by Matt Mullarkey-Toner
Published on 16 March 2016
SAP is an inescapable force in the business world - it's the world's largest inter-enterprise software company and the fourth largest independent software supplier, overall. It's not for everyone though, and if you're a small business it's worth looking instead to one of the SAP competitors in the cloud software world.
SAP, sells solutions for all business sizes as well platforms and frameworks. Arguably its most popular product is the on-premise solution, SAP ERP, which is designed to help you run your entire business. It includes: operations, logistics, financials, and human capital management.
SAP's ERP offering is a great on-premise solution that excels in serving large enterprises, but it isn't the best fit for a small business (SAP has other options for that category). It's tricky to nail down a like-for-like alternative to SAP for small business as it offers such a wide range of features and functionality, but we've looked at cloud software solutions that offer business management features more suited to small scale companies.
We've broken down the alternatives to SAP ERP into different sections covering factors such as cost, scalability, and mobile capability to help you choose one of these SAP competitors for your business.
On-premise ERP solutions can be tremendously expensive for a small business: you have to get your own servers, have a strong technical department (or at least tech person) on hand to maintain the system, and, due to the high cost, you need to commit to it as a long term solution.
Salesforce is a force in the industry, and one of the few big SAP competitors. Starting as low as $25 a month, Salesforce offers a free trial and no credit card is required to initially sign up. If you're looking for an idea of what one of the most famous in the industry looks like, check it out. Be warned though, Salesforce can get pricey quickly if your company starts growing rapidly, in which case, take a look at our CRM page for some alternatives.
As mentioned above, SAP ERP was made with large businesses in mind. If you're a smaller business, it might be wiser to look for a product that was made specifically with your company size in mind.
TradeGecko is an excellent tool to help manage your business. In particular, it shines in its inventory management capabilities. It's also considerably cheaper, with prices starting at $39 a month. Kevin Maes, managing director at Welify.com, writes, "If managing inventory is an important aspect of your business, but you are still not able to do custom development, nor are you able to outsource it, then TG is a great solution for you. We used it to integrate in all our eCommerce efforts and it is perfectly working so far."
One of the big perks about going with the cloud (or hybrid) over complete on-premise solutions is that the solutions are easier to integrate. Remember: on-premise means that you have a solution specifically tailored for your setup and problems you come across during integration will likely be difficult to troubleshoot.
There are few that offer more integrations than SaaS titan, Salesforce which offers a whopping 260 integrations. Granted, some of these come from other apps in Salesforce's own product line, but the others are spread across other SaaS apps and popular services, like Gmail, MailChimp, and QuickBooks Online.
"The integration across many platforms is also a major advantage of Salesforce over competitors since it is the most widely used CRM software," says user Andrew Driscoll, Full Stack Manager at PSMJ.
SAP ERP doesn't have a mobile app, which is a problem if you are a small business because you lose the flexibility and on-the-go capabilities. Fortunately, there are plenty of SAP competitors out there that do offer mobile apps.
Bitrix 24 is striving to be an organizational tool for businesses that just need a bit of everything to make their working lives easier. Both Bitrix's Android and iOS app have high ratings of 4 and 4.5 stars out of 5. Users report that the app is continually improving with every update. The design of it hasn't been quite as well received, but users agree that it has all the necessary features.
One reviewer on the App Store writes, "Bitrix is great! I use it to manage a remote team spread across the US, and it works remarkably well. The app is full featured and impressively solid. If you're looking for a project management suite, Bitrix is worth considering. If you're already using Bitrix, get the mobile app. You won't be disappointed!"
One of the perks of cloud software is that it's not difficult to find out what fellow users think about the product. In fact, you should always look up customer reviews and ratings when making purchases online.
Alternative: WORK[etc] CRM
Although its primary focus is customer relationship management, users report that WORK[etc] CRM is much more than that. It offers a myriad of features such as mobile support, help that are easy to apply to your business. It also ranks as number one for reviews on GetApp's ranking of the top business management software, GetRank.
