Will Sage Group Cement Its SME Leadership with ACCPAC and Softline Acquisitions? Part Three: ACCPAC's Back-Office Products Enhancements

Will Sage Group Cement Its SME Leadership with ACCPAC and Softline Acquisitions?
Part Three: ACCPAC's Back-Office Products Enhancements

ACCPAC's Back-Office Products Enhancements

In March, Best Software, Inc., one of the leading current providers of integrated accounting, business management, human resources (HR)/payroll, and fixed asset solutions for small and medium enterprises (SME) in North America, announced that its parent company, the UK-based The Sage Group plc (LSE: SGE.L), had completed the acquisition of ACCPAC International, Inc. (www.accpac.com). The Sage Group plc is a leading provider of business management software for mid-sized companies worldwide, with annual sales of nearly $900 million (USD) and 3.6 million customers and ACCPAC was, until recently, an independent subsidiary of the software powerhouse Computer Associates International, Inc. (NYSE: CA).

Earlier, in the summer 2003, at its ACCPAC Partnership 2003 Conference, the vendor announced the availability of Version 7.2 of the ACCPAC Pro Series accounting and manufacturing system. Among the numerous new features in this version were international accounting support for Multiple Value-Added Tax (VAT) and a series of new productivity-enhancing wizards designed to accelerate shipping and inventory forecasting processes. Also, ACCPAC Pro Series 7.2 is compatible with other ACCPAC solutions, offering SMEs a broad integrated business management suite that includes accounting, manufacturing, CRM, HR, warehouse management, e-commerce, EDI, and enterprise-wide reporting.

Modules for both editions of ACCPAC Pro Series, Small Business and Enterprise, have been upgraded, including General Ledger (GL), Accounts Payable (AP), Accounts Receivable (AR), Order Entry (OE), Inventory Control (IC), Purchase Orders (PO), Job Costing, and Multicurrency. In addition, all ACCPAC Pro Series Manufacturing and specialty modules are also being upgraded, including Production Entry (PE), Work Orders (WO), Shop Control (SC), Message Master, Customization Manager, Bills of Materials (BOM), Bills of Lading, Customer Connect, ProAlert, and Project Accounting. Now all of these modules can be run on the Microsoft SQL database, in addition to Microsoft Visual FoxPro, whereas IBM DB2 support, already available for ACCPAC Pro Series 7.1, was slated for version 7.2 at the end of 2003.

The Multiple VAT feature builds on the standard VAT method of taxation by allowing users to assign multiple tax codes to a single line item, which enables ACCPAC Pro Series 7.2 to be configured and customized for use in foreign countries or locales that have specialized line item tax requirements. General accounting enhancements include support for alphanumeric account codes in the General Ledger for greater flexibility, and with version 7.2 users can now defer invoicing during shipment and combine shipments from all or just selected invoices into a single, consolidated invoice.

With a strong focus on improving productivity for users, ACCPAC Pro Series 7.2 offers a range of enhancements that go from new wizard-driven processes to extensive improvements in printing options and reporting features. The new Inventory Item Forecasting Wizard can project the demand for an item by location, and estimate a new order point and quantity. Users can then update the system, replacing their current order point and quantity with the newly estimated values. ACCPAC Pro Series 7.2 also features several new capabilities for attaching files to customer, inventory, and other information entries. For example, users can now hyperlink attachments, enabling them to attach spreadsheets, correspondence, and other documents to customer files, while picture files can now be added to inventory items. In addition, the ACCPAC Pro Series Message Center has been enhanced to enable bulk message delivery, including file attachments.

The product's manufacturing modules come from ACCPAC's 2002 acquisition of the full line of manufacturing software developed by former Lahey Software. This software had been designed to integrate with ACCPAC Pro Series accounting software and had been popular with ACCPAC Pro Series users for more than a decade. The modules have since been marketed under the ACCPAC brand as ACCPAC Pro Series Manufacturing. The product originally included the following four modules: Production Entry, Work Orders, Shop Control, and Project Accounting, each designed on the ACCPAC Pro Series architecture.

