Accpac

Sage Launches Sage ERP MAS 90 and 200 Version 4.5

 On November 1, 2011 Sage North America announced the launch of Sage ERP MAS 90 and 200 version 4.5. The new release includes:

  • customer requested enhancements
  • a new option of upgrading to Microsoft SQL Server 2008
  • one free user and server license of the fully integrated SageCRM
  • one Sage MAS Intelligence Report Manager license

This announcement also coincides with the release of Sage ERP MAS 90 Online, the new cloud-based deployment alternative for  Sage ERP MAS 90 and 200. Together these announcements reflect Sage North America’s efforts to keep pace with the growing demand for a fully integrated, expanded footprint of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) while providing more choice.

First of all, for those not familiar with Sage MAS 90 and 200, The Sage MAS product line is one of three offerings in Sage’s ERP portfolio, which also includes Sage ACCPAC and Sage X3. MAS 90 and 200 share a common set of code that forms a fully integrated business management solution for small to mid-size businesses (SMBs) managing a local operation. While MAS 90 runs on a single computer, MAS 200 uses a client server structure. As part of a re-branding exercise, in January, these two products will become Sage 100. The numbers loosely relate to the number of employees and annual revenues in its target market. So in this case, Sage 100 is well suited to SMBs, often with up to 100 employees or $100 million in revenue. However, these are only guidelines and fit is primarily based on complexity of accounting and financial needs.

Why is this announcement significant? My research shows World Class ERP implementations (the top 15% in terms of results, progress against goals and current performance) are 44% more likely to be operating on the latest release of ERP. Yet companies also rate the challenge presented by the cost and effort of upgrades as 3.4 on a scale of 1 to 5 (where 5 is extremely challenging). While not a show-stopper, most companies will not upgrade unless there is significant benefit in doing so. Therefore it is important to provide enough value in the release to help customers build a business case for that cost and effort.

What’s new in 4.5 that can help Sage MAS 90 or 200 customers build that business case? Here are some highlights:

  • National account management: Even SMBs sell to large corporations with subsidiaries and branches and MAS customers have been asking for a more streamlined way of managing those relationships. Version 4.5 introduces a new type of customer, a National Account whereby a parent company can be billed for goods and services while still keeping a unique customer account for each entity.
  • Handling payroll complexities: Five new methods of calculations have been added to handle a variety of specialized deductions and benefit accrual has been enhanced to reflect conditions and minimums.
  • Sales Order enhancements: These include new pricing options, new capabilities for split commissions and the ability to automatically generate purchase orders from sales orders. Also added is the ability to allocate by lot and serial number and provide better integration with job costing.

The 4.5 release also incorporates 37 enhancements provided through downloadable Product Updates since the 4.4 version shipped last year. These updates touched Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Bank Reconciliation, Inventory Management, Job Cost, Paperless Office, Payroll, Sales Order and system-wide features.

In addition to these enhancements to the core ERP solution, customers upgrading to version 4.5 will also receive one free SageCRM 7.1 user and server license and one Sage ERP MAS Intelligence Report Manager license.

SageCRM is really all about automating sales, marketing and service processes to improve communication and internal collaboration. SageCRM is available for iPhone and also allows companies to monitor and track customer communications on Twitter. SageCRM also integrates with Sage eMarketing, one of several Sage cloud-based connected services. A 60-day trial of Sage eMarketing is also included so that SMBs can experiment with executing marketing campaigns.

MAS Intelligence in version 4.5 extends General Ledger reporting allowing customers to attach Reporting Trees to Report Designer layouts to model reporting structures and let customers view their organizations in different ways. Report distribution can be set up to be fully unattended and allows distribution through a variety of formats, including Excel, sending reports to a file, publishing to an FTP site or sent via email.

Obviously Sage is hoping one free license of each will lead to the purchase of more licenses, but this is a good way for customers to kick the tires of both prior to making a purchase decision.

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New Sage ERP MAS 90 Online Provides SMBs with Choice

On November 1, 2011 Sage North America announced Sage ERP MAS 90 Online, a cloud-based solution of Sage ERP MAS 90 and 200. Hosted by Sage, this option lowers up-front costs, eliminates the need to build an IT infrastructure and associated staff, and provides web access to a fully integrated business management solution for small to mid-size businesses (SMBs). Because this deployment choice is added to current on-premise options, it also comes with the option for seamless migration to an on-premise deployment in the future. Sage ERP MAS 90 Online will be available November 22, 2011.

