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Looking Back on 2013 and Forward to 2014

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Introduction

2013 was a very busy year for all of us on the Sage 300 ERP R&D team. Most of us are located in Richmond, BC, but we have remote team members in Kelowna, BC, Victoria, BC, North Carolina, Chennai, India and Bangalore, India. As we approach New Year 2014 let’s look back on what we’ve been up to this past year.

Happy New Year 2014 replace 2013 concept on the sea beach

Product Update 1

We started the year by releasing the Sage 300 ERP 2012 Product Update 1. This included new features like Colorful Companies and a major new release of Canadian and US Payroll.

As always a lot of work goes into product sustainment. Fixing problems caused by new versions of Windows, strange interactions discovered with other programs and other bugs. Diagnosing and tracking down the root causes of these can be quite demanding work, but is completely necessary to keep our customers happy. Quality is always a high priority and always an ongoing concern.

Sage 300 ERP 2014

We have a core team that works on improving the Sage 300 ERP core product and they spent their time working on the Sage 300 ERP 2014 release. This version has been released to a limited VIP set of customers and will start to be publicized to the full Sage 300 audience in March.

I wrote quite a few articles on the various things in this release including:

Another major improvement in Sage 300 EPR 2014 that I haven’t blogged about yet, is the Crystal Reports Support. With this release we are bundling Service Pack 8 of the Crystal Reports 2011 runtime. This service pack has some major performance improvements over the version of the Crystal Reports Runtime bundled with the 2012 version. Actually someone in our office reverse engineered the Crystal runtime to figure out why it was becoming quite slow in some cases and was able to feed this information to the Crystal Reports development team (that is located nearby in downtown Vancouver) so that we could get this rectified. If you are having trouble with performance on the 2012 version, you can now get the Service Pack 8 from Crystal’s website and install this. With this service pack we now get performance that is consistently better than that experience with the older runtime bundled with 6.0A, but now with all the extra features and supported platforms that are provided as part of the their 2011 version. Generally being in the same city makes working with the Crystal development team easier, plus we have a lot of cross-over since Crystal Reports was originally developed as an add-in reporting tool for Accpac Plus.

With this release we add support for Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2 and Office 2013. We also have added support to run when Windows DEP is turned on. Generally updating anything to ensure we run well in any modern environment.

Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 had a bug in their printer drivers that caused many fonts to be converted to bitmaps. This then defeated products like PrintBoss as well as things like Micr checks and anything else that is very sensitive to fonts. This problem was fixed by Microsoft in Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2. So if you are having trouble with this, make sure you upgrade these (which is free).

Sage 300 Online

Another major project was the new Sage 300 Online, which we unveiled at Sage Summit. This is a major revamp of our hosted offering. Now we host Sage 300 in the Microsoft Azure cloud and have greatly improved the manner in which we virtualize Sage 300. Authentication is handled by SageID which is also used for our connected services and Sage One. All the management, upgrades and tuning is handle by Sage so that customers don’t need to worry about this.

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We are managing the site with a new DevOps team that consists of members dedicated to the site along with other members of R&D and IS. This is a new model for running the site, managing loads and keeping everything and everyone up to date.

Sage 300 Online has now started to on-board our first customers. At first we are starting out slowly to ensure everything keeps working fine, but expect to see a major push for this services in a few months.

We are now switching to a continuous delivery model, so expect to see improvement to this service being put on-line frequently.

Sage Connected Services

We have team members helping out with the Sage Connected Services. This year we released: Sage Mobile Service, Sage Mobile Sales and Sage Billing and Payments. We are now working on new versions of these as well as working on building out the Sage Data Cloud platform and bringing out further mobile and web applications.

The cloud part of these applications is developed for the Microsoft Azure PaaS platform. The mobile applications are written as native applications for iOS and in the future Android.

Our core team is responsible for maintaining the Sage 300 connector which transfers data back and forth from an on premise database and the Sage Data Cloud.

Next Year

As we go into 2014 we are building on all these initiatives. The general roadmap is still what I outlined here however as we go into the year, many of the details will be announced. Such as what is in the next version of Sage 300 ERP, what will be in all the Product Updates and what will the next version of Sage 300 Online actually look like.

Besides product changes, we will be having a lot of process changes. Now that Sage 300 Online is launched, we will be living in a continuous delivery, DevOps and cloud first world. Seamless invisible upgrades will be the norm, features can be deployed to all our cloud customers instantly and frequently. Ensuring that all these new processes run smoothly will be one of our major challenges in 2014.

