Sage Updates Accpac ERP For SMBs - InformationWeek

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2/3/2011
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Sage Updates Accpac ERP For SMBs

Venerable financial and operations app adds Web, mobile and business intelligence options. Can it compete despite the software-as-a-service buzz?

Sage Accpac is decidedly old-school ERP software for small and midsize businesses (SMBs). But that doesn't mean it can't learn new tricks -- or compete in an increasingly cloud-computing-obsessed market.

Accpac 6.0, an upgrade announced on Thursday and released to channel partners late last year, is moving toward a modern Web-based platform with mobile access options for iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

The 6.0 release also adds embedded Snapshots that provide key performance metrics and drill-down analysis into balance sheets, income statements and receivables. Accpac Inquiry is a new custom-query capability in 6.0 that lets non-technical users store searches so they can quickly access the information they need.

Make no mistake: Accpac is not yet a fully Web-accessible product. But a new Accpac 6.0 Web Portal, built on the Google Web Toolkit platform, provides a Web-based starting point for role-based workflow navigation and access to the new Snapshots.

When you need to dig down into the functionality, you'll need conventional client software. Sage says future releases will bring an entirely Web-based product.

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Lots of competitors in the SMB space offering multiple applications or integrated suites. Microsoft, for example, has added integrations between some of its Dynamics ERP and CRM products, and it has sweetened the deal with discounts for companies using both applications.

SAP has taken the integrated-suite approach with Business One and Business All-In-One, its on-premise products for small and midsize organizations, respectively, and with Business ByDesign, its software-as-service offering.

Sage offers multiple applications, and it bundles one free seat of Sage CRM into every Accpac deployment. With 6.0, the company has also added Accpac Intelligence, well-established business intelligence software OEMed from South African vendor Alchemex. The product includes templates that let users pull ERP and other source-system data directly into Microsoft Excel-based Pivot Charts and Pivot Tables.

Typical Accpac customers deploy about a dozen seats of the software, but the upper range extends above 250 seats. Longevity and a global footprint (with concentrations in the US, Canada, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand) have helped build a surprisingly large base of 45,000 active customers, according to Sage. Less than 1 percent use Accpac Online, a hosted version of the software.

Once Accpac becomes a completely Web-based product, it's obvious it might step into SaaS with a multi-tenant offering . But for now, Accpac competes primarily with conventional ERP systems such as Microsoft Dynamics NAV (formerly Navision), Dynamics GP (formerly Great Plains) and Epicor.

Much of the hype in the SMB market is certainly centered on SaaS, but according to Forrester analyst China Martens, vendors like Salesforce and NetSuite are moving up market as they mature. ERP suite vendor NetSuite, for example, is going after larger companies with its OneWorld offering. And SAP is starting to talk about Business ByDesign as a delivery platform for extension applications for large companies rather than strictly an SMB play.

"That leaves a bit of a vacuum further down," says Martens, and an opening for products like Accpac that have always catered to smaller companies. "It may not be the newest technology, but it's getting Web-enabled, you can get it on your mobile and you can access it from a variety of browsers."

Accpac's Financial modules (including General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable and Intra-company Consolidation and other components) are bundled at $1,495 per user for perpetually licensed software. Financial and Operational modules (the latter adding Payroll, Inventory Control, Order Entry/Sales Order, Purchase Order and other components) are bundled at $2,495 per user. Sage CRM is $795 per user.

The Windows-based software integrates with Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle or Pervasive databases.

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