ACCPAC a journey
ACCPAC has been a familiar and friendly face on the South African business and financial management scene since the 1980’s and even today the name is still preferred over the somewhat less human Sage 300 ERP. In 2010, when Astraia Technology was founded, ACCPAC was then as it is now as sage 300 ERP the foundation stone of the business driving the core business and sustained success and a great deal has happened in 5 busy but seemingly short years.
In 2010 most users were still using version 5.5 or 5.6 of ACCPAC, version 6.0 was talked about and its advances were hailed as revolutionary, but few were making the migration and those that were hesitant. There was a lot of talk about web-screens that moved away from the old Visual Basic (VB) screens and of course the buzzword was dashboards. It was an almost clumsy transition forward, with some elements of ACCPAC remaining in the old VB format and others now in the new web format.
First came the web based portal, the new dashboard, the new Inquiry tool along with the web based screens that made up Quote to Orders. All the other accounting screens were still the VB screens similar to 5.6A. It wasn’t going to be until 2012 with Version 6.2 that the entire product would have a web based option, including all accounting modules and options products. However version 6.1 which shipped at the end of 2011 had all the major modules Web based including GL, AP, AR, IC, OE and PO.
Times were changing, technology was improving. In 2011 ACCPAC started to go mobile with some proofs of concept appearing as well social media integration beginning to be introduced, it was clear what the was on the horizon, but not all was so clear with ACCPAC and ERP systems in general that were all still fairly clunky being used by financial managers who were more interested in reports and numbers than they were in using ACCPAC on a mobile phone or sharing reports on Facebook, how times have changed.
The development of ACCPAC began to accelerate, the words Google and Toolkit were placed together and a new development playground in ERP began to emerge very much changing things forever as can be seen with ACCPAC’s big brother Sage ERP X3. Development of ACCPAC and coding of the system in general was to make ERP a great deal more flexible and thus was a significant leap forward from the DOS days of a time gone by.
In mid-2011, ACCPAC 6.0 was coming along nicely and Sage CRM was also being greatly improved, the story of CRM will be covered soon, and Sage CRM 7.1 was released as standalone and as a fully integrated component of ACCPAC. Brining the power of CRM into ERP was a significant move and quotes to order was the first touch point along with dashboards for improved reporting. ACCPAC was becoming a business solution that was now not just the sole domain of the finance department and thus businesses started to become better optimised through improved automation.
Towards the end of 2011 the rumblings and rumours about the name change from ACCPAC to Sage 300 were fast becoming a reality. A new identity was being born, nothing much was changing with the software but marketing was beginning to get its way at Sage who now owned ACCPAC. An extensive marketing campaign by Sage saw the demise of the ACCPAC name in 2012 and Sage 300 ERP was alive. Technology had advanced fast and perhaps the image of ACCPAC with its history of being an old, robust, somewhat and yet comfortably rigid system gave the wrong impression of the solution that had to be known as and seen as one using the cutting edge technology. Sage 300 ERP gave some new life to ACCPAC and almost repositioned the system where it rightly belonged, the advances in web technology, and the greater and extensive use of Google Web Toolkit while still delivering exactly what ACCPAC was renowned for created a product that was, always had been and still remains top of its class.
During 2012 users of the older VB ACCPAC 6.0 were steadily upgraded to the newer web-based Sage 300 ERP, users had seen and were now comfortable with the use of new technology; mobile access was becoming a necessity rather than a nice to have, dashboards were understood and with the introduction of Sage SData development of Sage300 ERP through third parties was made not only possible but easy. For decades part of the strength of ACCPAC was its multitude of third party add-ons such as Cashbook, Fixed Assets and Astraia’s own Loan Information Management System (LIMS) and FBA Budgeting and reporting and now with SData this legacy of third party value added functionality could continue and exceed what was thought possible before. Embracing technology and even exposing Sage 300 ERP would have once been not only challenging but even considered taboo but the new approach and thinking allowing access to systems is what makes Sage 300 ERP and partners like Astraia what they are today.
Cloud today has become all the rage and despite the challenges posed by the internet and telecoms infrastructure in South Africa and Africa, Sage 300 ERP is a web based product with more and more users considering or preferring to use it in a cloud version. Astraia Technology has embraced the cloud and whilst still having a large number of customers on server based traditional networks the growing trend towards cloud has been and continues to be addressed. In the last 2 years much of the consideration in the development of ERP has been in the area of cloud and cloud optimisation, the concerns over security are less than they once were and today the emphasis is on real time data received anywhere at any time. Sage 300 ERP delivers the speed and efficiency demanded and still retains the ACCPAC robustness and reliability.
Mobile applications and delivery have taken top spot in terms of development for end users, not only do they want more out of the cloud but they want more information, faster on a smaller more mobile devices on the move anywhere in the world. Sage 300 ERP in the hands of an experienced Sage Partner can deliver exactly this and Sage 300 ERP can be pretty much carried in one’s pocket making it a truly mobile ERP solution.
Despite the trends and advancements in technology the old school rules have not been forgotten in Sage 300 ERP. Sage 300 ERP has a fairly flexible mechanism for setting up your General Ledger Chart of Accounts. This is somewhat important as it controls how you will be able to run your financial reports and slice and dice your financial information. I’m not an Accountant but I do know that it’s always important to follow generally accepted accounting principles as much as possible. In some industries and in some countries your chart of accounts is specified for you.
The actual chart of accounts can have some fairly hefty constraints on how it’s set up. Fortunately there are mechanisms like account groups, account rollup, optional fields and transactional optional fields that can be used to enhance reporting capabilities.<br.
At the very heart of Sage 300 ERP as it was in ACCPAC lies the core accounting and financial management practices a business needs to understand and have control of, no matter how much technology changes the basic principles will remain the same.
While the principles have remained and thus the accuracy of the information maintained reporting on the information in Sage 300 ERP has become an industry all on its own. The days of cumbersome crystal reports that took days or even weeks to build are slowly coming to an end. Today Sage Intelligence defines reporting in Sage 300 ERP as it does in Sage ERP X3 and even Sage One; powerful, flexible and easy to use reporting using built in tools or a multitude of add-on products making financial reporting easier, faster and even more colourful than ever before. It was always known from the early days of accounting systems that it was the information obtained from the system that truly had the most value, today the same is true but today power has been added to financial reporting.
Drill down is still there in Sage 300 ERP, more like fracking than just drilling, getting down into the heart of the financial records is better and easier than ever before. Where once the user was limited to drilling down to just a few levels or had to use a clumsy ODBC connector to get to information, today a user can freely explore the information contained, look up, down, left or right and find exactly what is needed.
Over 5 years so much has changed but in reality the same remains, Sage 300 ERP like ACCPAC is about managing financial information, finding it, reporting on it and then allowing the user to make educated business decisions from it. Astraia have enjoyed the ride with ACCPAC and are part of the journey with Sage 300 ERP and where the final destination is they are not really sure but all they know, like ACCPAC and Sage 300 ERP they will adapt, change and remain.
Written by Matt Newnham