For a company with large quantities of inventory to manage, effectively tracking, monitoring and purchasing stock is essential to a successful and profitable business model. Yet for years convoluted and poorly designed inventory modules within larger software systems were the only option — unless you relied on coordinated spreadsheets to do the job.
Unleashed Software saw the need for a better-developed, quality inventory management platform, and set about building a comprehensive cloud-based solution to do just that. For this edition of Behind the Software, in our Q&A with Unleashed Software CEO Gareth Berry we discussed the company’s decision to develop a cloud-based system and how their system is able to comprehensively address the unique demands of an inventory-driven operation.
Back in the mid-2000s, there were no other online inventory systems that existed, so there was a huge gap in the market that a group of our co-founders had discovered. A gap analysis found that there were various accounting software solutions with poorly implemented inventory modules, which meant that companies who were running more complex business processes were resorting to spreadsheets. There was a need to create an inventory module that was purpose-built for this market, and the logical choice for us was to create that product with a cloud focus [to reach] a global market.
LOCATION: Auckland, New Zealand
The other point, which is very important for companies managing inventories, is about accuracy and margin. You need to know how much money you’re making, and [that information] needs to be in real time. You can’t have a system that doesn’t manage all of your costs accurately — your landed costs, your cost to run the warehouse, etc. Otherwise, downstream, you’ll have no idea how much margin you’re making. A retrospective journal or cost analysis of the P&L accounts don’t really fix the problem, but historically that’s what a lot of companies ended up doing — they would run an accounting software with an inefficient inventory system, coupled with a spreadsheet.
We wanted to fix that problem upfront. Unleashed Software offers transparency across all the warehouses with margins of knowing what stock you have, where it is and how much it costs. These are absolutely the fundamentals of running a very good inventory-based business. That’s what Unleashed manages; those are the problems that we solve.
From day one, we built Unleashed Software to be global. The market for us in New Zealand — and even in Australia — is just too small; it’s very siloed. Yet the problems that we’re solving are the same all over the world. So from day one, we were building this platform in the cloud and making it browser-based.
Although we may incorporate some on-premise extensions (like barcode scanning) in the future, we always want to remain true to our premise of being available anywhere on any device at any place where you have an internet connection.
It’s a little bit of both. Unleashed has customers turning over less than $1 million per year, and Unleashed has customers turning over more than $500 million per year. In that large spectrum, we’ve got a lot of customers that are looking at replacing their accounting software or even transitioning away from using spreadsheets.
They want to move into the cloud and take advantage of both the cloud and, obviously, the low cost of getting a web-app inventory system. On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got customers coming from the likes of SAP Business One. These are companies that have had to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, so to speak, where they’ve basically been oversold and have a need to simplify their business. They need something that just does inventory management really well. After implementing Unleashed Software, these customers can continue to have an advantage in the marketplace and continue to run their business with really good process-driven software, without a huge expense.
We sit right in the middle of those ends of the spectrum, and 5- to 20-million-dollar businesses is our sweet spot. When we started, there were no other standalone inventory modules and inventory systems in the market. Being first on the market was really great in terms of actually being able to gain momentum. This momentum has continued, even though we now see a plethora of different inventory-based packages out there.
But what we have found as the market evolved is that the term “inventory” is being used very loosely. Most of the inventory systems that we see are more an aggregation of shipping-part systems, where you’d be integrating with multiple channels like eBay and Amazon and Etsy and so forth. That’s been the main focus for a lot of these other systems.
There are very few competitors out there in the market offering what Unleashed provides, which goes back to the premise of knowing what stock you have, where it is and how much it costs so that you have transparency and accuracy across your entire supply chain. The solutions that are out there have huge initial price points or a massive consultancy sales process, which is inherently expensive in and of itself. Unleashed is creating this huge amount of disruption by simplifying that process while delivering the core premise of what Unleashed is all about.
In this day and age, there’s no excuse to have a standalone system. All the core functions of a company should be connected and completely in line with your main business — whether it be buying, selling or manufacturing inventory items. Everything should inherently be connected to that as well, from CRM, accounting, point-of-sale, ecommerce and shipping right down to marketing and email. And all of those solutions can (and should) be connected through an online ecosystem. We live in a world where there’s basically an API for everything.
With our API, we’ve got a number of deeply integrated applications for systems like QuickBooks Online, Xero, Neto, Salesforce.com and Magento. Those are some really good examples of how other companies are using our API in order to facilitate integrations with their system. [With these integrations] we avoid that relationship where information is constantly being pushed and pulled into and out of various systems. We’re not duplicating data, and we are reducing errors and manual data entry as well.
CRM is a core component for every company, [whether you have] customers, suppliers or workflows that you need to manage. Salesforce.com is a good tool for that. In fact, we use Salesforce and think of it as a best-of-breed CRM. We think it’s a fairly easy platform to integrate with, and it made sense for us to add Salesforce integration so that our customers can connect their workforce and sales activities with Unleashed.
Although it may not seem as though CRM and inventory are closely related, they’re very tightly coupled. You have customers, you have products, you have [purchasing] history with those customers, and it’s important to maintain all [that data] in the same place. Because we can connect with Salesforce, it just makes sense that we do.
It’s very important. We live in a world of business at the speed of thought. Information needs to be assembled, dissected and analyzed at the speed of thought as well — it needs to be at your fingertips. You can’t go off somewhere else to find that information; it should be readily available on any device, anywhere you are. It’s incredibly important to have that real-time capability.
Historically, real-time capability may not have been too important. But in the global economy where everyone is consuming information at the speed of thought, your competitive advantage can be gone within seconds (instead of days, weeks or months), and that’s where opportunities are lost very fast. Businesses need to give themselves a competitive advantage, and they’ll lose that advantage if they don’t keep up with the norm of having real-time capabilities within their inventory system.
There are a lot of trends. We’ve got some massive releases coming out this year, and we’re hiring PhDs and applied mathematicians — a different kind of breed of person. Really, the future looks quite different from where we are now. I can’t talk about what those releases are, but they will continue to redefine the way that our customers go about their business and give our customers a competitive advantage in the marketplace as well.
Find more information on Unleashed and other leading cloud inventory management tools by visiting our product finder database. You can also browse all of our exclusive Q&A interviews with top industry executives by checking out the Behind the Software section of the Business-Software.com blog.