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SouthWare Excellence Series: Making Excellence Easier Part Two: What Makes SouthWare Different?

Written By: Charles Chewning Jr.
Published On: January 5 2005

What Makes SouthWare Different

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 is a senior player in the middle market, having been founded in 1984. While its roots are in the distribution industry, the Excellence Series is not just a distribution play. It serves a number of industries and supports a very large number of users.

While many products have moved to more "modern" development environments, SouthWare has stuck with Acucobol and this decision appears to have been wise. Revision ten of the Excellence Series runs in any operating environment and yet the product supports all of the leading graphical expectations.

The Excellence Series is in fact a superior product that provides users with a powerful business management framework that is in many aspects far ahead of other middle market products.

  • Portability: The Excellence Series is compatible with Windows and LINUX/UNIX, as well as over 600 other platforms, allowing users to mix and match computers in a network as needed.

  • Versatility: The Excellence Series offers users significant functionality, particularly in the area of distribution and service management, but has recognized that all companies do not require every application. This granular approach to product development allows users to select only what they need without having to cope with overly complex or costly functions they do not need.

  • Development Environment: While the Excellence Series supports unlimited modification, it does so using tools that guarantee access to software updates.

  • Responsibility: If a programming issue is identified, it receives priority until it has been resolved. People do not have to wait for bug fixes.

  • Task and Exception Management: SouthWare has recognized that systems have to move away from accounting (data input and report generation) and toward a more proactive business management orientation whereby the system itself will help people do their jobs better. Many systems generate alerts (exception management), but few actually provide people with the tools (task management) required to resolve these issues.

  • Job Assessment: The Excellence Series is the only product in the middle market that helps people "grade" their performance. ExcelReport is the only application of which I am aware that helps users establish both objective—financial—and subjective—performance—goals, measure performance over time, and actually grade that performance.

  • Maturity: SouthWare produces a mature business management system that has been thoroughly tested in the field.

  • Internet and Intranet Functionality: SouthWare's NetLink provides controlled access to business data via Internet and intranet browsers. It offers easy-to-use standard web pages as well as a development environment that allows users to easily create their own real-time data web pages without requiring a high-level of technical expertise.

  • Extended Data: SouthWare has recognized that organizations may want to track data that is unique to either their industry or their business model. Additional fields can be added throughout the system, but unlike other products, these fields are recognized instantly by the system and are available for reporting or other uses.

This is Part Two of a five-part note.

Part One detailed the company background and the product overview.

Parts Three and Four will discuss the applications and development environment.

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

SouthWare Technology

SouthWare's Excellence Series utilizes a development methodology labeled "S.M.A.R.T." for Strengthening Mature Applications with Recent Technology. Specifically, SouthWare uses tools from Acucorp, Inc. (http://www.acucorp.com/) and has blended these mature tools into a development philosophy that combines product stability and processing speed with modern business programming methodologies to give users the "best of both worlds."

Acucobol-GT with graphical extensions, the newest version of Acucobol, provides many graphical user interface options to take advantage of graphical system capabilities. The current version of the Excellence Series fully utilizes these features. The latest release does have that graphical look and certainly acts a lot like a fully graphical system. SouthWare is improving the look and feel of the system and will continue to move in that direction as quickly as it can. This does not mean SouthWare is abandoning other platforms. In fact, the latest release can still be utilized by companies with text-based workstations. However, some new features are supported only by Windows workstations.

The use of a technology such as Acucobol-GT also allows the Excellence Series to run on virtually any client or server system, including Linux.

The Excellence Series uses Acucobol-GT's proprietary Vision file system out-of-the-box. For added flexibility users can replace or mix in other file systems including C-ISAM, Btrieve, MINISAM, and relational databases such as MS SQL and Oracle.

Product Pricing

Although resellers set the final price, which can and most often does include software, data conversation, training, and some degree of programming or report creation, a typical ten-user system that includes all of the core accounting applications costs in the neighborhood of $ 25,000 (USD)—software cost only. This is just an indicator price with actual pricing being set by the reseller. The price can be lower or considerably higher, depending on the number of users, data conversion, and programming requirements of the user.

Resellers

SouthWare operates through a network of ninety resellers, most of who have been allied with SouthWare for a number of years. Rather than accepting anyone who wants to sell software, SouthWare has been highly selective in its reseller recruitment.Resellers must demonstrate proficiency and offer support to their clients. SouthWare supports its resellers, who in turn support their clients.

While the Excellence Series has been developed in Acucobol, it is not strictly necessary for resellers to have to learn this language in order to sell the product. SouthWare's development environment allows resellers to create program modifications in any language, not just Acucobol.

This concludes Part Two of a five-part note.

Part One detailed the company background and the product overview.

Parts Three and Four will 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 mailto:cchewning@accountinglibrary.com

 
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