Sage Announces Change in Sage 300 PR Support

For years, Sage 300’s PR has required an annual tax table subscription. Since the invoice goes straight from Sage to the customer, I don’t know the pricing unless a client mentions it to us. It seems like it is somewhere around $695.

Last week, we got an email from Sage telling us that this was about to change. From now on, the annual fee for payroll support (which included payroll tax tables) will be more for users that process more employees. For 1-15 employees, the annual fee will change to $1,000, and it rises from there to 501+ employees. The email we received said that Sage customers (users) will get the notice in November.

AOffice desktop with stats, calculator, pencil, papers and folder named Payrolls Sage spins it, “Sage 100 and Sage 300 payroll customers now pay only for the employees for whom they process payroll.”

That is the way ADP, PayChex, and a number of other Payroll software companies handle it, after all. I guess I’m just sensitive because smaller clients in our area have been piqued at the $695 cost. I still remember the calls I got when Sage took out the feature in the DOS software that allowed us to change the payroll tax tables ourselves. But I also know that we and Sage got more calls because of messed up tax tables than we could shake a stick at.

Back to the change…I think there are several things driving this change:

  • Fifteen years ago, many of our small business clients with 50 or so employees processed their own payroll. Some of them did it on spreadsheets, so updating to computer software was a big improvement. Most of our clients wanted Payroll in their systems. Today, I have to think to count the number of clients who are actually processing their own payroll. And we have several that have payroll software but don’t use it.
  • The number of regulations and reports even a small company has to keep up with today are multiplying: E-verify, W-4, I-9, new employee reports, employee separation notices, worker’s compensation, AHA, COBRA, state insurance laws, unemployment, etc. Outsourcing payroll just to get someone else to watch out for these things and take care of them has been on the rise for several years. Even companies with 1000+ employees are outsourcing pieces of this puzzle.
  • Both of these items put together mean that there are more features an average piece of payroll software has to have, but there are fewer companies to spread the cost across. Voila: price increase.

After all, that’s really what it is, isn’t it Sage?

Dynamics NAV 2013 (formerly Navision) Item Tracking and Serial Numbers

Some companies implementing Microsoft Dynamics NAV inventory aren’t currently tracking serial numbers either in the warehouse or on shipment to customers, but they want to. We’re asked frequently about how these companies might migrate from no serial number tracking to some serial number tracking without having to take a serial number inventory.

Here’s a video that explains the options in Dynamics NAV (formerly Navision). It may also give you some ideas about how you might implement similar features in other systems.

ERP, Technology, and the Danger of Knowing Too Little

There is a new phenomenon I’m experiencing lately: the danger of knowing too little about ERP and technology. I don’t mean the danger of Photo of a person at a desk with head in hands.knowing too little, I mean the danger of businesses knowing too little. Or perhaps individuals in those businesses knowing too little. Or perhaps IT advisors knowing too little.

Here’s what I mean: it’s not enough any more to know the technology. There was a time when our clients were amazed if we could just get things to work (that was a long time ago). Now we need to know much more. Not only do we need to know technical details to make things work, we need to know business processes. It’s more likely today that an IT specialist can make things work; it’s not likely that a business can take advantage of everything that is in the software.

Let’s take a simple example: inventory levels. Simply, that’s how much inventory to order, when to reorder, and how much should be on the shelf at any given time. It also involves deciding which products should in fact be in inventory, and which should be special ordered. Many businesses still use some version of average sales to get to this number. I can tell when I ask, “How do you decide what to order?” If I get the answer, “We have this report that lists the sales for the last 12 months,” I know we’re using average sales at some level.

The fact is that this isn’t the state of the art in inventory management. It’s not about state of the art software. It’s about knowing what is possible (from a business standpoint) and selecting a tool that can produce it.

The problem is that many businesses hand off the (entire) selection of the business software to the IT folk. Many IT folk know too little. But they’d never admit it. So we see ERP systems that half work, and don’t produce the ROI they were designed to produce. Oh, they work from a technical standpoint. It’s the business standpoint where they fail miserably.

The danger of knowing too little.

Microsoft Dynamics AX – Directed to the Enterprise

Microsoft might disagree with this simplification, but they seem to have identified two basic market segments: SMB (Small and Mid-sized businesses) and enterprise. In the Enterprise space, Dynamics AX is the ERP system targeted. Licensing for enterprise AX will soon be available through the volume license agreement channel, though the requirements for the partner organization providing licenses in this model will be significantly greater.

The other Dynamics products (NAV and GP primarily, and perhaps SL to a lesser degree), will have a new licensing model. The changes will be good for smaller businesses that need more functionality (like most of our clients).

What do you do when QuickBooks isn’t quite enough for your business?

Intuit’s QuickBooks product is one of the best known products for small business accounting that exists. Intuit does a good job marketing the product,  most accountants and bookkeepers are familiar with it, and it is easy to use. Perhaps most important is the fact that the various QuickBooks products (Pro, Premier, Deluxe, Enterprise, etc.) are priced to be attractive.

But what do you do when QuickBooks isn’t quite enough? You can purchase another product in the mid-market or use a product like FishBowl, but these alternatives are often quite expensive in relation to what you need. Sometimes, they don’t provide what you need. What do you do, for example, if you need a specific report that isn’t available in QuickBooks and can’t be generated using the “Customize Report” option? If you have QuickBooks Enterprise Solution, you can use a report writer like Crystal Reports and access the data through ODBC. If your needs are complex at all, you’ll discover as other businesses have that Crystal Reports is easy to use for basic reports, but more advance reports require some programming expertise.