Version 7.2 builds up on ACCPAC Pro Series 7.0, which is a core accounting suite with source code availability. In addition to its support for XML (eXtensible Markup Language) exporting, its broader choice of databases, and the ability to manage multiple tasks at once, a key enhancement in version 7.0 was an entirely new object-oriented development framework that should enable easier integration with new databases and operating systems. ACCPAC Pro Series 7.2 further extends this integration by leveraging new interoperability with ACCPAC Insight for enterprise reporting, budgeting, and consolidations.

This is Part Three of an eight-part note.

Parts One and Two began the Event Summary.

Parts Four, Five, and Six will discuss the Market Impact.

Part Seven will cover Challenges and Part Eight will make User Recommendations.

Integration with Microsoft Project

As for the other flagship ERP product, early in 2004, ACCPAC announced the release of ACCPAC Advantage Series 5.2 Project and Job Costing, which adds new integration with Microsoft Project and more enhancements regarding flexible accounting, budgeting, and ease-of-use. As expected, Project and Job Costing shares the Web-accessibility features of all ACCPAC Advantage Series accounting modules and delivers the freedom of choice in operating systems and databases that the entire series offers. Project and Job Costing provides SMEs with the tools to manage simple or complex contracts and jobs. This latest release offers:

  • Integration with Microsoft Project for improved controls that allows users to integrate ACCPAC Advantage Series Project and Job Costing with Microsoft Project for more control over scheduling, with the flexibility to update data in either product. Start and end dates, and quantities that are entered in Microsoft Project are updated in Project and Job Costing, while users can import or export contracts to and from Project and Job Costing. Synchronization is also supported, and newly created projects and resources are synchronized between the products, as are changes to estimates and the task percentage complete status.

  • Support for retainage accounting that enables businesses to improve cash flow analysis through accurate accounting of customers' retained amounts in accounts receivable, accounts payable, credit notes, or debit notes. This new feature allows users to manage any amounts retained on the original invoice and to automatically invoice as the retained amounts are due to be paid by a customer or to a vendor. Integration with ACCPAC Advantage Series Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable modules provides access to Aged Retainage reports, which allow users to print an aged listing that identifies when retainage is due to be invoiced or overdue.

  • Budgeting capabilities for improved estimating and performance tracking that allow users to set up budgets for costs and revenues for each contract, project, and category of project. This increased budgeting flexibility assists finance and accounting departments in preparing rolled up budgets, revenue forecasts, and a benchmark for project performance.

  • Enhancements throughout the software designed to simplify processes, reducing time needed to track details and improving information retrieval for quicker decision processes. Among these features is new color-coding that provides instant status recognition of a project, while the new Adjustments form provides a fast way to revise quantities as well as cost and billing amounts while the software automatically calculates adjustments amounts.

  • Greater security, since timecard security can now be set up for each employee enabling system users to maintain their own time card records, while clients benefit by allowing employees to enter their own time cards, reducing the workload for system and project administrators.

ACCPAC Advantage Series

The above announcement comes on the heels of the announcement at the ACCPAC Partnership 2003 Conference of the availability of Version 5.2 of the ACCPAC Advantage Series accounting system. This latest version also provides SMEs with dozens of functional enhancements throughout the system including improvements in the Order Entry (OE), Inventory Control (IC), and Purchase Orders (PO) modules that make it even easier to manage the entire order processing cycle. Additional enhancements in the System Manager (SM) module give administrators even tighter control over the security of the entire accounting system. All editions of ACCPAC Advantage Series (Enterprise, Corporate, Small Business, and Discovery) have been upgraded to version 5.2, starting with the current availability of SM, OE, IC, PO, and General Ledger (GL) modules. Version 5.2 of Accounts Payable (AP), Accounts Receivable (AR), and Project and Job Costing modules were delivered later in the fall 2003.

