TEC Spotlight Report: Sage Accpac ERP

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"What does 'Accpac' stand for?" I ask Sage Accpac ERP's product marketing director Scott Pledger, during our phone call a few weeks ago. There's an extremely long pause at the other end of the line: it's practically an unfair question. After all, Accpac ERP was first developed 30 years, 3 companies, 3 brandings, and 6 product iterations ago.

Accpac was launched in 1979 by the Basic Software Group, a Vancouver, BC (Canada) company founded three years earlier. The product's target market back then was much the same as it is now: the small to medium business (SMB) accounting space—Pledger describes its positioning today as "somewhere above Peachtree and Simply Accounting, and below Sage ERP X3."

Peachtree, Simply Accounting, and Sage ERP X3 were not around as niche segmentors in 1979 (Sage was not founded until 1981). Regardless, the Basic Software Group soon found it had a winning product in Accpac—back then, a Microsoft disk operating system (MS-DOS)-based accounting package. Adoption rates were boosted by the fact that it soon became the recommended accounting software of the (then) "big eight" public accounting firms.

In 1985, the Basic Software Group was sold to Computer Associates, which in turn sold the product to Sage in 2004. As for the product's branding history, the accounting system has gone from "Accpac" to "ACCPAC" to "Sage Accpac ERP."

While all this was happening, the actual product was undergoing substantial evolution from its origins as a basic accounting package. Accpac incorporated modules for operations support in 1996, and for customer relationship management in 1999.

In 2005, the MS-DOS version was sunset, with over 100,000 units having been shipped to customers. The Windows version (launched in 1994) counts 275,000 users in 170 countries.

So what does "Accpac" stand for? Scott Pledger gets back to me later that day with an e-mail:

"It seems that the 'old-timers' here believe that 'Accpac' stood for 'A Complete Comprehensive Package for Audit Control'."

I can't really tell if he's being serious or not (or whether it's the old-timers who are pulling his leg), but his reference to old-timers does underscore the venerability of the product. More on that later.


Market Positioning

The top four target markets for Accpac ERP, according to Scott Pledger:

  • professional services (such as accounting, legal, and consulting)
  • industrial equipment, supply and service
  • food and beverage
  • building materials supply and service

Sage says its philosophy is very much focused on "supporting growth," which is marketing-speak, which means that it needs some parsing. In Sage's case, it means that if you're going to upgrade to a larger package, Sage wants to make it possible to keep you in the Sage family (this was made abundantly clear by Sage's decision in 2007 to manage Sage Accpac ERP and Simply Accounting—Accpac's smaller brother—under one business unit). The question is, how versatile is Sage Accpac ERP in terms of supporting companies of differing sizes?

Scott Pledger emphasizes Accpac ERP's appeal to global, growing companies. Accpac ERP supports multicurrency, multilanguage, multiple branches, and support for different financial and accounting regulations, including International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Accpac has also been available as either a hosted or on-premise solution since 2000.


Sage Accpac ERP's Competitors

(Note: segments quoted off the cuff rather than analytically derived)
Low end: QuickBooks
Midrange: QuickBooks Enterprise, NetSuite, Epicor
Upper end: Microsoft Dynamics GP, SAP Business One


Who's Using Sage Accpac ERP, and Why?

Sage cites Accpac ERP's ability to promote collaboration between departments—"both in terms of sharing information and facilitating communications. " So what does this mean? Sage explains:

  • Front-line staff can enter orders directly into the order fulfillment system and track the status of the order to provide the customer with updates.
  • HR staff can enter new employee information into the payroll system.
  • Customer credit approvals can take place automatically without the typical back-and-forth between the accounting team and the account manager.

As far as specifics are concerned, Sage provided me with details for the two customers below:

Organization: The Island Lake Resort Group
Location: Canadian Rockies
Business category: Hospitality
Size: 230 employees and 5 companies (including restaurants and 3 resorts)
Benefits (cited by the customer):
• two to three days a month saved in time spent processing financial statements
• integrated accounting and customer relationship management (CRM) data as well as data from third-party point-of-sale (POS) and reservation systems
• remote access to system (note: this is obviously a critical benefit for resorts)
• improved targeting of clientele (50 percent increase in bookings year-over-year)

Organization: Posera, Inc.
Location: Canada and US
Business category: Developer of point-of-sale software and hardware to the hospitality and restaurant industries.
Size: 90 employees and 4 locations
Benefits (cited by the customer):
• integration between Sage Accpac and other applications eliminates duplicate data entry and provides real-time information to the staff
• in one position, four hours a day saved in time spent maintaining licensing databases (a process Accpac manages automatically)


    Sage Accpac ERP Challenges and the Road Ahead

    It's never easy getting software vendors to talk about the real challenges and difficulties they face—at least, not while their public relations (PR) people are within earshot. But Scott Pledger is blunt, perhaps because the challenge is staring us in the face.

    "We have to fight the perception that Accpac is 30-year-old technology," he says. In an industry that routinely urges customers to stay on the sexy side of the technology curve for their own putative safety, that's a legitimate concern.

    To that end (among others), Sage Accpac 6 is due to be launched in the latter half of 2010, and it's going to sport a youthful set of specs, including Web 2.0-flavored drag-and-drop widgets, role-based tailoring and portals, a focus on interconnectivity to other Sage products, "simplified" business intelligence (BI) and reporting tools (including the ability to analyze metadata through online analytical processing [OLAP] data cubes), and the Sage Web Toolkit (SWT) (conceptually based on the Google Web Toolkit).


    High-level Overview of Sage Accpac Functionality

    The radar graph below demonstrates the degree to which each area of Sage Accpac contributes to the overall solution. For example, you'll note that the Accounts Receivable module is relatively stronger than the Fixed Assets module. In the case of Accpac, this is a strong indication that product development has focused on accounts receivable functionality to a greater extent than on fixed assets.

    This graph is based on TEC's model of accounting (ERP for SMB) solutions.

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