International Support in Accpac
Sage ERP Accpac has installations in hundreds of countries. Accpac has traditionally had strong sales in Canada, the US, the Caribbean, South-East Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Australia/New Zealand. Additionally we have scattered sales in many other regions. How does Accpac address the varied needs of so many legislative jurisdictions, locations and cultures?
Everything in this article applies to both Accpac 5.6A as well as the forthcoming Accpac 6.0A. However as we move to becoming a web based application, we inherit all the good work performed by the WWW standards bodies, which are very good at ensuring the Web is accessible to all. One such standards body is: http://www.w3.org/International/. For instance in https://smist08.wordpress.com/2010/05/28/how-to-layout-forms-in-sage-erp-accpac-6/ I talk about how our new screens will automatically adjust to string lengths as well as how they can automatically lay themselves out in right-to-left format.
First off Accpac is multi-lingual. Accpac supports installing more than one language at a time and languages are associated with users. There is not a French version of Accpac nor a Spanish version; instead you can add French or Spanish as installed languages. Then you can have some users running French, some Spanish and some English. This is especially important for International companies with branches or divisions in several countries. Of course the data in the database only has one version of each string, so if a French user enters say a batch description in French then a Spanish user will see this description in French. But all the forms, reports and messages will be in the correct language for each user. Out of the box we support English, French, Spanish and Chinese (Simplified and Traditional).
At the next level we have to take care to honor regional settings. These include things like date formats (mm/dd/yy versus dd/mm/yy, etc.), number formatting characters (whether a comma or period is a thousands separator or decimal point), money symbols and such. Generally we just have to be careful to use the values set in the host Browser or Operating System and use them; along with a number of settings we configure in Common Services.
Accpac has always had multi-currency ability. Generally you set your company with a “home” currency, and then all incoming/outgoing monetary amounts are in a “source” currency. We always report amounts in source and home currencies. You have to be careful in reports that you add up amounts in the same currency or the totals won’t make any sense. Most reports provide a table of the totals of each source currency and then a grand total in home currency. We support currencies with 0, 1, 2 or 3 decimal places. We also support money amounts with 18 significant digits (15 before the decimal and 3 after). This is more than the 16 digits that double precision floating supports (a method used by many competing Accounting Packages). When converting currencies we support either multiplying or dividing the exchange rates. We maintain centralized tables of all exchange rates, but you can override these at any point.
We also support some additional amounts in third currencies. For instance in Singapore, by law if a company does over 50% of their revenue in a given currency, say USD, then they have to use that currency as their home currency. However they still need to report all sales tax in Singapore Dollars. So maybe they mostly sell to the US, but make a sale to Thailand. So they are paid in Thai Baht, convert the amount to USD for their sales totals and report the sales tax in Singapore Dollars. This is the reason for our “tax reporting currency” feature that allows you to report your sales taxes in a different currency than your home currency.
In version 5.5A we overhauled the currency revaluation process. This was to comply with the new international standard FRS 21. Although this won’t be required in North America for some time, it was required much sooner in other jurisdictions, such as South-East Asia where multi-currency transactions are very prevalent. This new method is quite a bit more complicated than what Accpac was previously using, but this shows our commitment to addressing International concerns and maintaining International standards.
We don’t produce localized versions of Accpac, there is only one version and we add general support for all jurisdictions there. Rather than shipping an Australian version that supports Australian sales tax and an American version that supports US sales tax, we ship one version with a powerful enough sales tax engine that can support all the sales taxes we have encountered. This then easily allows International companies to use the same Accpac programs and databases for all their transactions.
The reason we added surtaxes to our sales tax module a few versions ago was to support sales taxes in India. In India there are 5 sales taxes and two of them are surtaxes (taxes on tax). So rather than just adding a customization for India we added a general feature, so if any other regions have surtaxes like India, then they are already set. Our hope being that we have a strong enough general support to handle whatever is thrown at us.
Fortunately GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Practices) are applied fairly universally. As more countries compete globally and look for global investment, more and more countries are insisting on GAAP. Generally all countries are adopting standards that are agreed on internationally, just that the adoption times can be quite different.
This isn’t to say we wouldn’t produce localized modules. The nice thing about Accpac is that you can add program modules without requiring changes to the base product. Hence we can offer an XBRL Financial Reporting module in Singapore to meet Singapore government reporting requirements. In a similar way Sage regions can develop custom modules for their market, perhaps such as an import/export tax module for India.
A big difference in each geographic market is also the definition of an SMB (Small to Medium Sized Business, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_and_medium_enterprises). Our typical sales in Africa and Asia are to much larger companies than we usually sell to in North America. This leads to quite a difference in the feature requests our Product Management team receives from around the world. For instance we might receive requests from Africa for much more sophisticated Inventory processing, whereas from North America they are often looking for product simplification and ease of use.
This is a bigger cause of regional differences than local regulatory requirements. Often the requests we get from one region for one type of industry would be valuable all over the world for that sized company and that particular industry. It’s just that we seem to sell to different industries and different sized companies in different regions.
Certainly being an International product has its challenges; but, there are lots of rewards as well. I really enjoy traveling to the International Sage Insights and Visions conferences in Australia, Africa and Asia. I find the challenges and accomplishments of the partners in each region have a lot in common. I’m always amazed at the way Accpac is customized and deployed to handle very diverse needs.