Inventory Software vs ERP

The difference between an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution and inventory software is the same thing as the difference between a house and a bedroom. One contains the other as a small part of it. Although the two are certainly related in a few aspects that they hold in common, there is almost nothing to compare and contrast between them. One is a giant sledgehammer of a solution while the other is a rock hammer that is designed for a relatively small job.

Comparison of Inventory Software and ERP

Everything that makes up inventory software can also be found in an ERP. That is where the comparison ends because an ERP goes so far beyond inventory software’s purpose and functionality that it is basically irrelevant to even attempt to compare the two.

To show you what we mean, let’s list some of the biggest features you will find in an ERP:

  • Accounting
  • Asset tracking and inventory management
  • Business intelligence
  • Corporate performance
  • Customer relationship management
  • E-commerce
  • Human resources
  • Sales
  • Supply chain management

That is nine features in all. Now guess how many of them are found in inventory software. The answer is two. Asset tracking and inventory management and supply chain management are the only two features on that entire list that could reasonably be put into the category of inventory software.

Target Markets for Each Solution

As you can see, an ERP is far greater in the sheer size and scope of its operations and capabilities. It is meant for a large organization with all sorts of operations that go beyond what smaller companies require. Large organizations can afford to use an ERP while small businesses cannot. As their name denotes, small businesses have smaller needs than large corporations, so it is perfectly reasonable for them to aim for something that is a better fit for their specifications. In general, an ERP is overkill for a small business, and inventory software is much closer to what they are looking for.

Of course, none of this is to say that inventory software is worthless. It serves a specific and important purpose by giving small and medium-sized businesses access to the same features that large organizations use. Admittedly, it does not provide all of the features that are in an ERP. That much is clear. But the features that it does offer are comparable to those same ones that are found in much bigger and more expensive solutions. These features include asset tracking and inventory management, as well as supply chain management. In addition, it even offers business intelligence to a lesser degree than an ERP. For example, it is possible to use reports to generate barcodes, analyze sales trends, improve the warehouse setup, and more.

Flexibility and Other Pros and Cons

Just because inventory software doesn’t contain all of the same features as an ERP, it doesn’t mean that it is impossible to use all of those features in conjunction with it. Inventory software, such as Fishbowl, can integrate with a number of other business solutions in order to act much like an ERP would. For example, you can integrate Fishbowl with QuickBooks desktop, QuickBooks Online, or Xero to automatically store the financial data that results from orders, sales, and other transactions in Fishbowl. This eliminates the need for double data entry and improves the accuracy of your inventory records.

You can also integrate Fishbowl with a CRM like Salesforce and any number of e-commerce platforms, including Amazon, eBay, Volusion, and Magento, just to name a few. For human resources, Fishbowl offers an online time clock solution called Fishbowl Time & Labor, which allows you to assign employees to certain projects and tasks while also tracking their hours, calculating payroll, and keeping track of taxes owed. Fishbowl Checkout is another add-on that allows Fishbowl to accept payments from customers via credit card, debit card, check, or cash.

And so we see that just because inventory software appears to be quite limited when compared to an ERP, it is actually quite flexible. You can add all sorts of features to it by integrating it with other solutions that specialize in those features.

Often, getting inventory software and then integrating it with all of your other business solutions is more economical than purchasing an expensive ERP and paying to maintain it year after year. Big businesses that can afford to pay a hefty price for the convenience are certainly free to do so, and more power to them. But smaller businesses that need to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions without breaking the bank may want to consider alternatives. Inventory software is an ideal alternative because it can be as small as they want it to be while also affording them the option to add to it over time.

Most of an ERP’s advanced features will be lost to a small business because they do not need all of them. They may prefer a simpler solution. But as they grow and add an e-commerce website and other new areas to their business, they might just discover that they have outgrown the capacity of that simple solution. That is why they should be careful when selecting inventory software at the start. If they choose wisely, they can wind up staying with the same one for many years.

Imagine not having to trade up to an ungainly ERP or even having to trade-in for a slightly better type of inventory software every few years. You could instead stay with the same solution and avoid the costly and time-consuming challenges of learning a new system and transitioning all of your data across systems on a regular basis once you need a new feature that is not in your current solution. You could simply integrate with another solution that can handle that new task while maintaining your current inventory software and all of the benefits that come with doing that.

An ERP’s greatest strength can also be seen as its Achilles heel. It is rigidly stuck because of its enormous size. It is meant for one job and that is to do just about everything. Any business that doesn’t need such a huge number of features will likely be better off looking elsewhere for a solution that can be tailored to match their specifications. Returning to our original analogy, inventory software offers plenty of room for growth while an ERP offers a solid and immovable foundation.

Whether you need a simple inventory solution or more complex ERP features, you can find what you’re looking for in Fishbowl Manufacturing and Fishbowl Warehouse. Get started with the software today!


An ERP is gigantic in its feature set compared to inventory software. It is also much more expensive and less flexible, so it is aimed at large corporations instead of small businesses. Inventory software can integrate with other business solutions to approximate the features of an ERP at a fraction of the cost.

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