Sage ERP X3 Version 6: A Sneak Peek

We recently got a sneak peek of the new version of Sage ERP X3 that is scheduled to be released in October 2009. We were given a detailed demonstration of some of its core functional changes and advancements and we have summarized our findings differently.

Gabriel Gheorghiu’s Take on Version 6

There are features that are new to X3 and quite rare for an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution for midsized companies.

Extended and Integrated Business Functionality Coverage

We saw it. It’s all in there—from purchasing to sales, to inventory and accounting, to customer relationship management (CRM) and production. Of course, it would take hours to see how it all works. To track performance and key performance indicators (KPIs), X3 uses the Crystal Reports generator, which houses a library of 400 reports and Business Objects technology for dashboards and Web access.

New Technologies for Collaboration and Monitoring

Integration with Microsoft Office allows users to create, edit, and save files without leaving the system. This also makes collaboration between users easier since all files are saved in the database.  Another interesting option is that customers and vendors can interact with the system.

Complex but Reliable Security and Workflows

Workflows are really easy to define and modify: a click or drag-and-drop will suffice for simple processes. The Visual Process Designer comes with over 100 predefined processes. The level of complexity supported is supposed to be very high, but this is something that cannot be demonstrated but worth mentioning. Security is essential when processes become complex, and X3 offers Web encryption as well as access control by user, group, and role.

Flexible for Growth and Changing Needs

The modularity of the system allows companies to implement only the modules that they need (others can be added later). The Sage ERP X3 fourth generation language integrated development environment (4GL IDE) can be used to create custom applications, which can be integrated within the product. This is another feature that cannot be demonstrated during an online demo, but it’s worth mentioning since it’s one of the features that sets X3 apart from its competitors.

Finally, here are the major enhancements in Version 6 compared to Version 5 (see graph below):
-    Finance has been entirely rebuilt and now completely covers the functionality for this module. The main changes are related to multi-country, multicurrency, and multi-legislation compliance, as well as advanced fixed assets and advanced budgeting.
-    E-commerce functionality has been greatly improved, as well as the functionality for distribution (shipment preparation and landed cost), work order (WO), and manufacturing (made-to-order and sub contracting).
-    Functionality like sales, purchases, stock management, material requirement planning (MRP), business intelligence (BI), and finance are now fully covered.

functional-scope-x3.PNG [click to enlarge]

Khudsiya Quadri’s Take on Version 6

New versions of existing software are often not highly regarded. Most organizations fail to see the benefits of software upgrades because there are no magical answers to these questions: Is changing to a new system beneficial? Will it meet the business requirements?

The following should be considered by users and potential Sage ERP X3 system buyers

Multi design/Functionality Changes

Sage ERP X3’s financial module has been revamped in Version 6 to provide international coverage.  Companies will benefit from the following suites: budget and cost accounting; fixed assets management; financial; commitment management; and personal accounting. Version 6 is capable of handling transfers and reporting information internationally between companies and subsidiaries. It makes multinational management operations seamless by combining decentralized information and the ability to handle multiple currencies, languages, companies, sites, legislations, and country-specific accounting rules and standards without losing the audit functionality.

Sage’s demonstration team also highlighted that Version 6 has built-in international capabilities, designed especially for midsized organizations. Their purpose is to lower the complexity and bring global operations together within the system. The pre-built settings containing country-specific standards and regulations make sharing common data and processes between different locations and sites easier. This speeds up the implementation process across multinational organizations with reduced IT costs.

Sage X3 Version 6 has very rich ergonomics and visual processes. The look and feel across all functional areas is the same, regardless of whether it’s Web client- or server-enabled. The user interface (UI) has multiple graphical presentations with a drag-and-drop capability for hierarchical datasets. The user has the ability to see agendas, spider Web presentations, and Gantt presentations (data elements) in real time and can drill into the specifics from the presentation right into the transactional view. The Sage Application Framework for Enterprise Technology (SAFE X3) visual process comes with over 100 standard work procedures in graphical view, with one-click access to the underlying systems’ functions to identify how the process is setup with transactions and entities being linked together for the complete visual of the process. Organizations can build their business process in the process designer tool and customize without having to change the source code.

Sage X3 Version 6 is compatible with Windows, Linux, Unix, SQL server, Oracle, client/server, or Web access regardless of what architecture design the organization currently has set up.

Scalability/Integration/Web Power

As the organization’s business grows, systems (within the organization) need to grow with the company’s business needs (without increasing cost). Sage ERP X3 Version 6 doesn’t require any add-ons, but rather, the ERP software comes with all the functionality needed by a midsized company (workflow, batch server, database administration, reporting tools, BI, and security management).

The application allows companies to systematize and prioritize their global development by business areas and regions. Companies can scale up from 10 to 1,000 users because they can use the system from any location (the ERP system can be accessed remotely or via a Web browser).

Collaboration between partners, suppliers, and customers is in real time, which helps manage end-to-end processes more cost-effectively. By having enhanced communication methods with real-time information availability, decision-makers can offer quicker responses to customers, suppliers, and vendors. In the demonstration, Sage presented a variety of scenarios. In one scenario suppliers or authorized vendors had secure access to the system in order to find information about upcoming requirements or changes to reflect the demand fluctuation from customers. This business process-enabled capability creates end-to-end visibility for all parties involved. This method reduces waste and eliminates gaps from the process with scalability and Web enhancement.

Throughout the presentation, multiple business processes were integrated within Sage X3 Version 6 (order entry, shipment delivery, etc.), and all tasks were seamlessly tracked in real time. Alerts were automatically generated if any issue arose, which helped resolve the problem without jeopardizing business performance. The embedded workflow functions enable organizations to automate information flow inside (and outside) the organization based on business process requirements.

Application Platform

Sage ERP X3 is built on SAFE X3 technology. This is a common development platform for all Sage applications for midsized enterprises. The main features of this application platform are Web service-enabled applications (.NET, extensible markup language [XML], universal description, discovery, and integration [UDDI], web service description language [WDSL], simple object access protocol [SOAP] etc.), with enhanced BI engine, reporting tools, workflow engines, database requesters, import/export capability, and collaborative UI and portal (either Web or Windows). SAFE X3’s key feature is the 4GL IDE, which is used for both constructing application modules and for customizing Sage ERP X3 Version 6 to each unique organization’s requirements within the implementation phase without needing to change the source code. This development method supports progressive application deployment and is provided at no extra cost to companies using Sage ERP X3 Version 6. The IDE tool comes with documentation and delivery tools, and it is independent from the execution environment and UI. Therefore, changes made within the 4GL are tested and vetted before released into the live environment. Sage ERP X3 is moving towards Eclipse 4GL editor and providing customers with more enhanced development platforms. Below is a picture of the SAFE X3 framework:

safe-x3.PNG [click to enlarge]

Stay tuned for the release of Sage X3 Version 6 which has smart user ergonomics, no third-party tools to integrate with, no impact on business applications when technology changes, and much more.
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