Sage ACCPAC ERP – News

Although it had been announced before the conference, version 5.5 of the Sage ACCPAC ERP product is beginning to ship as of the end of April. We’ve released the first installment which includes the core product, but there appear to be several parts that aren’t yet out.
The real news in this release is that Sage is giving users that are current on support agreements access to a number of products they would have had to pay for in the past. For example, serial and lot numbering has always been extra. Now it’s included in the Inventory product. The “number change” utilities that allow users to change G/L account numbers, customer numbers, etc. have been bundled.
Most interesting, ACCPAC is including Alerts (not on the disks we’ve received to date) Lite and CRM in the core products. If you have System Manager, you’ll get one user of the server, and 5 pre-built (non changeable) alerts.
Not a bad deal, but to my eye, an alternative to putting significant development dollars into the core product.
Customers with add-ons or third party products will have to wait a few weeks (maybe months) for compatibility with 5.5. Stay tuned for more.

Sage Insights Conference

I’m at the Sage Insights conference this week. As we mention on the web site, Sage owns millions of products.
Ok, well maybe not millions. But at least it’s safe to say that Sage owns a bunch of products. For several years, as Sage acquired first one product and then the next, I’ve maintained that eventually they would have to give something up, or deemphasize some products in favor of others.
Of course the problem with that is that Sage has hundreds (maybe thousands) of business partners. (Several hundred of which are here at the Gaylord National this week.) And each of those business partners supports at least one, some more than one, but none all of the products Sage now owns. So no matter which products Sage picks to discontinue or deemphasize or disown, someone gets hacked off. In brief, there is someone out there who is feeding their family based on the Sage product that gets hacked.
So Sage has announced the creation of the “Strategic” products group and the “Value” products group. No surprise there…yet. And before I go on, let me say that Sage Accpac ERP (apparently Accpac is now spelled with upper and lower case letters after years of telling us that it should be all caps–Oh, wait, that was when another company owned it–never mind) is in the Strategic division. As are the MAS products (90/200 & 500). Note: 90 and 200 are the same basic code-base, only the database is different; 500 is a completely different product.
The surprises? Well, first Peachtree is in the Strategic division!! Not sure what that means, but it does mean that I need to take a look at Peachtree. The last time I did, I had a one word reaction: No!!
Other surprises: PFW (Platinum for Windows — the traveling product, even IBM owned it at one time) is in Value; and Sage Pro (the former SBT) is in Value.
Would I worry if I had a value product? Probably not. TimeSlips (a perennial best-seller) is in Value, as are several other products that are important assets for Sage.
Too long an entry already. More later.

ERP Implementation Is Not Trivial

ERP software is just software. I do know that. However, the process of getting a group of people called a business (particularly a small business) using an ERP solution effectively is not trivial in the least.
I’m using the word “trivial” here as it might be applied in mathematics. For example, the solution to the equation 2x = 10 for x in base 10 number system is trival. x=5.
When I started out in public accounting, the central issue was training people to use the computer. “This is the on button…” type of training was almost inevitable. Today, the training we do has moved up the scale. We rarely have to tell a client how to use a data entry screen. The Accounts Payable Clerk takes one look at the invoice entry screen (for most any software) and says, “Ok, I see how it works.”
The issues today have more to do with processes, personalities, and detailed functionality.
Managing the interactions between these three items makes the implementation process non-trivial. It’s more like the solution to a complex differential equation.
Here are some general notes, with more details to follow in installments:

  • Communicate with employees. Give them a reason to undergo the pain.
  • Remember that big companies may work differently than small and mid-sized companies. In big companies, orders often come from on high, and must be accepted. This doesn’t mean that employees don’t complain. They do. It simply means that part of the environment at a big company is accepting decisions from the higher-ups that seem inane without saying much. In most smaller companies, we find much higher and more emotional feelings of buy-in from employees. This means that they’ll react badly–and in extreme cases, try to sabatoge the project–if you don’t deal well with them.
  • Respect employee networks. Employees who have worked at businesses for a long time have relationships that aren’t always apparent. These will come into play in stress
  • Selecting the right software is only part of the battle. Every software selection is a tradeoff. No software has all the features. Be clear about what you’re sacrificing.
  • Watch for employee ownership of existing systems. In this case I mean BOTH computer systems AND business systems. Tell the sales force they’ll be entering all their own orders in a company where this has never been the practice and you’ll quickly see what I mean.

Enough for now. More to come.

Cancel The Flowers

You can cancel the flowers, I’m still here.
I think I must have the same tendancy that I’ve observed in many of our clients. That is, I tend to get focused on one or two things at a time, and forget about the myriad small things that need to be done on a regular basis.
Like writing a blog entry or two.
The next few blog posts will (hopefully) catch me up on the research I’ve been doing for the last month or so.
Next post: observations on ERP Implementation. Coming tomorrow to a blog near you.