REDMOND, Wash., July 30, 2003 — Microsoft Business Solutions recently launched two updated releases developed specifically for small companies, which often face the challenge of needing to centralize management of their businesses without spending a fortune on IT.
Microsoft Business Solutions Small Business Manager 7.5, launched July 21, includes features to help small companies manage orders, inventory, assets, payroll and deductions. Small Business Manager 7.5 also includes stronger reporting tools, more flexibility, and more compatibility with a variety of other applications.
“We’ve geared Small Business Manager 7.5 toward customers who are outgrowing packaged software,”
says Karen Engel, group product manager with Microsoft Business Solutions.
“The improvements and additions to the functionality will give small businesses the power they need to retain their competitive edge in today’s challenging marketplace. And it’s obtained through Microsoft Business Solutions’ network of certified partners, who have proven themselves when it comes to customizing technology to help small businesses get up to speed quickly.”
Microsoft Business Solutions Retail Management System 1.2 (Microsoft RMS 1.2), released to manufacturers on July 1, includes new features and capabilities to help small and mid-market retailers improve the way they manage their businesses. Brendan O’Meara, product unit manager with Microsoft Business Solutions, says that Microsoft RMS 1.2 allows retailers to more strategically manage, control and plan the growth of a single- or multi-store retail operation.
O’Meara says that retailers who use Microsoft RMS 1.2 can also enjoy the high degree of compatibility with Small Business Manager 7.5, which will help them improve their ability to manage business assets, streamline fulfillment, and select from even more options for sophisticated data analysis.
“Microsoft RMS 1.2 will pave the way for independent merchants to manage their businesses in ways that work best for them, on their own timeline, and at an affordable price,”
Microsoft RMS 1.2 will help retailers improve the way they manage their business in four key areas. First, thanks to stronger compatibility with other business applications, retailers can make their business software more versatile — and more powerful. New payment-processing and service features will enable new means of payment processing that will make it easier to fulfill customer orders more quickly. . Microsoft RMS 1.2 will simplify processes and safeguard business information and transactions. Finally, O’Meara says, Microsoft RMS 1.2 can be tailored to the way a retail business is run, rather than the other way around.
“We’ve built Microsoft RMS 1.2 to deliver maximum value to today’s small and mid-market retailer,”
And, building on its strong relationship with Citibank Merchant Services, Microsoft RMS 1.2 will also now support debit card transaction processing, a payment option, O’Meara says, that today’s consumers expect.
Small Business Manager 7.5: The Bells and Whistles of a Mid-Range System for a Small Business Price
Lindy Antonelli, founder and CEO of Access Technologies in Naperville, Ill., says she expects Small Business Manager 7.5 to be a popular choice among her clients, which are primarily distribution firms, non-profits and financial services companies.
“Small Business Manager 7.5 includes the bells and whistles you’d find in a mid-range system for a small business price,”
“Small Business Manager 7.5 gives businesses the information that is critical to their success with the click of a mouse. It lets our clients focus on running their businesses instead of sitting in front of a computer trying to retrieve historical data. It’s easy to use, easy to set up, and comes with support from Microsoft.”
Antonelli, a certified IT professional and certified public accountant, says that one of the more compelling aspects of Small Business Manager 7.5 is its built-in electronic audit trail of financial transactions, which she says will facilitate more accurate accounting.
“Generally, small businesses often put patches on their systems as they grow, because their systems are not able to grow with them,”
“By moving to Small Business Manager 7.5, they’re on a rock-solid database engine — Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine, a fully SQL Server-compatible data engine. The result is that they have a lot of the functionality that larger companies use to better manage their business.”
Antonelli says that the tight connection with other Microsoft products, like those of the Microsoft Office System, further distinguishes Small Business Manager 7.5.
“Other products say they can link, but it’s a crude link,”
“This is a full-featured linking, which is good for business intelligence and productivity.”
Antonelli adds that compatibility with business applications such as Excel can make it easier for a small business to get the most out of its business data.
“With Small Business Manager 7.5, a company can download sales information into Excel and then quickly create a graph that shows them who their best customers are,”
“That information is critical to the success of a small business.”
