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Best Software Delivers More Insights To Its Partners (As Well As To The Market) Part Two: Event Summary Continued

Written By: Predrag Jakovljevic
Published On: July 25 2003

Vertical Product Focus, Integration and Cross-selling Remain Key Tenets

Addressing another must have' trend of future modern enterprise applications the delivery of vertical industry solutions Best Software, Inc.'s initial vertical product focus includes the areas of nonprofits, accountants, distribution and manufacturing. The company's 2002 acquisition of MIP has given it a stronghold in the nonprofit market segment, while the company also currently has over 150,000 customers in manufacturing and distribution using Peachtree and MAS 90 products.

Early in its history, Best Software built a solid customer base on its manufacturing and distribution modules for MAS 90, and today, nearly 40% of MAS 90's customer base is made up of companies involved in manufacturing or distribution. Distribution and manufacturing suites were later developed for MAS 500, including additional functionality for mid-sized businesses with more complex needs, while over the past 24 months, the number of channel partners for the product line has more than doubled. Also, more than 40,000 accounting and bookkeeping firms currently use or recommend Best Software products.

To that end, during Insights 2003 (for more information see Part One), Best Software announced several new industry-specific kits and a strategic acquisition in support of its vertical product strategy, which targets manufacturers, distributors, nonprofits and accountants. In March, Best Software introduced new manufacturing, distribution and nonprofit industry kits for Peachtree Complete Accounting 2003, which includes new specialized Crystal Reports and sample company data relevant for each industry. A new product designed specifically for accountants was introduced in June. The company also announced FAS Construction in Progress Accounting, a new module that aims at allowing companies to better control their capital budgets and streamline capital asset accounting processes. Best Software is continuing to drive overall customer growth and expansion in these key segments via its extensive nationwide network of 6,600 Business Partners, many of which capitalized on interest-free financing available through American Express as part of the company's earlier described new Partner Advantage Program.

  • Manufacturing and Distribution The Peachtree Manufacturing and Distribution kits were the first step in its campaign to increase its presence in its key vertical markets. Released in early 2003, the new entry-level products complement the more powerful manufacturing automation and distribution capabilities found in the company's MAS 90, MAS 200 and MAS 500 solutions, and create a logical upgrade for customers using Peachtree Complete Accounting. The new Peachtree products include reports, content, online help and training courses all designed specifically for the needs of small manufacturers and distributors, while industry-oriented "How-To" guides train customers on how to tailor the software for their specific industry.

  • Nonprofit and Government Best Software also strengthened its nonprofit offerings during the period with the February 2003 acquisition of KTS Group, a leading provider of fundraising solutions, now part of its Nonprofit Solutions offerings. Today, its growing nonprofit customer base provides a natural migration and cross-selling opportunity for its Peachtree, MAS 90 and FAS Gov fixed asset management solutions.

  • Accountants Most recently, during Insights 2003, Best Software introduced two new Peachtree products designed to provide additional functionality to small businesses and meet the specialized needs of accountants serving Peachtree customers.

Designed for small businesses with 1-50 employees, Peachtree Premium Accounting is an affordable interim step for small businesses who need more than what is available in Peachtree Complete Accounting, but are not yet ready for Best Software's higher-end MAS 90 solution. Available since mid-June, Peachtree Premium Accounting includes features that growing businesses will appreciate, such as: company consolidation (with a company consolidation wizard, small businesses can run consolidated financial reports, such as Balance Sheets and Income Statements for multiple companies to see how their business is operating overall, with the added flexibility to still maintain separate books for each), Compensation Management (a new compensation history report helps small businesses better manage employee records through flexible tracking of raises and notes on raises and performance reviews), Advanced Budgeting (with the ability to track up to three budget years, easily make revisions and measure variances along the way), Crystal Reports 9 for Peachtree (allows for exporting to Adobe and offers Report Alerts for enhanced monitoring of business conditions), and six months free access from Peachtree Web Accounting (with secure remote access to accounting data for expanded business management capabilities to enter sales orders, invoices, expense checks, maintenance records, etc.).

Also available since June, Peachtree Premium Accounting - Accountants' Edition includes all the features in the standard edition of Peachtree Premium Accounting, plus the ability to set up, open and edit clients' data from any Peachtree 2004 product, saving accountants time and hard drive space.

This is Part Two of a five-part note.

Part One began the Event Summary.

Parts Three and Four will present the Market Impact.

Part Five will detail the Challenges, and make User Recommendations.

More New Products and Product Enhancements

Further, Best Software announced a broad spectrum of new products and product enhancements designed to provide additional upgrade and cross-selling opportunities for both small and mid-sized customers and its 6,600 business partners, respectively. Best Software reported strong progress in leveraging installed base opportunities for integrated front-office/back-office CRM and accounting solutions with SalesLogix and MAS 500 for mid-market customers, and with ACT! and Peachtree for small businesses. Approximately 7% of all new license sales this year have resulted from such increased cross-selling initiatives across the company's diverse portfolio. The company has also met the specialized application needs of its small business customers for more integrated business management solutions by introducing a variety of new offerings under its flagship Peachtree brand. Building on the previous success of ACT! Link for Peachtree and FAS for Peachtree, the company will introduce Timeslips for Peachtree in August 2003. The new product should provide a stronger value proposition to Peachtree partners with existing customers seeking a more powerful time and billing solution.

