Getting an ERP When You Can't Afford an SAP

Article by:
Arnold Leung, EO Vancouver
Arnold Leung
EO Vancouver

Arnold Leung is CEO of Appnovation Technologies.

Just like a lot of my fellow EO members, I believe that technology systems are important components of a company. Without them, the company cannot scale and grow. When I started Appnovation Technologies, we didn’t have the resources to purchase fully integrated systems, so we ended up buying systems piece by piece. The problem is that none of these systems worked together and data redundancy was a huge issue.

About a year and a half ago, we started looking at ERP systems that integrated accounting, human resources, document management and project management functions. While there are a lot of great systems out there, none of them were really within the price range we budgeted for. As a result, we were forced to find another solution to our problem. We took a page out of our own book and looked at various open-source options for each function. We realized that there were systems that can be easily integrated together. In the end, we picked Active Collab, Alfresco and SugarCRM, and integrated these with QuickBooks.

We used Active Collab for project management, Alfresco for managing documents and SugarCRM as our CRM system. While QuickBooks is not open source, there is existing software that allows us to connect it with other systems. With this setup, we are able to digitalize a lot of our documents and reduce the amount of paper filing. On top of that, it prevents human errors by providing a streamlined process for data addition. Before the new system was implemented, data needed to copied from one place to another. This was not only a major hassle, but was also costly in terms of manpower and resources.

The new arrangement also provides various dashboards for analyzing the company’s performance. Before, the data needed to be manually extracted from various places and modeled into an Excel spreadsheet. At the end of day, this integrated solution cost less than the half the total price of getting ACCPAC or other mid-market ERP solutions, and provided us with tons of flexibility.

With the new systems, some of our processes can finally be automated. As an example, in the past, client data needed to be copied manually from the CRM to the accounting system. With the new system, this process is now automated. Automating these functions created less room for error, and saved us time and cost in labor. While it may be true that this may be a more costly alternative for companies without the technical expertise, I find that this is a great cost-savings option when you’re starting out.

The biggest lesson learned from this entire experience is that while processes are important for growing companies, the systems behind the processes are even more important in ensuring that processes run as planned. Without the systems, processes can provide limited contribution to the scalability and success of a growing company.

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