We often deal with exactly these issues. The QuickBooks SDK combined with the ODBC link allows us to extract data from QuickBooks and do a host of things with it. Data Guidance Group has developed a set of programming tools that allow us to quickly assemble programs to meet your detailed needs.

If you’ve got an idea that would save you hours of time, or you need to know if something’s possible with QuickBooks, call a developer. We’re glad to answer questions about what’s possible with QuickBooks.

Changing the Way You Think About Business Software (ERP) and Technology

For 20+ years, DGG has really been in the business of changing the way our customers think about business, accounting, and ERP software. Changing the way you think about business software and technology can make you a lot of money. I’m thinking that perhaps we should have been talking about this for a long time.

Why? Our customers know that we’re different because we’re deep in both business and technology. Being deep in business changes (or should change) the way you think about software and technology in general. Using technology in business is like using a car.Photo of a man looking at the screen of his laptop.

The car is the hardware and infrastructure. The cables and racks and servers and operating systems (for example, Windows Server or Linux). Information Technology (IT) professionals spend a great deal of their time keeping the car working and tuning it up. I was talking to a customer’s IT support a week or so ago. He was lamenting the fact that the previous support person didn’t have individual servers for each piece of software: email on one server, web services on another, and accounting software on yet another. From an infrastructure standpoint, I completely agree with his objective. But polishing and tuning up the car doesn’t get you anywhere. Having the car (or server) running well is a precondition or prerequisite for everything else.

The gas is the application software. I’m not thinking about server software: SQL, email, etc. I’m thinking about Word, Excel, accounting, and business operations software. In order to go anywhere (in business or in a car) you need gas. This is the place many businesses (and IT departments) fall flat. They have new hardware on which they spend thousands of dollars with software that’s 20 years old. Old gas is bad for engines; old software can be equally bad for companies.

The result of old software is that businesses begin to think in terms of the software capability they have. Twenty years ago, we were happy that software worked and was stable. If we started the day with 10 in inventory, invoiced 2, and the computer said we h ad 8 left, we were ecstatic. Today, we expect the features we thought were whiz-bang in 1992. A car with 1992 gas sputters along, wheezing–if it runs at all. A business just creates a huge amount of work and “fights” its software by using Excel, ACCESS, and other tools to do the heavy lifting.

Finally, there’s the driver training. Anyone who’s taught a 15-year-old to drive knows that without training, the best place for the car and the gas is in the garage. Without proper training, you can hurt yourself.

And here’s where the analogy of the car vs. business technology breaks down. If your car doesn’t run, you don’t have gas, or you can’t drive, you find out pretty quickly. You wind up walking, pushing, or having a heart-to-heart conversation with a telephone pole or police officer. If your business technology isn’t optimal, you can run for a long time (harder, with more difficulty) without realizing it.

I’ve seen businesses run into the ground because they didn’t use the right software or didn’t use software right.

There’s more information on business software on the DGG site, and our Profit Tools eBook can provide some ideas.


No Time Sheets; No Hourly Rates

Photo of a man who might be a CPA I was trained in Public Accounting, as a CPA. I’m not sure that’s a good thing; I’m pretty sure it’s not a bad thing. Before you ask, I don’t do tax returns and I know very little about IFRS other than the acronym and that it’s important.

I do know, however, that time was important in public accounting. We lived and died (not literally, but in our careers) by the billable hour. More was better; too few and you’d find yourself in the unemployment line or looking for another job.

For management, it was an easy way to judge our contribution. Clients often didn’t receive it very well, particularly when the invoice was more than the “estimate.”

As of March 1, 2012, the only billable hours at DGG will be those we have to track because of existing contracts. Those contracts will end sometime in the next 8 or 10 months, and we will offer fixed prices to all of those customers.

Net results? (a) We can focus on delivering quality rather than billable hours. (b) We will manage delivery of a high quality product on time and on budget rather than managing the number of hours. (c) Customers will know exactly what the invoice will be at the end of the work. No surprises.

So, the billable hour is dead at DGG. Time sheets are dead. Hourly rates are no more.

From now on, we’ll use the time we save to help customers get more profit out of their existing systems. That was how I got into this business in the first place, and it’s what DGG is best at.

Payroll (Social Security) Tax Holiday Extended

Our friends at Ford & Harrison, LLP (labor attorneys) forwarded their newest newsletter with the information that Congress passed the 2% Social Security tax extension bill without waiting until the last minute. Ford & Harrison’s newsletter reads:

Executive Summary: On February 18, 2012, the Senate passed a bill that extends the tax break on the employee portion of the Social Security Old-Age, Survivor and Disability Insurance tax (OASDI) through the end of 2012. The House of Representatives had passed the bill earlier in the week, and it is now awaiting signature by President Obama.

Last week, the House of Representatives and the Senate passed The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which extends, for the remainder of 2012, the 2% payroll tax cut that is otherwise scheduled to expire at the end of February. The bill has not yet been signed by President Obama, but he has said that he will sign it.

Thanks for the info, F&H. Very timely! I was concerned about doing another round of Payroll Tax updates to prepare for the end of the Social Security reduction only to go back in a week after they passed the bill and undo what we’d done.

As to Congress, maybe they are getting the idea that we’re tired of their shenanigans and posturing!

Payroll Withholding Set to Increase March 1

Congress hasn’t seen fit to extend the payroll tax reduction (2% reduction in Social Security for employees) beyond February 29, 2012. Be ready to install another payroll tax table shortly before the deadline (and another one when they finally decide to do the extension). Intuit has already sent email notices to payroll subscribers indicating that their update is ready.