Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sage launches new version of Sage ERP Accpac

I’ve recently spent some time getting reacquainted with Sage ERP solutions. I spent yesterday in Boston at the Sage North American Analyst day and earlier today watched the virtual launch of Sage Accpac V6.0, which was officially released last week. I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised to find how far Accpac had come since my CA days (1994-2002) when the product was owned by CA.
During the latter part of my stint at CA, I was VP of Product Strategy for interBiz, which was the independent business unit that was the home of all CA’s business applications. Correction…  all but one. Accpac was not part of interBiz. There were commercial reasons for this. Accpac operated as a subsidiary which later went on the block to be sold. But interestingly enough it was interBiz that was divested first, sold to SSA Global in 2002. It wasn’t until 2004 when Sage bought Accpac.
But beyond the commercial aspects, interBiz was the home of all the ERP solutions CA owned and back then I wouldn’t have called Accpac an ERP solution. I would have simply called it an accounting package for smaller businesses. Had that continued to be the case, Accpac today would belong with Sage’s other “accounting” solutions… Sage Peachtree and Sage Simply Accounting.
I define ERP as an integrated suite of modules that forms the operational system of record of the transactions that run a business. In this context Sage Accpac qualifies as an ERP solution targeting small to lower midmarket multinational businesses in several specific but quite diverse verticals: Finance, Service, Mining and Hospitality. Without the underlying base of MRP it is not really a fit for manufacturers, but Sage has other products that target manufacturing (Sage X3 and Sage MAS). Sage also distinguishes between “global” and “multi-national”. While Sage Accpac can deal with multi-currency and multi-language environments, it is assumed each legal entity in each country will run its own instance of the software, rather than running a global centralized, single instance.
The latest version has made some strides in terms of the underlying technology platform. While the product has been available via the web for the past 10 years, until the latest version it was based on ActiveX controls. Scott Zandbergen, VP of product management for the Sage Accpac line, refers to the technology improvements as “next generation” and “real web-based delivery.”  This is most evident in its new portal. The new Sage ERP Accpac 6.0 web Portal is built on the Google Web Toolkit platform, providing the first step towards releasing a full Web based Sage ERP Accpac solution as well as mobile access from iPhone, iPad and Android™ devices.
Sage Accpac’s strength still lies in the accounting functions, and therefore some of the new features are for the accountants. Like the new fiscal period management (which Sage says was a top requested feature by its users) allowing the locking of fiscal periods by module. But beyond accounting, the new release also includes embedded Business Intelligence (BI) functionality and built-in CRM.
Embedded BI functionality includes Sage ERP Accpac Snapshots that allow easy access to operational metrics in a graphical presentation with drilldown capabilities to underlying financial reports. User-configurable snapshots include balance sheet, income statement, and aged receivables. Sage ERP Accpac Inquiry allows users to easily and intuitively create personalized query lists on the fly, without the knowledge of databases or programming.
SageCRM is included as part of the Sage ERP Accpac solution at no additional charge. Over the past several years, as ERP footprints have expanded,  it has become harder and harder to tell where ERP ends and other applications begin. This is actually good news for the corporate practitioner. Connecting the front office (CRM) and the back office (typically ERP) is a logical place to blur these lines and in doing so, add value for the users of both. A good example of how this can be useful: sales reps can add a sales order without ever leaving  SageCRM, but they are actually using a function in Sage Accpac.
More on some of the general plans across the entire line of Sage ERP products, including Sage Advisor Technology, SData and more in posts to come.

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