, task assignments, work progress, etc. Every activity is logged, generating data which is then analysed, packaged and presented to various stakeholders as convenient reports – financial statements, tax documents, performance reviews, business analytics and management accounts.
The advance of cloud-based technologies in all areas of business automation, including accounting, taxation and administration, and their integration potential (mostly using open API) has made it possible to create combined solutions that are tailored to fulfil the same role as old-school ERPs but at much lower cost, making them affordable for any size of business.
These cloud-based technologies have another important advantage over traditional ERPs: a combined solution consists of products offered by industry leaders, experts in their respective fields, unlike single vendor ERPs best described as ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’.
Modern cloud-based business systems, such as customer relationship management databases or digital point of sales solutions can be integrated with payment systems, bank feeds, online calendars and cloud accounting solutions. Accountants and bookkeepers can use cloud-based practice management systems that are directly linked with clients’ accounting systems, generate working papers, store and manage email communications with clients, generate financial statements and reports and can also be connected to payment systems with a variety of payment methods: Direct Debit, online card payments, card payments in person or PayPal.