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SouthWare Excellence Series: Making Excellence Easier Part Three: Application Analysis

Written By: Charles Chewning Jr.
Published On: January 6 2005

Introduction

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).

Detailed Application Analysis

ExcelReport

This unique application allows users to establish both subjective and objective—financial—goals, grade progress toward achieving these goals, measures progress over time, and thereby help people do their jobs better.

The system supports a completely user-defined set of critical success factors for each business, business unit, or even individual employee. These success factors can be financial values or ratios that are then associated with specific grades or subjective factors that will be evaluated and assigned a grade. In addition to calculating and displaying grades on a period basis—with up to five years history—, the system will display both trend lines as well as a grade point average (GPA), just like in an educational setting.

Although there is any number of success factors that can be established and tracked, here are some questions that can be asked and answered.

  • Which areas of the business need attention?

  • Are we making progress toward our goals?

  • Are we able to fulfill customers' orders?

  • Are we shipping orders on time?

  • What's the average approval rating on sales orders?

  • Which items are returned the most due to poor quality?

  • How much are errors and complaints costing us?

  • What do our customers think about us?

  • Are we hitting our financial goals?

  • Which vendors are giving us good service?

  • What are the recent events involving this customer?

  • Have we responded to all the ideas and suggestions we've received lately?

  • How solid are our vendor relationships?

  • Are our employees satisfied with their careers?

  • How well are we preparing for the future?

This is Part Three of a five-part note.

Part One detailed the company background and the product overview.

Part Two looked at what makes SouthWare different.

Part Four will continue to discuss the applications and development environment.

Part Five will provide a competitive analysis and make user recommendations.

TaskWise

TaskWise is SouthWare's vision of a completely integrated business management system that includes task management, relationship management, exception management, and information sharing or collaboration. Users can manage their daily work through one convenient portal that gives them access to both information and functions, all wrapped around a central task manager.

  • Task Management: Users can define individual or linked tasks that can be text oriented, such as reminders or descriptions of issues that need to be addressed but are not tied to specific accounting functions. Other tasks can be tied directly to accounting functions such as approving purchase orders, invoices, or hyperlinks to specific SouthWare functions, such as order entry for an order clerk. In essence, SouthWare has taken the concept of user-defined menus, which it supports, to the next logical level whereby the concept of a menu has been replaced by a completely integrated task management system that presents those tasks the user should address.

  • Relationship Management: TaskWise can function as a complete relationship management system. Since this is a task manager and not a CRM system, TaskWise can handle vendor and employee relations just as easily as it can handle customer relations. TaskWise can also integrate with Microsoft Outlook via SouthWare's OfficeLink application.

  • Exception Management: TaskWise is tied into a robust Alert Driver application that identifies exceptions and assigns them to specific named individuals as one or more tasks. Standard tasks can be linked together to form a complete business process. User can also create new alert drivers as an integral part of their daily business functions. For example, they may be worried about the cost of specific items rising very quickly in the future. Rather than checking the prices every day, they can define a new alert driver and prompt the system to notify them if the price rises above a specified value or if the price is rising faster than a certain rate. Many products support alerts, but SouthWare is one of the very few products that provides users with a software-driven business management system that helps them address potential or actual problems. The key concept here is the notion of a system that incorporates what used to be manual control processes into a single software-driven and software-supported business methodology.

  • Collaboration: By presenting a software-driven business management system, SouthWare by default supports collaboration. Alerts and tasks can be shared with anyone in the organization, together with supporting e-mails. While there will always be one person who is responsible for a particular exception as an example, that person can send that "file" to another person and ask that they handle it, but they can also ask that person to send them a confirmation that the task has been completed.

Collections Adapter

Although the collections process could be handled through an alert system—as it is with some other products—, collections is such an important function that it should be handled by a separate task-driven, contact management application. SouthWare has recognized this and created a full-featured collections management application that allows users to track and resolve past due invoices or customers who have exceeded their credit limit.

Specifically, users can

  • Know who needs a collection call based on either days outstanding for a specific invoice or customers that have exceeded their credit limit.

  • Review and record the status of each outstanding invoice during a collections call.

  • Know what was said on past collection calls.

  • Easily access the details of any overdue invoice.

  • Record what was said and when the customer promised to pay.

  • Create mail merge letters.

  • Systematically follow up with every customer who needs attention.

  • Know when to withhold further credit to a customer.

  • Decide how frequently to follow up with each customer.

Cash Flow Ledger

Rather than just providing a bank reconciliation application, SouthWare has expanded this application to help users track and analyze cash flows. Specifically, users can

  • Capture cash flow history as it happens without any extra work.