New features support entering orders, shipments, and invoices separately, so businesses can allocate various components of the order process to different company personnel. For example, order entry clerks can enter customer orders, while warehouse personnel record shipments and accounting personnel process the invoices. Security protocols can then be attached to each process so that only the assigned personnel are permitted to perform their specific OE function. Some of the more notable order and inventory management enhancements in ACCPAC Advantage Series version 5.2 that can significantly improve order processing include:

  • Faster data entry with recognized manufacturer's numbers — The system now recognizes and maps manufacturer's item numbers to IC item numbers, including UPC (uniform product code) codes, ISBN numbers (unique machine-readable identification numbers, which mark any book unmistakably), and shortcut codes that can be used to speed up data entry. The OE and PO modules allow users to enter the manufacturer's item number instead of the IC item number when processing transactions.

  • Improved inventory distribution — Users can now disassemble master items that have been built from components in a bill of materials, and return components to inventory as separate items. They can also transfer inventory directly and immediately between locations, or transfer goods via goods-in-transit locations to reflect more accurately the movement of goods between locations.

Version 5.2 builds up on the capabilities of ACCPAC Advantage Series version 5.0, ACCPAC's chief foundation offering providing mid-market companies with a 100 percent web-based accounting solution. Like its CRM sibling, the Advantage Series' product architecture provides access to the accounting system via an Internet browser and web-enabled devices such as mobile phones and PDAs. In addition, Advantage Series is available as a hosted solution or may be deployed on premises.

ACCPAC Warehouse Management System

Last but not least, rounding out its extensive extended-ERP offering, at the end of 2003 ACCPAC announced the release of Version 3.4 of ACCPAC Advantage Series (WMS), which is a web- and handheld device-based, single-source "pick, pack, and ship" solution designed for small SMEs. It is fully integrated with ACCPAC Advantage Series and ACCPAC Pro Series accounting systems as well as other ACCPAC extended business management applications. With ACCPAC WMS version 3.4, warehouse managers should have more detailed inventory information to speed up the "pick, pack, and ship" process, improving overall productivity, while reducing costly inventory-related mistakes. Major enhancements in this latest version include:

  • Optimized kitting — Using ACCPAC WMS version 3.4, products that are made from a combination of components in inventory can now be set up as a kit and be picked, packed, shipped, and tracked as a single stock-keeping unit (SKU). This feature is optimized to support attribute control and fractional quantities, providing warehouses with the ability to track the quantity of each kit component in stock, the number of kits in inventory, and the configuration status of partially assembled kits - all in real-time. Kit configuration set-up screens are available.

  • Improved serialized inventory control — The product provides enhanced attribute control and serial number support that allows for better serial stock-move operations and validation within the warehouse. Cycle count by serial numbers is included, enabling the distribution center or warehouse to assign cycle counts to specific serial numbers and allowing for full management of inventory by serial numbers. Products can be verified in all locations where the serialized inventory is stored.

  • New bill of lading and manifest tracking features — Users can now meet shipping requirements for Less Than Truck Load (LTL) quantities in their bills of lading manifests, which is especially valuable for distribution centers that frequently ship partial loads, an option that is not supported by many other peer warehouse automation systems. With ACCPAC WMS version 3.4, companies can ship and track any-size shipments once the carrier is selected, eliminating unnecessary delays.

  • Timesaving inventory replenishment and picking tools The product offers two new replenishment features that enable warehouse managers to better manage reallocation and replenishment of inventory. The new Advance Replenishment by Minimum and Maximum feature provides real-time visibility of unallocated inventory, while the Advance Replenishment by Velocity feature gives users the ability to track the timeframe in which inventory is turned over. Both of these new features provide warehouse managers with the ability to forecast inventory depletion to ensure continuous availability of goods to their customers. In addition, ACCPAC WMS 3.4 supports "Supermarket picking", which enables warehouse pickers to efficiently fill multiple orders simultaneously, reduce picking time. Pickers can now select items for multiple orders in a single run, load them on a cart, then leave all orders at the packing station where the packer can use a radio frequency (RF) scanner to direct placement of items in their respective cartons. This process can be managed using a simple touch screen, and is useful for high-volume warehouses and distribution centers.

This concludes Part Three of an eight-part note.

Parts One and Two began the Event Summary.

Parts Four, Five, and Six will discuss the Market Impact.

Part Seven will cover Challenges and Part Eight will make User Recommendations.

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