Although I’ve always considered myself to be first and foremost a techie, I'm also a business owner. As you can imagine, staying on top of all the bookkeeping and other management issues keeps me extremely busy. My goal has been to automate as much of my operations as possible so that I can spend more time building my business. Unfortunately, to date, this has meant spending most of my free time writing endless lines of automation code. Needless to say, I was really interested when TechRepublic asked me to evaluate iCode’s Everest Advanced Edition 2.0.
First, the pricing
Normally, when I write about a high-end software package, I like to place the pricing and contact information at the end of the review. However, as a business owner, I know that pricing tends to be a big concern for small- to medium-size businesses. I also know that most decent business software packages are really expensive. Therefore, I want to get the pricing out of the way up front.
Unfortunately, I can’t give you the exact price of the software because the price varies depending on how many licenses you require and on whether you need on-site training and third-party modules, such as Crystal Reports. What I can tell you is that the software is designed to be the most sophisticated business package available for under $2,300 per license. Base pricing starts at $2,250 per user, but the software can also be leased for $65 per user, per month.
Now that I've gotten the pricing out of the way, you’re probably wondering what the software does. The software is designed to run both standard and e-businesses or a combination of the two. Although the software has too many features to list here (the demo alone takes four and a half hours to watch), I can give you a general overview of the product’s most useful features.
As you'd probably expect, Everest Advanced Edition 2.0 is designed to handle all of your business accounting needs. In addition to producing the various ledger sheets, the software can also print checks and perform bank reconciliations. If your business is service oriented, the software can schedule time slots and determine the bill for customers. It can also do recurring billing if a customer purchases a maintenance contract.
Everest can provide product price quotes on custom letterhead with a custom fax cover sheet. You can configure Everest so that specific customers get discount pricing. The software can store a customer's credit card information and integrate with a point-of-sale module so that credit cards can be billed from within the software when an order is taken.
Another nice feature that Everest offers is third-party catalog lookups. My father runs an automotive supply business. One of the challenges his employees face is that they must look up part numbers on one system and then manually enter them into the order entry system. This wastes a lot of time and increases the chances of accidentally typing a number incorrectly, thus ordering the wrong part at the wrong price. Integrating the parts catalog with the order entry system would solve this problem.
One of the biggest challenges for most businesses has always been inventory control. The software makes inventory control easy by showing graphical views of current inventory levels and providing item and lot tracking. Since Everest also handles shipping and receiving, you can create a detailed audit trail for your entire inventory flow.
Everest can manage payroll based on standard salaries, time clock entries, or sales commissions. If your business employs salespeople, you can use the software to track leads, manage customers, calculate commissions, and project future sales.
For my businesses, one of my biggest challenges is purchasing. I always seem to find myself digging through a huge box of receipts at tax time. Although I try to keep good notes, I'm constantly trying to figure out which purchases I made for my business. As if that weren’t enough, some stores use really cryptic codes on receipts, making it difficult to determine what the receipt was for. Fortunately, Everest software provides full purchasing management. You can automatically generate purchase orders when necessary, check vendor payment history, and forecast purchasing needs.
Another issue that Everest addresses is marketing. It allows you to specify where you spent marketing dollars and track the return on your investment from various marketing sources. The software does a good job of supporting multiple locations, even if they're scattered all over the world. There's support for multiple time zones and currencies, as well as other globalization features.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to run an e-business with Everest is its reporting capabilities. You can track things such as the most and least popular items. You can also see which items were frequently added to a shopping cart, but not purchased. You can even tell how many Web customers you had within a given time period or how your Web sales stack up against your retail store sales.
Any of the standard business features described above can also seamlessly integrate into an e-business. Everest gives you all the tools you need to create a sophisticated e-store. Whenever your e-business makes a sale, accounting and inventory are automatically updated. Furthermore, Everest supports multiple e-businesses and, because it contains ASP source code, it's fully customizable. There are even templates that allow you to deploy your e-store in various languages.
Everest contains all the shopping cart features you'd expect, but it has some nice extras as well. For example, it supports downloadable products and allows customers to have physical products shipped to multiple addresses. The software also supports user profiling, up selling, and cross promotion. You can even implement a gift registry or promote items by brand name.
An all-encompassing solution
Everest software can really take the headaches out of running a business. So far, I've run my business without Everest, but I can see now that I've wasted a lot of time writing code and performing many processes manually.
The best part about Everest is that you're unlikely to outgrow it quickly. The software is probably overkill for a one- or two-person operation. But if you manage a business that has between five and 500 employees, Everest is a great choice for handling your operation.