It's All In The Software

Ramon Ray Technology can be broken up into two main areas: The hardware and the software.

Hardware is important, without it - you don't have a computer. You need your client computers, used by the end users in your company. You also need servers that provide the centralized management for your network. Of course printers, PDAs, scanners, copiers and other peripherals are also very important for optimized productivity.

However, all of these are just pieces of plastic and metal without software to power it.

Furthermore, software is what can differentiate two businesses.

I'm sure you have seen it yourself many times. Go into Circuit City and if you lose your receipt, they can print you another copy using your name and phone number. Go to J&R Computer World without a receipt and you are out of luck.

Go to and buy a book, you'll get a confirmation that you order was received, get another email when it's shipped and if you like will recommend to you other books and other items that you might want to purchase also.

As your business grows and you look for ways to be more efficient, save money, offer better customer service, get orders fulfilled faster and so much more - software is the key.

Fortunately for you, there are SO many options available to you. Unfortunately, you have so many choices to choose from. IBM, Microsoft, Icode, and others all offer software to power your business.

IBM understands the power of software and its "Express" line of products are the center piece of IBM's offering to the small-medium sized business market. These express products are priced to fit the needs of a small-medium sized business' budget, while still providing the powerful solutions they need.

Kevin Hooper, Director of World Wide SMB Sales and Business Development said that IBM's software group, focuses on companies from 100 - 5,000 employees and reaches these smaller-medium sized businesses the way they want to buy - via a network of IBM partners or resellers. Businesses with over 1,000 employees at times may want a direct relationship with IBM, but businesses with less than 1,000 employees will always work with an IBM partner.

One of the key roles for IBM is to build awareness for its products and help businesses understand the importance of software in their business. When a business is ready to purchase a solution, an IBM partner with experience in the local market closes the sale and implements the solution.

Experienced software consultants are so important. Icode reseller, Dov Weinstock,, used to implement SAP (business management software) solutions for large businesses. But now he's using his experience to consult with local and much smaller New York businesses to implement Icode's "mini-ERP" solutions.

Dov’s business is growing, because once a business owner sees how software can help them do more with less, it's just a matter of deciding which software solution to implement.

Here’s a good example of how great software can make a great business even better. In 1981 Island Sports started out using a product called Tracline running on a Altos 586 MPM machine. The product used only COBOL (a very old programming language) files and it was difficult to get data in and out of it. Over the years, the company moved to a FoxPro-based (a database) Retail Management System (RMS) from DataWorks of Naples Florida. Island Sports used it for about six years, until Naples Florida shifted its focus to stores in casinos. Island Sports also used a very complex way of moving checks between RMS and Quicken, to process checkbooks and do payroll.

Johnson wanted to go ‘e-commerce’ but Dataworks was not ready for it. “I started looking around for a product, that would allow us to do business online,” said Johnson. Island Sports used Americart to facilitate shopping on its website, but that too was unsatisfactory. According to Johnson, if a customer placed an order online, it would send an email with a portion of the customer’s credit card information, and the sales person would have to go to a secure site to get the rest of the credit card details and only then process the sales. “It was pretty awkward,” felt Johnson. He looked at software like CamData, Keystroke, Retail Pro and Cougar Mountain. “We were looking at a point-of-sale range and none of them offered a strong web functionality,”

In 2000, Island Sports purchased a ten-user license of Everest Standard Edition. “We use Everest for every aspect of the business. From purchasing, to sales, to Internet sales to POS functions—everything is up and running perfect,” exclaimed Liam Kelly, IT manager at Island Sports.

There’s something very important to understand here. Island Sports, like many businesses was using several different pieces of software to serve many different business processes. However, integrated solutions make things work together.

Running a web store on Everest makes it a lot easier to get things out on the Internet to sell: Island Sports witnessed a 1000% increase in web sales. “Considering it’s just a few clicks in Everest to get our stuff on the web—I don’t have to worry about going in and changing page layouts for a new item,” said Kelly.

As a sporting goods company, it has its advantages selling online. Kelly explained that selling online makes it easier for windsurfers who are so die-hard about the sport—they can just use their credit cards to shop anytime they want, almost like they had an online account.

The company barcodes and serializes some of its major merchandise like bikes and windsurfing clothes which are sold directly out of its retail store. The company also uses Everest’s item kits to manage 70,000 SKUs. “Once I figured out how to get kits made very quickly in Everest, it’s just bang, bang, bang, you’re done and ready to go,” said Kelly. Everest allows the retrieval of data from the system and also allows them to make global changes to inventory and pricing.

From an accounting standpoint, Johnson is very pleased. “Everest does a very good job with the accounting. I think essentially what Everest has done is that it’s given us one thing to work with—one product for the web and to balance our checkbooks and do our payroll, said Johnson.

For the future, Johnson is all set to integrate two whole new product lines into his business and sell to a larger market-base. He also sees a promising growth on the e-commerce front. “That’s something I couldn’t do with any other software programs; it really allows me start thinking about what I could do to grow,” said Johnson.

“Everest is big a player and has given us the ability to compete. It opens the door of the future for us, it allows us to plan for growth and be ready to deal with it when it comes.”

As your business grows, or maybe even from the very beginning, being able to communicate with those outside of your business such as partners and supplies is important.

IBM's WebSphere Business Integration -- Express for Item Synchronization is specifically designed to help medium-sized businesses link their supply chain information to the UCCnet GLOBALregistry which further automates the codes used to identify and describe products. According to IBM Many large retailers are requiring their suppliers to conform to UCCnet standards. The solutions include a process integration collaboration mechanism that sends and receives data to the third party registry. WebSphere Business Integration -- Express for Item Synchronization is standards-based meaning it can also be used to integrate item information to other emerging standards retailers may conform to.

Finally, ensuring that your software vendor and consultant understands your industry is VERY important. There's thousands of resellers or consultants who can implement a technology. There's hundreds of software vendors that can sell you a solution. But you must ensure that they know the intricacies of your business and how things work. If they don't know make sure they are willing to learn or even better choose a solution that's perfect for your industry.

So remember, when you are looking to save money, be more efficient, to do more with less:

1. Software is so important
2. Make sure you have a local technology expert to guide you
3. Make sure you have a local technology expert (or team of experts if the job requires) to implement your solution
4. Ensure your technology expert knows your industry
5. Ensure the technology solution will work for YOUR industry

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