Will Sage Group Cement Its SME Leadership with ACCPAC and Softline Acquisitions? Part Two: ACCPAC's Recent Product Enhancements




Will Sage Group Cement Its SME Leadership with ACCPAC and Softline Acquisitions?
Part Two: ACCPAC's Recent Product Enhancements

ACCPAC's Recent Product 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).

ACCPAC continues to enhance its well-rounded product portfolio. Most recently, on April 6, it announced the release of ACCPAC HR Series 5.0, which provides HR managers and employees with more tools to automate HR processes and enables them to re-focus efforts on more strategically important activities. The new release includes a Correspondence Wizard to streamline employee communications either through the traditional mail or through e-mail. It also includes additional self-service features (such as the ability to customize text and more self-service data—cell phone numbers, secondary e-mail addresses, hotel numbers, and any other form of alpha-numeric contact information can now be recorded in the Employee Self-Service module), and a new interface that enhances navigation for easier day-to-day use.

ACCPAC HR Series is designed for small and medium enterprises (SME) with 25 to 2,500 employees operating in any industry. It enables businesses to effectively collect, manage, calculate, and report employee data and track critical details such as attendance, benefits, compensation, and COBRA compliance. Like many other products in its portfolio that are provided in a tiered manner on a same code, ACCPAC HR Series is available in Corporate and Enterprise Editions. It can be operated alone or integrated with other ACCPAC business management applications that include accounting, payroll, CRM, and warehouse management, among others. ACCPAC HR Series also integrates with ADP payroll.

This is Part Two of an eight-part note.

Part One began the event summary.

Part Three will continue 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.

ACCPAC ePOS

On February 24, ACCPAC announced the ACCPAC ePOS version 5.2, which enables retailers around the world to manage their point-of-sale (POS) operations securely over the Internet with complete integration to ACCPAC Advantage Series accounting suite. The system's Internet-based approach provides a high degree of flexibility, especially for multiple-site operations, while remaining reasonably cost-effective, and easy to administer. Namely, ACCPAC ePOS 5.2 enables retailers to link POS registers at multiple retail locations to the head office over the Internet, as a single installation of the ACCPAC ePOS server connects ACCPAC ePOS registers at both local and remote locations. ACCPAC ePOS also provides real time integration with back-office accounting for single point transaction management, and its on-line and off-line modes ensure uninterrupted transaction processing should Internet availability become compromised.

The product originates from ACCPAC's early 2003 acquisition of all assets of AGS Software, Inc. of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, including the POS software that offers extensive storefront automation, an intuitive web-based interface and support for multisite operations. The product automates the point-of-sale customer checkout process, makes customer and product information instantly accessible, and handles discounts, layaways, automated electronic payment processing, reporting and more. Engineered to run from a Web browser, it is able to automate multisite retail operations and integrate into a centralized deployment of ACCPAC Advantage Series, thereby representing a counter value proposition to the recently increasingly touted Microsoft Retail management System (RMS) product. With new features in the version 5.2, ACCPAC ePOS also enables retailers to

  • Handle transactions in multiple currencies—ACCPAC ePOS is now able to offer the multicurrency capabilities of the ACCPAC Advantage Series accounting system. As a result, the system can supposedly be deployed in countries around the world, and still be managed from a single, central installation, since the system can accept cash in one currency and calculate change in another currency. Furthermore for countries where currency rounding is required, the system instantly manages rounding. For example, cash transactions in Australia, which no longer uses pennies, are correctly rounded to the nearest nickel.

  • Easily manage multiple tills or cash registers at POS registers for fast cashier changeover—For example, sales transactions for the a.m. clerk' can be kept in an ACCPAC ePOS electronic till or "virtual cash box" dedicated to that cashier, while transactions are processed in the "p.m. clerk's" electronic till, once that clerk starts his or her shift. Each clerk maintains a separate total, eliminating the need for time-consuming, manual cash register transitions and helping to prevent till errors.

