Getting world-class software and support—without a big staff or budget
by Karen J. Bannan, February 2008
A growing number of midsize businesses are discovering they can benefit from solutions typically targeted at large enterprises—even if the businesses have limited IT operations. Oracle has the capabilities and experience to help hundreds if not thousands of customers quickly deploy and benefit from Oracle solutions without requiring large IT staffs to support the software.
Midsize companies typically face the challenge of small IT staffs that must focus on day-to-day operations and have no time to even consider updating, coupled with budget challenges that preclude hiring additional staff to manage new systems implementations.
Read how Life Data Labs, Sage Manufacturing, and Su Kam Power Systems all experienced fast growth and all have discovered how Oracle E-Business Suite could solve their software problems. In each case, the companies benefited from Oracle E-Business Suite's ease-of-use and powerfully integrated applications.
When you're responsible for a global production and distribution chain that moves products to six of the seven continents, you might expect to have a lot of IT resources at your fingertips. But Life Data Labs, which produces equestrian food and nutritional supplements, has found that it can manage very well with a one-person IT staff—and the right software.
The company is among an increasing number of businesses that are tapping technology that's been perceived as a solution only for the large enterprise. There's a good reason for that new interest, says Mark Johnson, vice president of applications product marketing, Oracle. Vendors such as Oracle have the experience and capabilities to bring enterprise-level technology to midsize businesses. "We have hundreds if not thousands of customers who have successfully deployed Oracle products on a limited budget over a short time frame—they don't necessarily have big IT staffs to support the software. These are companies that have two or fewer full-time IT employees," says Johnson. "We are constantly demonstrating the ease of ownership that is part of Oracle's solutions."
Life Data Labs is a beneficiary of such services. Prior to 2005, the company kept track of its sales and inventory via an outdated, patched-together web of about a dozen enterprise resource planning (ERP) modules. Not surprisingly, it had gaping functionality holes. The company didn't have an automated customer relationship management (CRM) solution, and its manufacturing system didn't do everything the company needed. All of the finished products came off the production line, which was computerized and automated, but each product still had to be manually recorded.
"We didn't have a methodology to record lot numbers or manufacturing numbers automatically," explains Kelly Kutz, director of IT, Life Data Labs. "We didn't have an integrated method of tracking inventory through the warehouse and then again back out into shipping."
On the customer-facing side, none of the customer touchpoints were connected to each other. The Web ordering and fulfillment systems were separate from the order entry system, and the company's distributors and sales reps weren't tied into the system either. This meant that distributors had to fax in orders, which were then manually input. Someone in customer service would then have to create and print an invoice and then fax it back to the customers.
Kutz stuck with what he had because he thought that finding and implementing a product to alleviate all these problems would be as labor-intensive and difficult as hand-keying data. For one thing, although participating in both the business-to-business and business-to-consumer markets is great for the bottom line, it was, at the time, an impediment for a company looking to install a new ERP system. But the even bigger problem was resources. Kutz is the only IT person at Life Data Labs. As far as he knew, there simply wasn't a software solution that would be easy enough for one person to install and maintain but full-featured enough to do what the company needed—fully automate its customer service processes.
"Most of the tier-two, small-business-oriented ERP systems really have a narrow focus," explains Kutz. "They service either a business-to-business or business-to-customer relationship, or they're strictly Web-based, or they focus on just one aspect of what we needed to do—customer service, for example. After a year and a half of hacking, choosing, and test-driving, we were worried we'd never find the right software."