Sage 300 2016 Feature Review – New Database Requirements

I think the biggest new feature in this year’s release of Sage 300 is Sage 300c, the web browser version. I talked about it in an earlier post.

One item that I think deserves a post of its own is the fact that Oracle and Pervasive.SQL will no longer be supported. The server requirements also hopped up a version. The 2016 version of Sage 300 supports only Microsoft SQL Server 2012 or 2014 and Windows Server 2012 R2!

New Feature-stampThis means that companies will need to convert the popular Pervasive database to SQL. We’ve done this in several installations without issues. However, the collating sequence and the date formats on SQL are a bit different from Pervasive. This means that you may have to tweak the Pervasive data to get it to load on Microsoft SQL.

Sage 300 does support the Express Edition of SQL server, which is limited to 10Gb databases, but is also FREE. A 10Gb database is generally large enough for most accounting implementations. For companies with fewer than 10 users that aren’t keeping large amounts of historical data (5 or 10 years), this is probably adequate. You’ll have to look at the database size to know, though.

There are a few more entries on the What’s New list for Sage 300. We’ll get to those shortly.

Meanwhile, let us know if we can help with an issue!

Garbage in, Garbage out … I hadn’t seen this quote before…

Speech bubble illustration of information technology acronym abbreviation term definition GIGO Garbage In Garbage Out

 

I saw this quote for the first time today and wanted to share it…

“On two occasions, I have been asked [by members of Parliament], ‘Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?’ I am not able to rightly apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.”
— Charles Babbage (1791-1871)

NAV 2016 Feature Review – OCR Invoice Processing

Now that we’re past year end (almost), I’ve returned to the annual task of reviewing all of the new features in the new releases of software. One of the neat new features in Dynamics NAV 2016 is OCR invoice processing. Basically, Invoices Drawer Labelthe process works as follows:

  • Import a PDF file (or scan it and then import it) as an Incoming document
  • Send it to the OCR service (or let NAV Job Queue do it)
  • Receive it from the OCR service (or schedule it)
  • Review the results (if necessary)
  • Correct the OCR results and send feedback to the Lexmark ICS (Invoice Capture Service) to improve the results next time.
  • Automatically create an invoice or queue it for processing. The OCR recognizes text in the invoice to supply G/L account numbers for the lines on the invoice.

That’s wonderful functionality, but it leaves just a few questions unanswered:

  • You’ll have to have a Lexmark ICS account before you can use the feature. Sign up for the account here: https://store.readsoftonline.com/nav/
  • Once you sign up, you’ll get an email with the information you need to enter in OCR Setup in Dynamics NAV (account number, password, and key). The password here is not the same one you used when you set up your account for Lexmark ICS.
  • Workflow is also possible using Incoming Documents (such as invoice approvals, etc.). That will be in another post.
  • Lexmark ICS is available as a free service for up to 75 documents per month. After that you’ll pay per invoice (now $0.89 per document). There are also subscription services available for larger volume users.

Next I’ll record a few videos showing my adventures in using Lexmark ICS.

Why should ERP users care about Microsoft, Skylake, and Windows 10?

Skylake is Intel’s name for their 6th generation of processors. Microsoft has announced that within 18 months, only Windows 10 will be supported on Skylake. In other words, they won’t continue to build the code necessary to run Windows 7 and 8 on the newest processors. Here are a couple of articles: from the Verge and from extremetech.com.

Does This Affect You?

So does this really affect you? Afterall, you just bought new computers a week ago. If you go to Dell’s site and navigate to pages where they’re selling new Dell PCs, you’ll see the following or something similar in the text description of the processor: “6th Generation Intel® Core™ i3 processor.” Now if you go to Google, you’ll find that “Skylake is the codename used by Intel for the 6th generation Core processor microarchitecture,” courtesy of Wikipedia. This means–simply put–that if you buy this (low-end) machine from Dell today, you’ll eventually have to upgrade to Windows 10. And when you upgrade to Windows 10, you’ll have to ask: “Is my software compatible?”

An Example: Is my ERP compatible?

Suppose you have an accounting and ERP system that’s 7 years old. Generally, by the time a product is 7 years old, the manufacturer (say Sage, Intuit or Microsoft) has “discontinued support.” This means–in a nutshell–that there will be no further upgrades or fixes to the software. In addition, it means that new updates to existing operating systems won’t be tested with the software; no new compatibility will be announced. So if Windows 10 came out after support stopped, it’s not that it won’t be compatible; you just won’t know (officially) whether it is compatible or not.

Upgrade Upgrading Software Program Icon Symbol On Computer KeyboEnter Google and other consultants. So let’s suppose you Google a product that’s long out of support and add “Windows 10” to your search. You’ll likely find (as we do) that there are some consultant blogs out there (like this one) that claim, “we tried it and it worked!” Problem: where and how did they try it? If they tried it in-house, and not in production situations, I generally don’t trust it. I’ve seen a lot of software in 30 years that seemed to run on the new operating system. Later I found out that it didn’t work 100%; usually I found out before there was data corruption.

