News Column

BizWare: The Great Software Equalizer

With Oracle Small Business Suite 7.5, small companies have use of a suite of office applications for only $99 per month.

By Roger Harris
HISPANIC BUSINESS® magazine
April 2002


For a very affordable $99 per month, any small business can access the same management computing power that major corporations take for granted. The source of this power is Oracle Small Business Suite 7.5, the most recent update of an Internet-based software application developed by NetLedger Inc., a small California-based software company, and Oracle Corp., the computer industry giant that sells $5 billion worth of computing software each year.

Oracle chairman Lawrence Ellison also chairs the board of NetLedger. Although marketed under the Oracle brand, Oracle Small Business Suite is designed specifically to appeal to small companies that don’t have the resources, or the need, to operate their own in-house information systems department.

With Oracle Small Business Suite, a small company with up to 100 employees can access a number of useful applications. The suite offers sales-force automation and customer-support management components, a Web store with room for up to 100 different products, accounting systems, and more. The Web-based software system requires no installation and supports up to two managers, one accountant, and 10 employees. All the business owner needs to tap into this system is a basic PCor Macintosh computer running either Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or Netscape 4.0 Web browsers.

“Small businesses need a lot of automation,” says Jim LaBelle, NetLedger’s vice-president of marketing. “But one of the problems for small businesses is that while they are experts in their arena, they don’t have a lot of time or dollars to devote to [technology], as a Fortune 500 company would. With Oracle Small Business Suite 7.5, they don’t have to. All the software applications most small businesses need will be available right there on the Web.”

Since its introduction more than a year ago, Oracle Small Business Suite has been updated regularly and quickly by NetLedger. Version 7.5 hit the market only six weeks after version 7.0. “With version 7.0, we rounded out the application with accounting and Web store functions,” Mr. LaBelle recounts. “With 7.5, we listened a lot to what our customers were saying about the need to be a little more flexible and the need to customize.”



BIG APPLE GOES
‘BACK TO THE FUTURE’


“Back to the Future 2002,” a conference focusing on the U.S. Hispanic online market, is scheduled in New York on September 6. In addition to seminars on e-commerce for small Hispanic companies, Hispanic submarket segmentation, and traffic-building for Hispanic portals, the event will focus on technology access for New Yorkers.

“We are looking forward to working with [New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg] to bridge the digital divide in New York and give Hispanics and other minorities the essential access they need,” says Art Navarro, founder of Communication Careers for Latinos, the nonprofit organization behind the conference.

For more information about “Back to the Future 2002,” visit www.alct.org.
The new features available in version 7.5 are the result of NetLedger software developers’ interaction with customers to build the tools real companies ask for. The result, they say, is a software system that puts the small-business owner in control. Version 7.5 provides an increased number of sales reports and business analysis tools that can be customized to deliver the specific information a particular CEO wants. Business owners can save time and money and their companies canrun more efficiently by having access to a single integrated database, instead of trying to use entirely different and often incompatible software applications for accounting, sales support, customer service, and employee management.

Version 7.5 puts a new focus on customer-service applications. The new File Cabinet feature allows a manager to attach records to customers’ files. Accounting functions are made easier with a new tool that lets users update prices for all items in the Web store with a single click of the mouse. So if a business owner decides to cut prices across the board by 4 percent, for instance, it’s easily done. On the billing side of the ledger, version 7.5 makes it easier and faster to present multiple bills to one customer.

With the tax season drawing to a close, it’s significant that the new version includes payroll tax tables and W-2 forms for 2002. Since Oracle Small Business Suite is an Internet-based software application, the user doesn’t have to be in his or heroffice to access it. CEOs can check reports, make pricing adjustments, and perform other tasks from any online computer.

Oracle Small Business Suite maintains security with features such as firewalls, data encryption, intruder detection systems, and regular back-ups. The program employs “active” security measures, which are always on and searching for security breaches, and “passive” measures, which compile and analyze statistics over time to reveal systemic problems. Compared to many small-business computing operations – unsecured PCs with minimal obstacles to access – the Oracle suite offers some heavy defenses as part of the package.

Meanwhile, NetLedger isn’t resting on its heels. Version 8.0, which could be ready by the end of this month, is expected to include applications to automate more marketing functions. “You will be able to segment lists, do target e-mails, and track performance,” Mr. LaBelle says. “It’s another feature that our customers told us they want.”



Source: HISPANIC BUSINESS magazine


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