  • Handle complex inventory barcode schemes such as those for multiple part products—Version 5.2 supports barcode grouping, enabling cashiers to scan a single barcode representing a multipart product, which should save time by eliminating the need to ring up several transactions for components that make up a finished product, such as a patio set consisting of a table, umbrella, and several chairs.

  • Implement advanced security features—version 5.2 of ACCPAC ePOS incorporates new, variable encryption technology to prevent another system or hacker from processing transactions. The ACCPAC ePOS Server verifies the next transaction and credit card numbers during register activation, ensuring that previously used or duplicate numbers from inactive or stolen registers can't be used. Users can configure security by company, register, and rights, and password protection is provided in both off-line and on-line modes.

ACCPAC CRM

As for another product that might be a challenge to Microsoft's recently well-publicized CRM forays, on February 18, ACCPAC announced the availability of more than fifty add-on applications developed by independent software vendors (ISVs) for its ACCPAC CRM software. More than seventy ISVs have reportedly committed to providing enhancement solutions or customizing ACCPAC CRM for specific industries since the ACCPAC CRM Development Partner Program was launched in August 2003. In addition to the more than fifty applications now available that support ACCPAC CRM, the vendor claims many more are in development.

ACCPAC CRM ISV applications include a raft of solutions ranging from tour management; service operations management; student tracking systems; apparel solutions; professional services time and billing management; customer reward solutions; property management solutions; and a voice-based sales force systems; to performance management and others. ACCPAC has been extending ACCPAC CRM to serve broader markets through both internal development and cooperative development with ISVs in the ACCPAC CRM Development Partner Program.

ACCPAC believes its CRM Development Partner Program is unique because it enables ISVs to work with not only the ACCPAC CRM application, but through it, the other ACCPAC enterprise applications such as accounting, HR, warehouse management, e-commerce, and POS as well as hundreds of modules from more than 400 ACCPAC Development Partners.

ACCPAC believes its CRM Development Partners have the opportunity to significantly expand their business through the following benefits of this program:

  • ACCPAC provides a software development kit (SDK) and comprehensive documentation.

  • ACCPAC works with each partner closely to help define and support the value proposition for the customer and provide marketing opportunities to the ACCPAC reseller channel.

  • Development and ongoing technical support is available throughout the life of the partner relationship.

  • Developer-specific training ensures that ACCPAC's Development Partners understand the depth of ACCPAC CRM and the capabilities inherent in the full suite of ACCPAC enterprise applications.

ISVs who have recently joined the ACCPAC CRM Development Partner Program include Abrige; Access Accounting eSolutions & Services; Accounting Software Professionals; Advanced Applications Inc.; APEX Business Solutions LLC; BAASS Business Solutions; Berlan Systems Inc.; Caron Business Solutions; Compass Enterprise Solutions; e2e Business Management Solutions; Full Capacity; Harwood Consulting Inc.; iCube Info International; iHello; Implanciel Inc.; Inaplex Limited; Integrated Tech Inc.; InTime Solutions Inc.; Manufacturing Information Systems, Inc. (MISys); MBC Solutions; Net@Work; Online Computer Systems; Orchid Financial Systems; Paragon Consulting Group, Inc.; Planet Earth Projects Inc.; Poly-Asia (China) Co. Ltd; Sidler Clarke Inc.; Softkey Microsystems; STG Computer Systems Inc.; Tactec Pty Ltd; Toucan Interactive; and Quality Directions.

On the same day, ACCPAC announced the launch of a major upgrade to its ACCPACcrm.com on-line CRM subscription service. ACCPAC, possibly the first in the industry to provide customers with the "freedom of choice" to deploy their CRM solution either hosted or on-premises. It offers the ACCPACcrm.com hosted option now with the major benefits of ACCPAC CRM on-premises version 5.6, including comprehensive, single-click integration with Microsoft Outlook; faster and easier to use interface; and additional reports and enhanced reporting flexibility.