Best Software has already delivered several new complementary CRM and accounting products this year for small businesses, including ACT! for Web and Palm, ACT! Link for Pocket PC, Peachtree Direct Deposit, ACT! Link for Peachtree and Timeslips for Sole Practitioners. To supplement these offerings, Small Business Division President Doug Meyer announced new additions to the company's flagship Peachtree and ACT! lines, including the above-mentioned Peachtree Premium Accounting and Peachtree Premium Accounting - Accountants' Edition, the first small business vertical market solution tailored specifically to accountants. Also, worth mentioning would be ACT! 6.0 for 2004, which is a bundle that includes online updates to ACT! 6.0, ACT! Link for Palm and ACT! Link for Pocket PC. For current ACT!6.0 users, the update has several new e-mail enhancements including the ability to use type-ahead features with e-mail addresses in the ACT! database, create activities from an e-mail message and create multiple e-mail signatures.

The company also announced several new products and related updates for mid-sized businesses, ranging from accounting to CRM to fixed asset management, with specialized versions for both non-profit and government customers. Each of the following products offer improved user interfaces and additional product flexibility for ease of integration and customization. To that end, available in September, release 6.3 of MAS 500 represents a major milestone in the life of the product the introduction of Business Insights Analyzer, a new data querying tool, with which less technical financial and line managers can extract and analyze information from the MAS 500 system with ease. Key to the Analyzer's simplicity are several pre-defined data views that join all logically related data in a single grid. From there, users can slice and dice the information by useful parameters such as product line, department or customer class, using pivot tables. They can also view data as a graph or chart displayed right inside the MAS 500 Desktop.

In addition to the Business Insights Analyzer, MAS 500 version 6.3 contains usability enhancements in the key areas of distribution, manufacturing, and project accounting, such as:

  • Improved Search Window Capabilities that make finding specific records faster and easier.
  • Enhanced lot, serial and bin navigators that simplify processes for customers using distribution, manufacturing and project accounting modules
  • New Vendor Performance Report, a virtual "report card" for each vendor, that combines unknown vendor metrics (i.e., goods damaged during delivery or improper packaging) entered during receipt of goods with system tracked vendor metrics (i.e., cost discrepancies or on time delivery)
  • Receipt of Goods Preferred Bin Put Away that increases accuracy and saves time in the warehouse by eliminating data entry
  • Streamlined Integration between Project Accounting and Manufacturing, allowing material intensive, project driven companies to group work orders into projects for costing purposes
  • Assign inspection and preventive maintenance dates to manufacturing machines, work centers and tools; supervisors can schedule staff to perform a task; and the system will send an automatic email alert reminder to the employee

The new versions of MAS 90 and 200, scheduled for general availability in the fall of 2003, represent a significant milestone for these products as well, streamlining ease of use and offering additional decision-making insights to customers for better business management. The new versions contain a variety of timesaving features for richer analysis and reporting, as well as added flexibility.

Further, the FAS Gov for MIP product enables bi-directional exchange of information between the MIP Fund Accounting product lines, and FAS Gov, the fixed asset accounting, reporting, and inventory solution for government, schools, and non-profit organizations needing to comply with Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statements 34/35. MIP Fund Accounting version 5.0, provides accounting departments in government and nonprofit sectors with significant feature enhancements, including a one-click interface option with all key functions, more user-defined fields for easy application tailoring, and significantly advanced analysis and management tools, such as a report manager, one-click report generation and improved Data Drill-Down features.

During the conference, Best Software also announced the availability of an update to SalesLogix 6.0, possibly the leading CRM product for small to mid-sized businesses. Version 6.1 offers new database support for both Oracle 8.1.7 and 9iR2, an updated Web user interface and enhanced customization capabilities within the SalesLogix Support Client. First introduced in October 2002, SalesLogix 6.0 was built on a new architecture that enables easy integration with back-office accounting and business management applications small and mid-sized businesses use every day to gain insight into their customers. The new architecture also provides a significantly improved method for customers to tailor SalesLogix to their company's unique business processes.

Divesting Abra Enterprise Products

Last but not least, to maintain its focus only on small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), Best Software has decided to divest and discontinue selling, marketing, and supporting the Abra Enterprise and Abra Online products in the US. Namely, on May 20, Kronos Incorporated (Nasdaq: KRON) announced it has acquired the Abra Enterprise customer base in a cash purchase transaction with Best Software. Best Software's Abra Suite solution is unaffected by the transaction. Best Software recognized that Abra Enterprise was designed for larger businesses with 250 to 2,500 employees, which require more complexity in their solutions and, therefore, demand a longer sales cycle, which is better served by a direct sales/service model. The vendor had admittedly been unable to attain a critical mass of resellers in the last few years to profitably manage this product line, and it has consequently decided to focus instead on its core market of SMEs who are served well by the Abra Suite HR/Payroll product line.

This concludes Part Two of a five-part note.

Part One began the Event Summary.

Parts Three and Four will present the Market Impact.

Part Five will detail the Challenges and make User Recommendations.

 
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