Summary

Sage 300 ERP is an important strategic product for Sage. There is a lot of exciting development going on. We accomplished a lot in 2013 and look forward to even more in 2014. I am really looking forward to attending our various conferences this year to show off all the exciting work that is currently going on behind the scenes.

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Written by smist08

December 28, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Sage Intelligence 7.4

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Introduction

With our upcoming Sage 300 ERP 2014 version we will be integrated with Sage Intelligence Reporting 7.4. Within our product this will also be labeled as version 2014. This is a fairly major upgrade to the Sage Intelligence package and definitely worth a look. There have been a great many feature, usability and performance enhancements throughout the product.

This product is integrated to many sister Sage ERP packages and this is where Sage is investing in improving Excel based reporting. For ERP a big usage of this is for Financial Reporting, but don’t forget this is a useful tools for many other applications like Sales Analysis.

Financial Reporting

Many of our Sage sister products used Microsoft FRX as their financial reporter. This product has now been discontinued by Microsoft. To provide a replacement we spent quite a bit of time adding features contained in FRX into Sage Intelligence. Sage 300 never used FRX, but we now benefit from all this work with better Financial Reporting from Sage Intelligence.

For Sage 300 ERP installed on-premise, it still includes the Financial Reporter bundled with General Ledger. This F/R is still there and supported. We just added support for Excel 2013 which was a major job due to the changes in Excel from a multiple document interface (MDI) to a single document interface (SDI) along with Excel now having data execution protection (DEP) turned on. We understand that people have invested a lot in developing many powerful reports with this technology and are quite happy with how it works.

For the Sage 300 Online product we have removed this Financial Reporter and are only hosting Sage Intelligence for Financial Reporting. With this cloud offering we are looking to the future. With version 1.0 of this product we are running the regular desktop version of Excel to work with Sage Intelligence. But this isn’t really what we wanted. As a cloud offering we wanted to integrate to the cloud version of Excel, namely the browser based Excel 365 version. However the API for this product isn’t sufficient yet to do sophisticated Financial Reporting. Once Excel 365 develops sufficient power, we will be integrating Sage Intelligence to this and allow cloud based use of Office 365. By using Sage Intelligence it means that when we switch from the local installation of Excel to using the cloud version, all your report will continue to work and won’t need to be re-written. For the Sage 300 built-in Financial Reporter it will only continue to work with the local installed version of Excel. As a result of this besides adding features needed for FRX users, we have also added functionality to Sage Intelligence to make it more comparable to the built in Financial Reporter.

Performance

We now load all the data into memory at the beginning and then do all reporting from this in-memory database. This way as you change reporting options and interact with the report, you get far better performance than before. No more re-reading things from the database as you go along.

Excel Support

Sage Intelligence 7.4 now supports running Excel 2013 both 32 and 64 bits. For Sage 300 ERP the built-in F/R supports Excel 2013 but only running in 32 bit. If you absolutely need 64 Bits then give this solution a look. However MS does install 32 bits by default now for Excel 2013 due to all the compatibility problems with the 64 bit version (it isn’t only us). Similarly Sage Intelligence also no uses .Net framework 4 which is better supported and avoids installing old versions of the .Net runtime.

Screenshots

Let’s look at a few of the new things in the product. First we’ve modernize the toolbar in the Report Manager to the Office ribbon style. We’ve also fixed up the wording and hints to make this a bit easier to use.

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As part of providing an out of the box Financial Reporting solution for Sage 300 ERP, we’ve added a number of sample reports that match the Financial Reports bundled with our built in F/R. Below is he home page for the Financial Ratio report:

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And then the actual report. Note that there are a few more ratios here than in the built-in report along with graphs and such.

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For the Balance Statement and Income Statement reports each three are incorporated into one Sage Intelligence report, each on a separate tab. One of the income statements is shown below.

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The new Report Designer boasts a fresh new User Interface to supplement a powerful generation engine utilizing the Report Designer In-Memory technology allowing for improved performance and usability. This tool makes it very easy to create new powerful Financial Reports without having to edit every Excel cell by hand. Automated layout generation for a single company:

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Plus screens to specify your account ranges and labels:

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Summary

Sage 300 ERP 2014 will be bundled with Sage Intelligence 2014 which is version Sage Alchemex Intelligence 7.4. This is a fairly major release which greatly increases the power of Sage Intelligence as a Financial Reporter. It adds many features to be comparable to both FRX and to the built-in F/R from General Ledger. This version supports Excel 2013, including the 64 bit version and this is the product that we will be adding cloud based Excel 365 support to.