Here’s what you get for $169 per user per month:

  • Access to all core software modules
  • Sage Business Care support
  • Backup services and disaster recovery

For existing customers of Sage 90 and 200, this will also include an upgrade to the latest version 4.5, announced at the same time (more on that in the next post).  This may very well provide incentive to small companies currently running small business accounting solutions like Sage’s own Peachtree or Intuit’s QuickBooks.

The Product Line

The Sage MAS product line is one of three offerings in Sage’s ERP portfolio, which also includes Sage ACCPAC and Sage X3. MAS 90 and 200 share a common set of code that forms a fully integrated business management solution for small to mid-size businesses (SMBs) managing a local operation. While MAS 90 runs on a single computer, MAS 200 uses a client server structure. This new deployment option adds web-based access to the mix. As part of a re-branding exercise, in January, these two products will become Sage 100. The numbers loosely relate to the number of employees and annual revenues in its target market. So in this case, Sage 100 is well suited to SMBs, often with up to 100 employees or $100 million in revenue. However, these are only guidelines and fit is primarily based on complexity of accounting and financial needs.

Extending the Solution

In addition to ERP for SMBs Sage also offers what it calls “Connected Services.” These are extensions to ERP such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or payment services, employee benefits, sales, marketing and lead generation services, etc. By adding these as separate cloud-based solutions, Sage has been adding value to all its product lines simultaneously and making that added value easier to consume. So “cloud” is not necessarily a new concept for all MAS 90 and 200 customers.

How much do SMBs care about SaaS ERP?

However, sometimes any company, including SMBs might be receptive to moving these complementary solutions to the cloud while still resisting moving ERP, which runs their business. In the past I have referred to ERP as “the last bastion of resistance” to SaaS but these barriers are beginning to break down and we may very well be on the cusp of a mass change in mind set. The Mint Jutras 2011 ERP Solution Study collected responses from over 900 survey respondents, qualified by their knowledge of ERP implementations. It asked the question, “If you were selecting an ERP solution today, which deployment options would you consider?” The percentage that would consider SaaS, taking into account all sizes of companies, was 47%. But when we examine the same data cut in a variety of way we find some interesting results.

While many industry observers and ERP solution providers think of SaaS ERP as a small company play, our survey results actually see the willingness to consider SaaS ERP increases with company size:

  • 42% of small companies (revenues under $25 million) would consider SaaS ERP
  • 48% of lower mid-size companies (revenues between $25 and $250 million)
  • 51% of upper mid-market companies (revenues between $250 million and $1 billion)
  • 59% of large enterprises (revenues over $1 billion)

So while companies who initially select a cloud deployment might feel it is important to have the option to move to on-premise later, it may not be growth that prompts that movement. This is particularly true since many large enterprises are comprised of a collection of small to midsize divisions, operating locations or business units. Because many of them have a multi-tier strategy for ERP (an administrative ERP is implemented at the corporate location and one or more different ERP solutions run the operating locations), cloud deployment may indeed be a way to bring remote locations on line more easily while standardizing implementation. So growth as a result of expansion to a new geography or an acquisition might also prompt a new deployment. And it may not just be new purchases that are considering SaaS. We may start to see current on-premise installations moving to the cloud and therefore we may be just as likely to see current Sage MAS 90 and 200 implementations migrate to a cloud deployment in the future.

But there was another way of looking at this data that was even more “telling.” The Mint Jutras 2011 ERP Solution Study was also used to benchmark the performance of ERP. It defined “World Class” performance as the top 15% of implementations based on results produced, progress against company goals and current performance of selected metrics. Interestingly enough, those with World Class ERP implementations were 35% more likely to consider SaaS as a deployment option for ERP (58% of World Class versus 43% of all others). Generally speaking, the companies with World Class implementations focus more on the end goals of increased revenue and profits and less on the means to the end. IT and enterprise applications are that means to the end and not the end in of themselves.

