Cloud ERP for the smaller SMB

Topic: How does BizAutomation compare against its BIG software company piers

The following interview with Carl Zaldivar, our lead customer advocate and business analyst at BizAutomation for 15+ years, revolves around how BizAutomation compares to big ERP and Accounting software companies.

Question – How does BizAutomation compete against big software ERP, such as NetSuite, SAP, Dynamics, Sage, and Epicor ?

Answer – It’s very common for potential customers to first interview with one of these companies.

The first thing I do is prove that we have the technical capabilities to play in the same sand box with the big boys. I then share anecdotal evidence about what I’ve seen as the most important factor in picking a solution, which almost nobody has on their radar. I tell them to think more about the company than the solution itself. Because eventually they’ll have that Homer "D'oh!" moment, when they realize they need something and no longer have leverage. For us, that’s when we prove we really are their advocates, when we can show them that “hey don’t worry we’re NOT going to take advantage of you even though you think we have you over a barrel”. The most important thing by far is the company because you don’t know what you don’t know, and ERP implementation is not child’s play. In our case it’s common for us to enhance source code if that’s what it takes, and we don’t take advantage of the customer while doing it, sometimes it’s free, because common sense dictates and everyone agrees, that’s just what it takes. Most of the time you just can’t cookie cutter these things out. Once our prospects realize that we actually mean that, and that no big software company can do this, we’ve earned our seat at the table.

Question – What do you tell people that throw market-share numbers at you, like how QuickBooks owns 80% of the small business market ?

Answer – Yeah their numbers are impressive. I just checked Datanyze and they’re reporting a commanding 81.9% market share. If you make a decision based on market share, then I guess you’re compelled to drive a Toyota Corolla, bank with B of A and wear a Seiko on your wrist. But I’ve found that the people that start and succeed in business, the CEOs of SMBs that we demo to aren’t herd animals. They too play the role of David in the proverbial David vs Goliath battle, and aren’t intimidated into submission by 81.9%, so when I prove to them why we deserve to compete not on market-share but on merit, they’re all ears. And besides, any company over 10 users that's still running an accounting hub and spoke solution like QuickBooks needs to read the memo about how data duplication is holding them back.

Question – BizAutomation talks a great deal about customer vs ecosystem advocacy. What exactly does this mean, and how does it affect customers?

Answer – If you look at the big software companies, you find that the most important aspect of their business development is the ecosystem that drives it. That ecosystem is made up of solution partners and consultants that make a living off core solution gaps, that’s why I call it a Hub and Spoke approach. QuickBooks is the best example of this I can give you. For 25+ years they’ve established an accounting hub, surrounded by all the other solutions that fill in the gaps (the “Spokes”). I’m talking about things like CRM, inventory and warehouse management, shipping, commissions, etc… You’d think it would make sense for them to evolve into something more like a BizAutomation but that would mean cannibalizing partner business, and those partners bring in a lot of new customers, and that’s where you get the “Ecosystem advocacy” I’m talking about. You can’t serve two masters, and in their case it’s the ecosystem. We are 100% customer advocates, and I can’t emphasize that enough.

Question – So other than simply saying you’re a small business focused ERP, how does that actually translate to your customers in a way they can actually see and prove ?

Answer – We talk about development guidance based on easily observable facts. I think every small business CEO understands that all customers are not the same. No CEO would actually admit to a customer that they’re not as important as a bigger customer, but one must guide one’s perception of reality on driving forces which in business are all about economics. Those economics are an unavoidable truth. A customer worth $100K per year will generate more attention, will get most focus and customization and development, than a customer that generates $5K per year. That’s just a fact, a cold unavoidable reality of business. If we can all agree on this, then you have to agree that big software designs and builds for the enterprise, the 500+ employee company, NOT the less than 100 employee company.

Question – Yeah but companies like NetSuite, Sage, SAP, and Epicor all have SMB versions of their suite right ?

Answer – Yes they do, but their SMB versions often are just watered down versions of their enterprise products, designed to promote upsell to those very products which are much more lucrative (i.e. expensive). And when you think about it, the strategy makes perfect sense from their perspective. Once a customer commits 100K to implementation and signs a 3 year subscription agreement, anything not tied down in that agreement becomes leverageable fodder for the software company. Which is why my initial point about the most important thing a small business customer needs to select first isn’t the solution, but the company behind it. A small business CEO's core competency isn't typically going to be ERP and that's exactly what they're counting on. So depending on which point in the commitment cycle you’re in, this can make a huge difference to long term ROI.

Question – So if BizAutomation is truly a small business customer advocate, how exactly does the company make decisions about customer enhancement requests and how do those requests evolve the suite ?

Answer – Well that is more “Feel” than “Formula”. There’s a litmus test for that, we call it the “Pink Elephant” test. Which says that if a customer paid us a million dollars to put a pink elephant on the main menu of the suite, we’d say “no”. It’s our way of saying that we’re not a custom software shop, and not all requests will be accepted. We have a lot of experience guiding how the suite evolves, which is why our product is so clean and efficient. What you don’t develop is as important as what you do, otherwise you end up with the Frankenstein chaos we’ve seen with open source solutions. Properly guided evolution is why proprietary ERP software runs most businesses vs open source.