In the best of cases, if you’re running an unsupported program version on a new version of Windows, you’ll find yourself hearing, “I’m sorry, we don’t support that version any longer,” when you have a problem. You will never know whether the problem is the software, incompatibility, or something else.

Our Observation

In brief, our observation is that businesses that stay relatively current have fewer problems, are more satisfied with the product and are better able to compete. Businesses that don’t upgrade on a regular basis have increasingly more issues as the software gets older.

Bottom line: If you use a computer, you need to keep your software up to date!

Microsoft Calling…NOT!

I just got off the phone with a person who said they were with Microsoft Support. “We are getting messages that there is a dangerous virus on your computer and are calling to help you remove it. OK?”

“Sure,” I said.

Businessman With Computer Virus Alert“We need to install a program on your machine to remove the virus. Ok?”

“Sure,” I said, “I need to call you back, though. What’s your number?”

“You cannot call us back, because this is support,” she said.

“I cannot call you back because this is a fraud. My company is a Microsoft Partner…” Click.

Bye. Did you really think I would fall for that?

If you’re reading this, don’t fall for it either. Microsoft doesn’t call.

ERP and Accounting Software – Two Ways to Think About It

I’ve observed in working with businesses in the past few years that there seem to be two (and only two) ways to think about the software they use to run (and account for) their businesses.

ERP is a Cost Center

The first group of businesses treats software like a cost center. They want to lower (as one would) software expense. They tend to upgrade more slowly, often only when they Businessman in a data center selecting label with cost written on windoware forced to by incompatibility. They are less satisfied with their software, because as it ages they have more difficulty with it.

They also tend to look at support as a necessary evil: “We shouldn’t be having this problem, so why do we have to pay for support?” “You mean I have to pay an annual fee to the software vendor even if I don’t use the upgrade?” “Really? I have to upgrade my whole system to get the payroll that works with ACA reporting? It seems like a system should last more than 10 years!”

I’ve changed these quotes a bit, but these are real sentiments expressed by business people. Companies that take this approach don’t benefit from improvements in software because they generally don’t look for ways to use them. In some cases, we work with clients that have features in their software that could solve recurring business problems, but they won’t use them. They develop cumbersome work-arounds that avoid implementing new features. The logic is sound: “Software is a cost center. We don’t want to spend time or money on software because it isn’t going to help.”

ERP is a Foundation for Business

The other group of businesses look at ERP as a business. They believe that software should change constantly, and that the changes should improve their lives and make work easier. When they see a feature for electronic billing or paperless accounts payable mentioned in their software, they want to know if it will work for them.

The most progressive businesses in this category actually look to the software for business ideas. They see ability to promote or send newsletters in their e-commerce software and they want to know how it could benefit their business. When new versions come out, they want the new features list and want to have a conversation about whether any of the features will benefit their operation.

Which are You?

First, let me say that neither of these is either right or wrong. If you only use software for accounting, there may be little that the software has to offer in terms of operational efficiency.

Second, sometimes the perspective on software depends on where you sit within the organization. Accounting department staff may have one perspective; marketing may have another; operations may have yet a third view. Most businesses use software to control operations; this software can create or destroy efficiency.

Third, software isn’t always the answer. Some businesses want to add every bell and whistle in software. It is important to evaluate the business effect of implementing technology.

Having said all of that, here are some key indicators that you may be falling behind:

  • Your business or industry has changed substantially in the last five years, but you are still using software the same way you were 10 years ago.
  • Trends seem to be pointing in one direction (like using tablets, phones, or other portable technology) and you are not moving in that direction. Most retail businesses should carefully evaluate an online store.
  • Your software has not been updated in the last 5 years, new developments are likely to improve your ability to use it. There is more emphasis today on the cloud. The ability to use data anywhere and share data has become critical.
  • You are buying computers with Windows 7 because your software isn’t compatible. Although newer versions of Windows and Office irritate many users and offer changes some don’t think they need, these products are carefully researched. Often we see newer employees and new workforce entrants embrace technology much faster because of some of these advances.
  • You are having increasing issues with software in areas you were not having issues a few months or years ago. Software generally doesn’t age, but the hardware and operating systems that run it do. Once a software developer stops testing with current updates, it’s just a matter of time until problems arise.

If you think your software may need refreshing, give me a call. I’d be glad to discuss the business impact of a change with you.

Cloud Based Software is Subject to TN Sales and Use Tax

I probably should have posted this earlier, and some continuing education on state tax law changes pushed me to do a bit more research and consider how it might affect our clients. Here’s the basics: TN changed the sales tax law (effective 7/1/2015) so that software used over the internet was subject to sales and use tax. It’s pretty obvious that this includes tax or accounting software that is used in return for a payment (many accounting firms have moved to this).