The Service

Sage ERP MAS 90 Online will utilize the same cloud service that already supports Sage Accpac running in the cloud, which has had a 99.874% recorded up-time for 2011. While the application itself is managed by Sage, the data center is run by QTS Atlanta Metro Data Center, the second largest data center in the world with an on-site Georgia power substation and direct fiber access. It is also SaaS-70 Type II Compliant. This data center is backed up by a second data center on the opposite coast in Santa Clara, California which is a fully redundant environment, with near real-time data duplication and less than four hour recovery time.

While we are seeing increased interest in SaaS ERP, there are still lingering concerns. Only 12% of survey respondents indicated they had no real concerns at all, and the top concern is still one of security. Security should be a concern for everyone whether running in the cloud or on-premise. Unless your systems are behind an impenetrable fire wall with no access from the outside world (including remote employee VPN access); and laptops never leave the premises and are never connected to any other network, you need to worry about security. And this is where small companies should be looking to secure SaaS solutions to bring a level of redundancy and security they would never be able to afford to build on their own.

Key Takeaway: Choice

Sage MAS 90 Online is being announced along with new database options and innovation which includes 50 customer-requested enhancements. In combination, it is all about giving customers more choices. Sage MAS 90 is an important element in providing deployment options with no lock-in whether you choose to run on-premise or

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The Sage re-Branding Effort Revisited

Back in July I wrote, “Sage North America is taking its brand very seriously these days.”

  • In spite of the fact that it is about an $858 million business and part of the larger global Sage Software, a $2.24 billion company…
  • In spite of the fact that is supports more than 3.2 million customers…
  • In spite of the fact that is has more than 27,000 Value Added Resellers…
  • In spite of the fact it employs 4,000 people in North America and 13,600 across the globe….

In spite of all this, and partly because many of these customers are very small businesses, Sage is hardly a household name. In an effort to strengthen its brand, at its Sage Summit last summer the company announced a major re-branding effort which would rename all of its products. While currently products are grouped and managed internally by software category (e.g. ERP and CRM), each with multiple brands and product lines, the thought moving forward was to simply group them by target of company size. This prompted many questions and caused a bit of an uproar amongst its channel partners, happy with current names and unhappy with incurring the expense of this effort.

Yesterday (October 18, 2011) Sage met with these channel partners virtually.  In a webinar presentation Sage EVP of Corporate Marketing, Dennis Frahmann, and Sage VP of Channel Management, Tom Miller, shared some details of the current plan. As you can see from the plan below, Sage has backed off on re-naming ALL its products. However, the goal remains the same: to build the “Sage” brand. In order to do that Sage will invest in marketing to leverage “Sage” as the master brand.

As stated before, the Sage branded portfolio will consist of product sets referred to by numbers that indicate increasing levels of sophistication or capability. These numbers/products were announced as: Sage 50, Sage 100, Sage 300, Sage 500. The numbers loosely relate to number of employees and annual revenues. For example, Sage 50 is well suited to smaller businesses, often under 50 employees or $50 million in revenue, but I described the coupling as “loose” because these are only guidelines. The fit is primarily based on complexity of their accounting and financial needs.

 

Sage also “exempts” some from this numbering scheme by saying, “All are bonded by a common set of Sage commitments: integration with common applications such as CRM, Fixed Assets and HRMS; Connected Services that connect the desktop to the cloud such as payment services; plus pre-requisite Sage services such as Sage Business Care and Sage Advisor.” So for example, you will see Sage CRM sold along with several of the Sage “number” lines. Sage ACT! is likely to be sold with Sage 50 and SalesLogix can still be sold stand-alone. Its name is not changing. And neither is Sage X3.

 

This makes the re-naming exercise largely ERP-centric. By treating CRM, HRMS, Fixed Assets and Connected Services as shared components, Sage will eliminate much of the anticipated confusion over where these products would “land”. I’m not sure how the decision on X3 really fits into the grand scheme, only that it seems Sage management decided it had enough brand value to leave it alone – at least for now. The same could be said for SalesLogix and ACT! Perhaps they will just get through this round first (a substantial effort) and revisit those decisions later.

