So you want to know more about why an ERP is better than a basic accounting package and some spreadsheets. I have mentioned that spreadsheets have a high error rate and are inherently single user. I've discussed reporting from a database as being much easier to do that the same from Excel. What you might be left with is an impression that using a database is the way to go. That would make some sense - and all things being equal I'd agree with you. But I don't, all things aren't equal.
The king of do it yourself databases is Microsoft Access. It's actually a pretty decent product - with a good community of users who are, if not experts, at least familiar. There are a couple of reasons Access is a good choice, if you do decide to pursue this DIY direction.
Access is relatively cheap. It's part of Microsoft Office - although the version with Access is more money. It's about $300 more to get the database tools. You get a few more things, but not many more useful tools other than Access.
"Programming" Access using the built-in wizards can let you create a few tables and forms, reports and queries by the end of a solid work day or two. So, call that $500 of programming time and $1500 of software and you can have your item list, order table, purchase order report etc…
Now what starts to happen is pretty serious - and costs you a LOT of money over the next while.
Soon after your database is created and your purchase orders are going out to vendors, you realize you need to receive things. Vendors are annoying, sometimes they ship exactly what you wanted, in exactly the quantity and at the price on the PO - but often they don't. So as time passes the simple access database begins an insidious march towards something deadly - COMPLEXITY!
Read ERP vs. Microsoft Access - Part 2 on December 19th!
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