The ability to exercise tight fiscal control, Antonelli says, is also a key benefit of Small Business Manager 7.5.
“With Small Business Manager 7.5, businesses can close fiscal periods so that nobody can post to them,”
“That’s important in terms of preserving data.”
Small Business Manager 7.5 also includes Microsoft Business Solutions for Analytics — FRx, which provides customers with a financial-reporting package that can be tailored to an individual business.
So far, Antonelli says, her clients are pleased.
“They’ve appreciated this product line, which delivers lots of functionality at a lower price point,”
“Now with these further enhancements and even more functionality, including Fixed Assets, Workers Compensation, Assemblies, and compatibility with ADP. Most of our customers are planning to upgrade to Small Business Manager 7.5.”
Microsoft RMS 1.2: Ready to Take On the Big Boys
Dan King is president of New West Technologies, a technical solutions company based in Portland, Ore., that works with businesses in several sectors, including retail. Microsoft RMS 1.2, he says, is an offering he looks forward to sharing with his customers.
“The big boys are in town now,”
he says, in reference to the increased pressure independent merchants face from enormous chains.
“It’s important for small retailers to have the tools they need to run their business in the most effective way possible. Microsoft RMS 1.2 fits the bill.”
How? According to King, Microsoft RMS 1.2 helps small retailers improve the way they manage their business in several areas.
First, Microsoft RMS 1.2 features a highly intuitive user interface that’s easy to use — and easy to learn.
“A cashier can be trained in 15 or 20 minutes, which is unique,”
“A lot of packages we’ve worked with in the past have required hours or even days of training, but with Microsoft RMS 1.2 the functions are listed at the bottom of the screen so it’s just a matter of selecting what you want to do. It’s so intuitive that people who know computers can train themselves.”
King expects Microsoft RMS 1.2 to save businesses considerable time — and money — when it comes to the task all retailers dread: inventory.
“Small retailers often manage their inventory on paper, and it’s such a daunting and manual task that they’ll close down the store or work all night once or twice a year,”
“Microsoft RMS 1.2 cycle- counting functionality puts a freeze on inventory so that retailers can continue to sell while they’re taking inventory. And handheld devices like wireless-enabled Pocket PCs handheld devices that synchronize with Microsoft RMS 1.2 really speed up the inventory process.”
Better inventory management, King says, leads to better business intelligence.
“Small retailers are often surprised by what they learn about their inventory,”
“The conventional wisdom is something like ‘I know what I do every day.’ That’s partly true, but partly not true. The inventory functionality in Microsoft RMS 1.2 will give them vision into their business and the ability to know what’s going on in their stores without having to be there all the time. They’ll have the business intelligence they need to make better decisions.”
Functionality that allows for integrated accounting, King says, is another attractive feature of Microsoft RMS 1.2.
“Microsoft RMS 1.2 includes accounting features that will offer an up-to-the-minute picture of profits and losses,”
“As a small retailer you’ve got to be tight on purchasing and stock level and maintain a quick turn on inventory in order to not waste valuable floor space. Microsoft RMS 1.2 will offer small retailers access to the financial business intelligence they need to drive profits.”
King cites the tight connection with QuickBooks and Small Business Manager 7.5 as an example of how Microsoft RMS 1.2 will automatically connect information from across a business.
“Microsoft RMS 1.2 will provide access to account data, vendor information, inventory and vendor payment terms,”
“Having access to up-to-the-minute information will empower small retailers to make more accurate and profitable decisions.”
Other features of Microsoft RMS 1.2 that King says he expects to be popular with his customers include the ability to split a payment onto multiple credit or debit cards; the ability to manage the creation and sale of kits, such as gift baskets that include multiple items sold as one; advanced supplier-related functionality; the tracking of manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), which can be put on tags for promotional and marketing purposes; and enhanced management of discounts.
“With Microsoft RMS 1.2, retailers can program the system so that when a coupon expires it’s no longer accepted at the cash register,”
“There’s no need to go in and cancel the code.”
Finally, King says that there’s a comfort level Microsoft RMS 1.2 offers that other products don’t.
“It’s a Microsoft product,”
“There’s a great deal of comfort in knowing that it’s here to stay and that it will be supported in the future.”