Software You Might Not Think Of

After looking at several articles, including this one from JDSBusinessAdvisor and Southernalpha’s article, I realize that it’s bigger than I first realized because it makes software applicable to USE tax as well. This means that (technically) businesses that pay a fee for web hosting (which includes the software that runs the web site) is subject to use tax. Payments to a company like Microsoft for Office 365 or to SalesForce.com are subject to use tax. It also means that the fee you pay every month for email marketing (like Mailchimp or Constant Contact) is taxable.

Use Tax on Software

Use tax (just for completeness) is something that the company using the software services is obligated to report and pay. The CPA that presented the continuing education indicated that the TN department of revenue was going to use every means available to enforce the new law.

Please contact your CPA or tax advisor for more information on this and to verify that it applies to you before paying any tax.

Sage 300c – A new ERP option

Sage 300 2016 is out. With this release comes the first installment of a product that Sage announced at least three years ago, dubbed Sage 300c. It’s a fully web-based version of the product (no OCX controls) that runs across many platforms including tablets and phones. At this time, only financial modules (GL, AP, AR) have been released in this version. Other functionality is still available in the standard interface.

A couple of notes from our review:

  • This web product apparently cannot coexist with the Portal, since it and the Portal use the same database.
  • It is only available on a subscription model. Existing Sage 300 customers will receive something of a discount, but it still has added cost.
  • Since only financials are out, the product doesn’t address the need for field order entry, etc.
  • Based on the time from announcement to release of this product, it’s hard to say when the other modules will be out. The original discussions seemed to indicate that Sage was planning to release “pieces” of the other applications such as an Order Entry screen that could be used from the new platform, but the code for that isn’t out yet.
  • Not all the functionality in Sage 300 is ported directly to 300c. A trainer on the What’s New partner videos said something like, “The functionality within these web screens is more or less similar to the regular interface.” Not sure whether he meant more or less. Suffice it to say that there’s no official Sage feature-by-feature comparison of the products.
  • Like many things Sage (most recently the tiered Payroll pricing), this may be modified because of “Partner feedback.”

More as we know more.

Medicare Extra Withholding – Affordable Care Act’s 0.9%

Many of you won’t care at all about this, but since a client raised the question, I thought it was interesting and hadn’t realized it before. CPAs pay attention–one of you messed this up and generated a question from a client.

Single individuals that earn over $200,000 have an extra 0.9% Medicare tax added to their Medicare withholding. Married individuals have the extra Medicare tax added for wages over $250,000.

Why, one of our clients asked, does a married individual get the 0.9% deducted when they make over $200,000. Something must be wrong with the tax software.

Nope. See https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Questions-and-Answers-for-the-Additional-Medicare-Tax, specifically the answer to question #11. Everyone gets the extra 0.9% withheld at $200,000. Married folk get it back when they file their tax return.

That’s the IRS for you! Of course, most of us would like to have this problem, wouldn’t we?

ERP Payroll Systems and new reporting requirements for 2015

This time of year always brings out the new upgrades, tax upgrades, last minute IRS changes in tax tables, and customer concerns about how to proceed for the end of the year. This year, there are several changes that we want to make sure payroll users know about.

W-2 Requirements for 2015

Mature man getting a headache from taxes and billsThe W-2 for 2015 has several codes that you may not have noticed in prior years, although they were there for the 2014 W-2 form. Chief among them is the Box 12 DD code, which requires reporting of the cost of Employer Provided Healthcare coverage. As of today, the IRS ACA W-2 reporting page indicates that this is not required for employers who filed fewer than 250 W-2 forms in the prior year (2014 forms given to employees in January 2015). At least many employers will dodge that bullet. The original interim guidance IR-2011-31 provided that this was the case until the IRS issued further guidance; since that guidance could come at any time, it might be a good idea to think about setting up a way to collect this cost in your payroll system.

There are also several codes that have been on the W-2 for several years that you might want to review. Particularly if your company pays into a retirement account. There are codes for Roth, 401(k), 403(b), etc. Contact your CPA or tax advisor if you think any of these might be applicable. And contact DGG for help in setting these up in Payroll.

1095 Forms for 2015

The new kid on the street is the 1095. All employers with 50 or more employees (or full-time equivalent employees) must file the 1095-C. The summary or transmittal form that goes with it is the 1094-C (like the W-3 for the W-2).

This form will either be very easy to fill out (if you offered the healthcare coverage the ACA requires, and offered it to all employees), or will require you to go through employee by employee to decide how to complete the form. Most payroll systems we have seen are making some provision for completing these forms. However, the information needed to complete the form isn’t all in most payroll systems. In particular, some systems are adding the ability to produce this form late in the year, which means that in all likelihood, you’ll have to research and enter at least some of it.

If you produce your own payroll and haven’t heard from whoever does your support, you might want to consider contacting them. Contact us if you need a push in the right direction.