Sage ERP Accpac 6.0A Compelling Installed Base Value
As we finish preparing Sage ERP Accpac 6.0A for release, much of the buzz around this release is the new Web Based technology platform. But for existing Accpac customers, what is the compelling business value? Why will existing customers want to upgrade? Will this upgrade be disruptive?
A lot of times choosing to upgrade is a matter of balancing the costs of the upgrade versus the benefits of running the new software. This release is a little different from the past few releases where we were updating the accounting functionality. In the past few releases the costs of an upgrade were taken up by things like the time to convert the database to the new version, the time to verify and update customized reports, the time to verify and update macros and other customizations and then the time of training on any new or affected existing features. With version 6, the database conversion is much smaller than the past few releases and the changes to the database and Accpac Views is very minimal. This means that database activation should be relatively quick and painless, and that very few changes are required to existing customized reports and macros. In fact you could just install the version 6 update to the existing functionality, activate to version 6 and be done. This would reduce your upgrade cost, but not give you the full benefit of the new version (you would still get the lock fiscal periods by module functionality).
The main new features of Accpac 6 are accessed from the new Accpac Web based Portal (or in the case of the new CRM Integration, requires that this be installed). This requires a Web server to run. If you are already using SageCRM then you already have a Web Server and just need to determine if it has the spare capacity to run Accpac as well (which it might already be doing via the current CRM integration). Or you might have a file server that is only doing file serving and has plenty of spare capacity to run the Accpac web components. Otherwise you will need a new server. Installing the new Web components is largely the same as installing Accpac on a current file server, since all the new web components are installed as part of this process. For more information see: https://smist08.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/installing-and-deploying-sage-erp-accpac-6-0a/.
When we were deciding on the roadmap for rolling in out the new Accpac 6 platform there was a lot of debate about whether to roll out modules (like G/L) ported to the new web based architecture first, or to roll out new features first. A lot of this discussion focused on who would benefit: new users versus the installed base. We do a lot of surveying of customers and a lot of visiting customers to determine what the real pain points are and what the real business needs are. From these studies it was clear that improved reporting, improved business intelligence and improved CRM integration were of a higher need than getting existing modules in the new framework. So below we’ll quickly mention each feature and its benefit to current Accpac users.
Locking Fiscal Periods by Module
One very frequently requested feature is the ability to lock fiscal periods by module. This is now incorporated into Accpac and available to all users whether you use the new web component or not. This is a top vote getter from our idea suggestion web site. This feature gives you the ability say to lock a fiscal period for AR, AP, IC, OE, PO but keep it open for GL as you finish up month end. For more information on this see: https://smist08.wordpress.com/2010/02/19/sage-erp-accpac-6-0-%E2%80%93-locking-fiscal-periods-by-module/.
Reporting and Business Intelligence
A very common feature request is more and better reporting and business intelligence. We made improvements here in 5.6A with the addition on Accpac Intelligence. With 6.0 we continue with the addition of the Portal Dashboards and the new Accpac Inquiry Tool. The goal of the Portal Dashboard is to give you an instant view of the state of your business in a simple graphical snapshot. For more information on the new dashboard see: https://smist08.wordpress.com/2009/12/24/sage-erp-accpac-6-0-data-portlets/. The goal of the new Accpac Inquiry tool is to give you a simple way to view your data without requiring custom Crystal reports. We made the tool extremely simple so that anyone can easily use it to study their Accounting data and to use it to make informed business decisions. For more information on Accpac Inquiry (called Adhoc Query when I wrote this blog article) see: https://smist08.wordpress.com/2009/12/11/sage-erp-accpac-6-0-adhoc-query/.
The New Web Portal
The new Web based portal is a new launch point for doing your work in Accpac. You use it to access all the new functionality including running Accpac Inquiry and viewing the new Dashboards. Plus you can run any existing accounting screens from the Tasks menu or from the easily customized shortcuts bar. For more information on the new portal see: https://smist08.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/the-sage-erp-accpac-6-0a-portal/ and for more information on running accounting screens see: https://smist08.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/running-classic-forms-in-sage-erp-accpac-6/.
A key initiative as we move forward is to reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). This includes making installation and upgrading to new versions easier, providing better active help to prevent you getting stuck and arranging forms for maximum productivity. For all the new features we are developing we are spending a lot of time making sure they are easy to learn and once learned you can use them very efficiently. Hopefully you will see this new ease of use in the new Portal and in the new SageCRM integration components for Quotes to Orders.
The goal in the end is to have a single server install and to not require anything be installed on the workstations, so for an upgrade one simple install is all that is required. We won’t be there until all the accounting screens are moved over to the new framework, but this is the start of that journey.
However as we do move to the new Web accounting screens we will still leave the current Windows screens in place. This allows you to go to these new versions, but to move to the web screens at your own pace. You can even run a mixture of forms since they all access Accpac through shared business logic. This means that if you have invested heavily in customizations, you can keep using these, you don’t need to invest in moving these to the new screens. You can also choose to have some users use the new screens, some the current by the individual user’s preference. Sometimes people have such good muscle memory of using the current screens they can enter data in their sleep and don’t want to lose that productivity.
For more information on TCO see: https://smist08.wordpress.com/2010/03/12/on-total-cost-of-ownership/. For more information on the new User Assistance (help) system see: https://smist08.wordpress.com/2010/06/19/sage-erp-accpac-6-user-assistance/.
Quotes to Orders
SageCRM is already a nice modern Web based application. A common complaint about our CRM integration is that whenever you run an Accpac screen a Windows form leaps up out of the nice CRM web pages. This is disjointing and makes it clear you are running two applications. With Quotes to Orders we have developed web based versions of various screens to do with quote and order entry using the new framework and included them in our CRM integration. So now the Accpac screens are styled like CRM pages and make it appear as if you are staying in one application as you move between CRM pages and Accpac pages. In addition the quote and order screens have been made far easier to use by sales people so that they can be more productive taking orders. For more info on Quote to Orders see: https://smist08.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/sage-erp-accpac-6-0-quote-to-orders/.
Sometime people just see upgrading as a cost of doing business; that they have to do it now and again to remain supported and to work properly on the newest versions of Windows, Office or other components. We do want to make upgrading have a lot more value than this. And we do want to reduce the disruption and cost that upgrading entails.
We’ve worked hard to reduce the costs of upgrading and worked hard to maximize the value by listening to what you the customer really wants. Hopefully this approach has provided sufficient ROI that people will want to upgrade and the percentage of people that do will be quite high. Hopefully this approach gives you confidence in the future of Accpac that we are actively developing useful new features and technologies while protecting the investments you have made in the present.