Namely, unlike most other on-line-only services, the ACCPACcrm.com hosted CRM service reportedly allows businesses the freedom to move to on-premises deployment at any time with all data and customizations fully intact. Businesses wary of larger initial upfront investments can start with an easily affordable subscription at ACCPACcrm.com, with the knowledge that any investments in their data, customizations, and training are fully protected should they later need or want to move their solution on-premises. Users now also have complete, two-way synchronization with Outlook contacts, calendars, and tasks, in addition to enhanced e-mail integration.

This integration also enables users to synchronize CRM data to pocket devices such as mobile phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs) that synchronize with Outlook. In addition, users have the option to access their entire ACCPACcrm.com system from within the standard Microsoft Outlook interface. ACCPACcrm.com now also allows reports to be created in Adobe Acrobat PDF format, enabling greater control over output and "near publishing" quality reports in color with more control over where the content appears. In addition, new summary reports with single-click accessibility have been added for quick access to critical information.

ACCPAC believes its product continues to offer several other key differentiators from competing solutions, including local service and support through an established, growing, worldwide channel of more than 800 ACCPAC CRM solution providers, certified consultants and development partners; bi-directional, seamless integration with back-office accounting, and affordable, competitive pricing. To that end, ACCPACcrm.com is available through authorized ACCPAC solution providers worldwide starting at $995 per year (USD $17 per named user per month) for a specially packaged five-name user subscription of ACCPAC CRM SalesTeam.

Like its POS counterpart, the CRM product originates from the ACCPAC's late 2002 acquisition of former eWare Limited, an Ireland-based developer of CRM software. Since a private label version of the eWare software, ACCPAC eCRM, had been actively marketed by ACCPAC for nearly two years under an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) agreement with eWare prior to the acquisition, the product has since been marketed as ACCPAC eCRM, recently renamed into ACCPAC CRM. It is a business application designed to integrate a user organization's interactions with its customers, trading partners, and prospects across the enterprise by providing sales force automation (SFA), call center automation, marketing automation, customer and partner Internet self-service, and integrated workflow.

As indicated earlier, ACCPAC CRM is also a completely Web- and wireless-based CRM solution, providing the above-mentioned functionality through a web browser, PDA or wireless application protocol (WAP) enabled device, allowing thereby users to access and update the system at anytime, and from almost anywhere. Available in three editions (i.e., Small Business, Corporate, and Enterprise edition), the product also integrates with ACCPAC Advantage Series and ACCPAC Pro Series flagship back-office accounting product suites, which should enable access to back-office transactional data as well as vital customer, partner, and prospect contact information, and should thereby result in a familiar, complete, and unified view of customer data from a single point. Bidirectional integration allows data to be updated, such as in either ACCPAC eCRM or ACCPAC Pro Series, with both systems updated instantly.

Simply Accounting Online

As to attract the lower-end of its target market, in February, ACCPAC announced the addition of a range of new business productivity features to its Simply Accounting Online hosted service for small businesses, which provides remotely accessible accounting and payroll on a subscription basis, enabling small businesses to manage their accounting from any location with an Internet connection. The latest new feature upgrades include a complete time and billing module; purchase orders; sales orders; departmental accounting; pre-paid orders support; the ability to lock accounting periods from further transactions; and support for a longer inventory part code. These new features are immediately available to all Simply Accounting Online subscribers at no extra cost.

Simply Accounting Online offers broad accounting functionality for small business (such as general ledger, accounts receivable, accounts payable, inventory and services, project costing, purchase orders, sales orders, invoicing, check writing, unlimited multicurrency, time and billing, bill of materials, departmental accounting, multiuser support, extensive reporting, and a full-time audit trail), providing flexibility of access, reduced hardware and software headaches, scalability on demand, and improved data security with automatic updates and backups, among other benefits. Simply Accounting Online subscriptions are available for $24.99 (USD) per month per user, including payroll, while there is a one-time setup fee of $24.99 (USD).

This concludes Part Two of an eight-part note.

Part One began the event summary.

Part Three will continue 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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