  • Understand how today's cash balance got that way.

  • Review daily cash balance fluctuations.

  • Quickly reconcile G/L cash to a bank statement.

  • Review each type of cash flow to look for trends.

  • See the details behind any cash flow transaction.

  • See the detail cash, check, and credit card payments in each day's deposit.

  • Look at cash flows over any period of time.

  • Easily identify accounting errors involving cash accounts.

  • Track the cash for a single bank account using several G/L cash accounts.

Purchasing

SouthWare has created a comprehensive purchasing system that is significantly more robust than other mid-market accounting systems. Specifically, the purchasing application

  • Auto-generates purchase orders with user confirmation of each purchase item and purchase quantity.

  • Tracks seasonality and recent sales history to optimize inventory levels by dynamically changing the reorder points to reflect both historical and estimated sales volume.

  • Supports vendor quantity discounts. For some reason most mid-market accounting products do not support buy-side volume pricing, only sell-side discounts.

  • Also takes into consideration, when creating a purchase order, factors such as economic order quantity (EOQ), movement class, prior usage, minimum and maximum, and pricing from competing vendors.

  • Takes into consideration when assigning a vendor requested delivery date factors such as a customer's requested ship date, the vendor's typical lead time, internal administrative lead times, and production lead times.

  • Optionally moves purchase orders into an approval WorkFlow that is fully user-defined.

Warehouse Tracking

The management of a warehouse can become quite a complex operation and in many instances a bottleneck in the order-to-cash process. In addition, the "accounting" data records are being accessed by people who are definitely not accountants, much less accounting clerks. SouthWare has addressed both of these issues by releasing— in November 2004—a warehouse tracking application that supports sophisticated warehouse management techniques while at the same time separating the management and control functions of the warehouse from the accounting application itself.

The process of receiving, put away, storage, replenishment of picking bins, pick and pack, and finally shipping can generate a significant data flow. SouthWare does not completely separate the warehouse from accounting, but it limits when information needs to be shared.

The formal accounting system certainly needs to know when and in what quantity materials are received. The warehouse needs to know the details concerning each order (item, quantity to ship, and requested ship date). The accounting system needs to know when an order has been shipped. That basic information is shared between the accounting applications and the warehouse, but that's all. Everything that concerns the management and movement of materials within the warehouse is kept within the warehouse application. The accounting records are not updated because they do not have to be updated. By disconnecting some of the links between accounting and warehouse management, the management of both is actually improved significantly. The "official" records are maintained by the accounting system while the warehouse tracking system can be used to report and correct any discrepancies.

SouthWare's warehouse management features include

  • Multilevel storage IDs (warehouse, zone, aisle, shelf, position, bin).

  • Fixed as well as moveable locations (trailers, pallets, license plates, etc.).

  • Location attributes (refrigerated, hazardous, secured, etc.) that are associated with item attributes.

  • Location capacities (weight or volume).

  • Location codes that map, for example, a bin to a specific level, shelf, aisle, and zone.

  • Group storage IDs by zones or areas.

  • Preassigned or variable storage locations for specific items.

  • Restricted storage by customer or vendor.

  • Direct putaway into bin or location or place into temporary receiving location with subsequent putaway.

  • Identification of picking or storage bins so that orders are always picked from the picking bins that are subsequently resupplied from the storage bins.

  • Wave or zone picking.

  • Transactions are assigned to stations that are then associated by warehouse managers to individual employees. If the volume in a station only requires one person, then only one person can be assigned to pick all orders.

  • Support for RF devices.

  • Suggested picking locations based on age, location preference, or quantity stored. For example, if an order or orders call for 105 items, and there are 100 in ten cartons in one location, the picker will be directed to pick the ten cartons and then retrieve the other five from a bin where there are individual items stored loosely.

  • Separate packing and shipping transactions.

Browser-based Handheld Processing

SouthWare has created a link to RF scanners that warehouse personnel can use to improve efficiency. Specific attributes include

  • Designed to fit within the screen of a hand-held device without scrolling.

  • Display next assigned transaction.

  • Complete and update transaction.

  • Scan storage ID and view contents.

  • Scan stock ID and view current locations and quantities.

  • Additional functions can be added via customization.

This concludes Part Three of a five-part note.

Part One detailed the company background and the product overview.

Part Two looked at what makes SouthWare different.

Part Four will continue to discuss the applications and development environment.

Part Five will provide a competitive analysis and make user recommendations.

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 cchewning@accountinglibrary.com.

 
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