 

In an effort to maximize the value and ease the burden on its channel, Sage is also promising to provide channel partners with materials that will assist in the brand transition, including a complete electronic brand transformation tool kit to transition. Sage also promises help in updating websites and co-funding up to 100% for eligible brand transformation activities.

 

In the meantime, here’s the new mapping:

  • Sage 50 is available in US and Canadian editions, representing Sage Peachtree and Sage Simply Accounting.
  • Sage 100 includes Sage ERP MAS 90, Sage ERP MAS 200, Sage Master Builder, and Sage Fund Accounting.
  • Sage 300 includes Sage ERP Accpac and Sage Timberline Office.
  • Sage 500 includes Sage ERP MAS 500 and Sage Fund Accounting
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Sage launches new version of Sage ERP Accpac

I’ve recently spent some time getting reacquainted with Sage ERP solutions. I spent yesterday in Boston at the Sage North American Analyst day and earlier today watched the virtual launch of Sage Accpac V6.0, which was officially released last week. I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised to find how far Accpac had come since my CA days (1994-2002) when the product was owned by CA.
During the latter part of my stint at CA, I was VP of Product Strategy for interBiz, which was the independent business unit that was the home of all CA’s business applications. Correction…  all but one. Accpac was not part of interBiz. There were commercial reasons for this. Accpac operated as a subsidiary which later went on the block to be sold. But interestingly enough it was interBiz that was divested first, sold to SSA Global in 2002. It wasn’t until 2004 when Sage bought Accpac.
But beyond the commercial aspects, interBiz was the home of all the ERP solutions CA owned and back then I wouldn’t have called Accpac an ERP solution. I would have simply called it an accounting package for smaller businesses. Had that continued to be the case, Accpac today would belong with Sage’s other “accounting” solutions… Sage Peachtree and Sage Simply Accounting.
I define ERP as an integrated suite of modules that forms the operational system of record of the transactions that run a business. In this context Sage Accpac qualifies as an ERP solution targeting small to lower midmarket multinational businesses in several specific but quite diverse verticals: Finance, Service, Mining and Hospitality. Without the underlying base of MRP it is not really a fit for manufacturers, but Sage has other products that target manufacturing (Sage X3 and Sage MAS). Sage also distinguishes between “global” and “multi-national”. While Sage Accpac can deal with multi-currency and multi-language environments, it is assumed each legal entity in each country will run its own instance of the software, rather than running a global centralized, single instance.
The latest version has made some strides in terms of the underlying technology platform. While the product has been available via the web for the past 10 years, until the latest version it was based on ActiveX controls. Scott Zandbergen, VP of product management for the Sage Accpac line, refers to the technology improvements as “next generation” and “real web-based delivery.”  This is most evident in its new portal. The new Sage ERP Accpac 6.0 web Portal is built on the Google Web Toolkit platform, providing the first step towards releasing a full Web based Sage ERP Accpac solution as well as mobile access from iPhone, iPad and Android™ devices.
Sage Accpac’s strength still lies in the accounting functions, and therefore some of the new features are for the accountants. Like the new fiscal period management (which Sage says was a top requested feature by its users) allowing the locking of fiscal periods by module. But beyond accounting, the new release also includes embedded Business Intelligence (BI) functionality and built-in CRM.
Embedded BI functionality includes Sage ERP Accpac Snapshots that allow easy access to operational metrics in a graphical presentation with drilldown capabilities to underlying financial reports. User-configurable snapshots include balance sheet, income statement, and aged receivables. Sage ERP Accpac Inquiry allows users to easily and intuitively create personalized query lists on the fly, without the knowledge of databases or programming.
SageCRM is included as part of the Sage ERP Accpac solution at no additional charge. Over the past several years, as ERP footprints have expanded,  it has become harder and harder to tell where ERP ends and other applications begin. This is actually good news for the corporate practitioner. Connecting the front office (CRM) and the back office (typically ERP) is a logical place to blur these lines and in doing so, add value for the users of both. A good example of how this can be useful: sales reps can add a sales order without ever leaving  SageCRM, but they are actually using a function in Sage Accpac.
More on some of the general plans across the entire line of Sage ERP products, including Sage Advisor Technology, SData and more in posts to come.
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