Jordan Zoot, CEO of aBIZinaBOX, writes that, "The product is like a techie onion…there are features on features on features. We thought we were going to do a quick evaluation for an alternative to Insightly at the bottom end of the market. What we got was a product that could give Salesforce Service Cloud EE a run for its money. The combination of CRM, Customer Support with ticketing, a Support Portal and Project Management/PSA makes this an incredible value for the $$…al [sic] of the integrations are very tight."
SAP ERP is designed with large organizations in mind which means that it has lots of functionality, control, and customization. In other words, think of SAP ERP as something you'll use after your company has grown into a massive (and successful!) organization, but not something you want to help you grow your fledgling business.
Alternative: QuickBooks Online
Although it's focused on accounting, QuickBooks is one of the great alternatives to SAP for managing and organizing a growing company's finances; it scales all the way up from startups to handle large enterprise options. But just to make it friendlier to small businesses, it's got a starting price of $26.95 a month.
Tim Mokry, President at TM Hospitality Consultants says that QuickBooks: "is a great app for small business and has all the features needed to probably do all your bookkeeping and basic reporting."
Any on-premise solution is going to require proper training to get the employees comfortable with the system. There's no shortage of SAP ERP documentation online to get you started, but ideally you'd have someone there to answers questions and ameliorate any problems, not something that smaller businesses can often afford.
Alternative: WORK[etc] CRM
When choosing a cloud (or on-premise) solution, it can be tricky finding decent customer service support. WORK[etc] CRM doesn't have this problem. Jerry Messick, CEO of Captive Insurance Consulting, wrote, "I really needed a system that was backed with superb customer service so they could help us identify the best way to use the system […] I've NEVER experienced the level of support that I've found here, and I've tried multiple platforms."
On-premise solutions are going to be expensive and require expertise to install; if you've got no experience with them it will be even more difficult. Cloud software, especially those built for finance, may take some time to set up, but it's generally quicker and easier than an on-premise solution.
GetApp users love WorkflowMax and a big reason is because of how easy it is to implement into their business and it especially shines with how well it works with its parent company's software, Xero. Daniel Malton, director at Symmetry Commercial, said that it makes the processing of handling purchase easier and wrote that, "What's terrific is that that this information then feeds directly through to Xero to create an invoice, which cuts down invoicing time."
As mentioned above, a perk of having an on-premise solution is that it is specifically tailored for your business. The downside being that since it is tailored to your business, you might need someone onsite to sort out any difficulties that you might run into.
Katie Klein, product specialist and web manager at CEI bookstore, wrote, "the replies to your problems/queries are quick (and don't make you feel like you're talking to a robot). Second, when they tell you that they are working on a certain issue, problem, or "bug" that needs to be dealt with, they mean it. This support team actually follows through and makes changes and updates frequently, always trying to improve the software. That is something that, as a customer I really appreciate."
Another indication of solid customer support: they actively respond to customers' concerns on their review page.
It's critical that your business management software be updated regularly. Mobile capability issues, new features, bug fixes, and security patches are all examples of the types of updates that can easily be implemented via cloud as opposed to the more difficult on-premise.
As mentioned above, Bitrix24, frequently provides updates and, according to user reviews, also keeps their users in the loop with helpful explanations of each update. One user on GetApp wrote, "Can seem a bit complex at first. - Still lacks some functionality, but hope, will catch up soon, as the releases are relatively frequent." The solution is ranked in third place in the business management GetRank.
SAP ERP is an excellent and complete on-premise solution, but it also can be too expensive and complicated for a small to medium-sized business. Cloud solutions provide more smaller companies more flexibility both in deployment and cost, so it doesn't hurt to shop around and compare the options out there.
But in case we missed some software from our list of SAP competitors or you'd like to some more research, check out our business management software listings to compare and browse more options.