SouthWare Excellence Series: Making Excellence Easier Part Five: Competitive Analysis and User Recommendations
Featured Author - Charles Chewning Jr. - January 8, 2005
The process of selecting mid-market accounting software usually starts with products that have achieved some name recognition and that's fine as long as the search does not end there. SouthWare Innovations (http://www.southware.com) has created in its Excellence Series a worthy competitor serving a number of industries and offering users a surprising array of functionality, either directly as SouthWare applications or through one of their independent sales vendors (ISV).
SouthWare competes in the middle-market, which is defined as companies with revenues in the $5 million to $250 million (USD) range. Its historic strength in the distribution market places it in competition against three product classes: distribution-specific products (FACTS, SX Enterprise, and TakeStock all part of the Infor family of products, and CommerceCenter from Profit 21), general accounting products with distribution capabilities (Great Plains, Navision, and to some extent Solomon from Microsoft Business Solutions, MAS 500 from Best Software), and finally manufacturing products that also compete in the distribution space (e.g., Syspro from Syspro).
Service management can be thought of as activities supporting both manufacturing and distribution functions and, as such, SouthWare will find itself in competition against the same distribution products as well as to a lesser extent manufacturing products.
SouthWare's strength and weakness are its size. As a relatively small company it can react very quickly when required. This is particularly true when it comes to correcting software glitches. While the size of the company itself is not necessarily a competitive weakness, SouthWare does not support a large number of resellers and this can lead to geographical challenges in that there are gaps in coverage of certain market areas. SouthWare's strongest resellers actually compete anywhere there is a business opportunity. Unfortunately some users may not feel comfortable being supported by someone that is not in the same geographical region.
Some people may consider Acucobol, SouthWare's development environment to be a weakness, particularly given Microsoft's success in convincing people that everything in the mid-market should be allied with Windows. This may be a viable concern for larger companies with their own IT staff that may not have any past experience with Acucobol, but it certainly should be of lesser concern to smaller organizations that will naturally rely more extensively on their reseller to provide the required technical expertise.
SouthWare has always required that its resellers offer a full range of services, including technical support. While the absolute number of resellers may be less than its larger competitors, SouthWare resellers in general offer a more complete range of services and support.
This is Part Five of a five-part note.
Part One detailed the company background and the product overview.
Part Two looked at what makes SouthWare different.
Parts Three and Four discussed the applications and development environment.
Rather than restricting software selection to only one product class or products that have achieved some degree of name recognition, users should cast as wide a net as possible by identifying products that meet their functional requirements. SouthWare has been a player in the distribution industry since its founding and has developed over time additional competencies in service management, rental equipment, e-commerce, and through its ISVs manufacturing, and other industry specific applications.
The one fact that really sets SouthWare apart from its competition is its development of a comprehensive business management system that helps users do their jobs better. All products including SouthWare offer comprehensive accounting functions that handle data input, data processing, and report generation. Most products have moved toward support for business management functions and exception management. SouthWare is the only product that has embraced this concept at all levels, providing users executive information systems, exception management, task management, and even performance assessment.
About the Author
Charles Chewning, Jr. is president of Solutions, a Richmond, Virginia-based consulting firm specializing in accounting software selection. He is considered a leading software selection expert. Chewning has written a number of accounting software reviews and is a frequent speaker on the subject of accounting software selection as well as sales and marketing. He is the publisher of The Accounting Library (http://www.accountinglibrary.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.