Once your company reaches a certain size, ERP and financial systems become indispensable in your day-to-day operations. However, the more tightly you integrate these systems with your business processes, the harder -- and more expensive -- it becomes to upgrade or replace them.
In fact, for many businesses—both new and old—subscription-based contracts have become the norm. If you need proof of that, look no further than the software industry. Software was once a physical product: if you wanted to purchase a copy of Microsoft Office, you would pay Microsoft, and Microsoft would deliver you a CD (or in the older days, floppy disks) with the application on it.
There’s something to be said for not messing around with something that works. When corporate technology expert Andy Ziegele told Profit Magazine in 2009 that companies should stick to “vanilla” implementations of their enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems as much as possible, it was at the tail end of a string of high-profile and costly ERP implementation disasters spanning the past decade. Companies, Ziegele argued, are not as different as they think, and often their desire for customization is driven more by politics than by a business process so unique that an off-the-shelf ERP can’t handle it.
In today’s marketplace, revenue information is under heavy scrutiny, and is frequently audited. Reliable, accurate revenue reporting is absolutely essential for any business, particularly when it comes to complying with government regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley.
For younger companies, spreadsheets can be an excellent stop-gap solution for many different applications. They perform valuable mathematical functions and are easy to use, store and access. In smaller companies, they can even be successfully used to identify revenue and manage billing. However, in larger organizations, such methods simply can’t deliver the level of functionality required.
Some companies need a robust billing and/or revenue management solution. Others don’t. If you run a small to medium-sized business with traditional accounting procedures and a simple billing structure, your business needs can probably met by Microsoft Excel or a generic enterprise resource planning (ERP) system like Oracle, SAP, or Microsoft Dynamics.
Conventional spreadsheet applications like Microsoft Excel are fine for small businesses with simple billing procedures and uncomplicated revenue streams. Spreadsheets may be time-consuming to manage, but they'll carry out the required calculations and provide you with straightforward data.
In many ways, spreadsheet applications like Microsoft Excel are the backbone of the business world. With a little ingenuity, they handle everything from project management to employee expenses -- the ideal tool for companies that may not be ready to commit to a full-blown ERP system.