The Best ERPs for Growing Small Businesses I’ve Tried

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By Ewen Finser

Last Updated on July 6, 2024 by Ewen Finser

If you’ve reached the point where you need a legitimate ERP solution for your growing SMB, but aren’t sure where to start, this guide is for you.

For this article, I personally tested a wide array of ERP solutions to figure out which options were best for different types of SMBs.

What I found? ERPs are all lumped into a general category, but they vary widely!

Most ERPs try to “suit everyone“, but the truth about which one is best for your business is nuanced.

That’s because an ERP can be used for a variety of measurement and visibility purposes, including:

  • Managing inventory levels
  • Financial accounting
  • Managing supply chain relationships
  • Compliance and legal
  • Identifying and streamlining productivity metrics
  • Standardizing processes
  • IT asset management costs
  • Labor cost analysis
  • Project management and project planning
  • Customer experience
  • Identifying overall cost efficiencies

My picks below are ranked, but I’ve added qualifiers to each option for their best and highest use cases, depending on what attributes are most valuable for your business.

Striven ERP: Best Well-Rounded for SMBs

My Quick Take: Of all the ERPs that I tried, Striven had a good balance of features, pricing affordability, and accessibility, making it a good fit for most SMBs that don’t have a team of data analysts and number crunchers.

What Stood out with Striven?

  • Simple & Transparent Pricing: Having tangled with the Oracle NetSuite team and other large enterprise peers… Striven’s simple and up front pricing model is a breath of fresh air. They have two tiers with flat “per user” pricing, starting $35/month per user for the Standard Plan and $70/month per user for the Enterprise Plan. If you have less than 5 users, each additional user is just $25/month, too, giving smaller operations more of a break.
  • Fast & Straightforward Navigation: Striven doesn’t hit you with whizz bang graphics and fancy screens… it lays everything out in a clean way.. Feels like a great value relative to my experiences with their over-engineering, clunky competitors.
  • Tabula Rosa (Blank Slate): After testing out Striven for a few weeks, I really like how customizable the dashboards are. While the graphics are “plain”, this also means you can build exactly what you need and easily re-arrange modules based on what’s important to your business. And like I mentioned above, it’s all very intuitive to do.
  • Goals Assigned to Individuals: I love the built-in goal setting in Striven, but especially because it assigns responsibility to an individual team member. This make it super easy to judge success / failure and honestly is a performance review that almost writes itself.
  • Reliable Uptime: While the UX is plain and focused on getting the job done, it’s also whip fast and durable. Pretty much anyone can run this and I wasn’t able to generate any errors or mess up the system in the 4+ weeks I tested it (try as I may).
  • Project Management Oriented: Unlike some ERPs, Striven shines as a true resource planning system in the original sense of the term, fostering cross-functional feedback and displaying the KPIs and progress tracking that actually matters in an easy to manipulate interface.

TallyPrime: Best Inventory Management

My Quick Take: If you are a company centered around inventory flows and logistics, TallyPrime is an ideal ERP with dedicated features that make it an easy adoption curve without the complicated (and expensive) customizations required with larger enterprise tech.

What Stood Out with TallyPrime

  • Great Inventory Workflows: For inventory heavy SMBs with lots of SKUs, TallyPrime is a great solution to keep track of stock levels and get actionable insights before problems crop up.
  • Easy UX: TallyPrime does a good job of surfacing the right information and making good use of dashboard space available.
  • Tax Compliance: This might seem like a small detail in the grand scheme of things, but I really liked how TallyPrime had built in tools for statutory tax compliance, specifically for more complicated inventory use cases in multiple jurisdictions.
  • Strong Financial ERP: TallyPrime leans more into the financial aspects (process and data integrity) of ERP, making it a good choice for companies with a CFO functional or small to mid-sized team. Best Project Based ERP & PM Platform

My Quick Take: You may have previously heard of as more of a project management solution. While this is where they came from, they now offer plenty of CRM and Resource Planning functionality, perfect for a digitally native or blended small business that doesn’t want to use multiple systems for CRM, PM, and ERP functions.

Why I Like for SMBs

  • Easy to Use: is like the polar opposite of the clunky Oracle tools that dominate the enterprise market. Their interfaces are clean and user friendly and actually built around giving the end-user enjoyable feelings of accomplishment!
  • Project Management Origins: started out as a highly usable project management suite and this shows across the platform today. It’s going to make a lot of project and product managers super happy. The bean counters will just have to get used to it!
  • Extensive: While having origins in the PM space, today is a full “work operating system”, with modules for pretty much every modern business function. Need a CRM? It can do that too.
  • Integration Friendly: integrates widely across the most popular business software tools, with 1000s of ways to connect your various “parts” into one usable dashboard.

