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Last week Microsoft Business Solutions launched Great Plains 8.0, its hosted finance service for small businesses, which will give users a suite of enterprise software with an Office look and feel.
The update increases the choice of hosted finance and CRM services for small and medium-sized businesses, which also includes Oracle spin-off NetSuite, Salesforce.com and Epicor.
One firm that has been using a hosted finance and CRM service since January is specialist chocolate retailer Rococo Chocolates, based in London's Kings Road.
It wanted its accounts system to be more flexible as it went through a period of growth. The confectionery business is highly competitive and Rococo wanted to concentrate on its core business as well as getting a better view of its finances.
It swapped its Sage Line 50 accounts system for a hosted service from NetSuite because it no longer wanted to manage the hardware and software.
Rococo Chocolates' financial controller Gerry Kerins said, "With Sage, everything was on one box, so no one really knew how the business was doing. [The NetSuite] system is more transparent, has key business indicators and makes me more accountable, which is a good thing."
NetSuite offers a dashboard view of key financial indicators and has given Rococo's customers browser-based access to the system to place orders. Users can view a new order within minutes of it being received.
"We were pointed towards a network-based system but we wanted a system that would wrap around the business, rather than the business wrapping around it," said Kerins.
Rococo now plans to scale the system to cover a second London shop. It also plans to use the CRM functions of the NetSuite service.
"We are now looking to integrate the website into the NetSuite portal. The CRM aspect is important to us and we have input all the product codes. [Our CRM system] used to be an Excel spreadsheet, which was printed out and put in my in-tray to input into Sage," said Kerins.
Counting the cost
Rococo's NetSuite licence costs are £2,500 a year, but the hosted service saved £6,000 a year on IT costs. Financial controller Gerry Kerins said he was quoted £30,000 for a five-user network to run Sage. "Switching to NetSuite has meant a fraction of that cost."