Odoo: Best UX

My Quick Take: If a modern UX is what you are looking for, Odoo isn’t what you might have come to expect from ERPs. It’s clean and modern, without the rough edges and “early 2000s” vibes that many of their peers heavily feature.

Here’s What Stood Out to me with Odoo

  • Great UX: Odoo feels very intuitive and modern compared to the old enterprise stalwarts like Dynamics, Oracle, SAP, etc…
  • Extensible with Apps: With over 40,000+ app integrations, Odoo can be your “one and only” if you need front-end websites, CRM features, social media marketing, it’s got it all.
  • DIY Implementation Friendly: Odoo has in depth implementation instructions (and installation wizard), easy enough for technical “with it” employees to set it up on-premise without the need for a fancy certification or expensive outside consultants.
  • Fully Featured 30-Day Free Trial: Fairly standard, not too skimpy. You can really get a sense for what the suite can offer without any “freemium” gimmicks.
  • Strong Logistics Orientation: Odoo was one of my top ERPs for manufacturing-based businesses because of this. If you have a logistics-heavy organization, give Odoo a long look.

Further Read: Odoo vs Netsuite Compared.

Dolibarr: Best Open Source ERP for SMBs

My Quick Take: If flexibility, modularity, and a DIY approach is what you are looking for, Dolibarr is a highly underrated open-source ERP that should be given a close look by SMBs.

What I like Dolibarr Here

  • Low Code + Open Source: It’s rare to find both an open source AND low code software platform and Dolibarr is pretty much the only solution that fits this bill in the ERP space. This means it’s easy to configure and “code” what you like, without needing advanced programming (e.g. if you are a technically savvy person it’s “figure outable”).
  • Includes Other Features: The customized framework means you can easily add a CRM, invoicing, and accounting functionality to the core stack without needing to integrate a new system or software.
  • Active Community Support: Like any good open source platform, there’s a vibrant community of builders and businesses using Dolibarr. This helps make up for the lack of “official” support and you can still find freelancers to help implement or customize if needed.
  • Completely Free! This is probably the biggest draw here. Having an ERP for free is an incredible advantage as most of the legacy ERPs run into the tens of thousands of dollars (or more) just to implement.

Hubspot: Best CRM Facing Solution

My Quick Take: If you are small enough, what you might actually need more than an ERP is a CRM like Hubspot. They really are so much more than just a CRM and I’d consider them a “digital-first” ERP in many respects.

Why I like Hubspot

  • Marketing Focused: If you have a critical sales and marketing team function, orienting around Hubspot pays dividends. A strong fit for digital-first SMBs with plans to grow.
  • Free CRM: One of my favorite parts about Hubspot is that they basically give away their CRM for free as a lead gen tactic. This makes it VERY easy to start with them if a CRM is your first step before an ERP-like solution.
  • Integration Friendly: Hubspot integrates with hundreds (if not thousands) of third party platforms, but specifically integrates with dozens of ERPs (like Odoo, Zoho, Netsuite and Acumatica) so you can have the best of both worlds.
  • Cloud Based & Accessible: Hubspot is available via the cloud, perfect for remote heavy organizations and features a user friendly interface that puts a lot of traditional ERPs to shame.

Further Read:

Netsuite: Best Upscale Option

My Quick Take: If all of the above options still feel a bit TOO small and limited in horsepower, consider upgrading to Netsuite. Netsuite is the “original” SMB ERP, but it’s since expanded to be more of a middle tier “mid sized” business suite, particularly since their acquisition by Oracle.

oracle netsuite

Why I like Netsuite in Some Situations

  • Good for larger SMBs / Mid Sized: As much as I don’t like Netsuite for startups and smaller SMBs, once you get to a certain critical mass (say 50+ employees), it’s worth giving Netsuite a look, despite it’s shortocmings.
  • Oracle Family: If you see yourself using any of Oracle’s other products, Netsuite is not a fully integrated member of the family so it may make some sense to keep it all under one roof.
  • Advanced Financial Reporting: If you are accountable to a board or otherwise need advanced auditing, having Netsuite can be a good option for data fidelity and a well established chart of accounts.
  • Lots of Talent: While it may be more costly to maintain, there’s a whole industry of Netsuite training professionals, consultants, and third party agencies to collaborate with on custom implementations.

Further Read:

Final Cut on SMB ERPs

SO where does this leave us? I’ve tried to surface some unconventional options for a variety of use cases above.

What you didn’t see in this list were Acumatica, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, Sage, and other typical “big” enterprise names that make up most of the other lists I’ve seen.

If you are still on the fence, I’d recommend one of the follow 3 options to start with:

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