Life Beyond QuickBooks

By Wayne Kawamoto | Posted January 28, 2008

If your business is experiencing growth pains and pushing your accounting program to its limits, we offer our hearty congratulations. You are successfully taking your business to its next level.

While QuickBooks may have helped you build your business to where it  is today, limitations in the accounting workhorse may have you looking to greener pastures in the form of mid-market solutions. There is indeed life (and more to the point, other applications) beyond QuickBooks that include Intacct Enterprise, NetSuite, QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions and Sage MAS 90.

When considering mid-market solutions, you're well beyond features such as general ledgers, accounts receivable and payable and inventory. These are a given, and at this level, you're paying for features that support the needs of larger organizations, which include increased limits to the numbers of users, transactions and managed data.

Intacct Enterprise screen shot
Intacct is an online accounting application that relies on the Web to act as the ultimate server.
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Intacct Enterprise
An online system, which falls under the software-as-service (SaaS) category, Intacct offers three products: Intacct Xpress for start-ups, Intacct Small Business and Intacct Enterprise for mid-level companies.

Online applications offer distinct advantages. These services rely on the Internet to act as your company network and all you need in order to access and work with your accounting data is a Web-connected computer. This approach also reduces the considerable expense of purchasing, managing and maintaining an in-house hardware solution, as well as dealing with software updates and data backups.

Intacct Enterprise is for larger companies that have multiple subsidiaries, franchises and international operations. Each subsidiary can have its own account structure, currency, business processes, tax systems and regulatory requirements. And all accounting data from various subsidiaries can be “rolled-up” into a main general ledger and reflected in financial reports.

Intacct integrates with well-known business applications such as ADP, Paychex, Salesforce.com, OpenAir and Adaptive Planning. Also, its support for SOP 97-2 and SAS 70 Type II certifications can help your business comply with the SEC, FASB, and Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Intacct charges $28,000 per year for core financials (general ledger, accounts receivable, accounts payable, etc.), which includes four financial management users and 50 employee users.

NetSuite screen shot
NetSuite touts customer relationship management (CRM), back-office enterprise resource planning (ERP) and integrated e-commerce capabilities.
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NetSuite
Our second Web-based system touts in-depth front office customer relationship management (CRM), back-office enterprise resource planning (ERP) capabilities and integrated e-commerce features. It’s NetSuite’s ability to manage end-to-end business workflows that takes it beyond QuickBooks.

The system is designed to automate and integrate business processes and provide real-time data on each company department. For example, sales data from an e-commerce site is immediately reflected in the accounting system, which allows sales representatives to view up-to-date customer records while on the road and warehouse managers at multiple locations to instantly access sales orders.

In addition, the Web angle allows for increased collaboration with partners, customers and vendors. For truly multinational support, NetSuite is available in English, German, French, Spanish, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Russian and Japanese. Pricing is based on the number of users.

QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions 8.0
Recognizing that successful businesses will eventually graduate past QuickBooks, Intuit developed and released QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions, now in version 8.0. Intuit's most powerful accounting application, is, feature wise, pretty much QuickBooks on steroids. But it allows businesses to stay with QuickBooks and not have to introduce and learn new systems.

QuickBooks Enterprise 8.0 screen shot
QuickBooks Enterprise accommodates more people than QuickBooks Premiere and comes in 10-, 15- and 20-user packs.
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While standard QuickBooks Premier supports up to five people, Enterprise comes in five-, ten-, 15- and 20-user packs and accommodates up to 100,000 or more customers, vendors, products and employees. Enterprise also offers detailed control over permissions, which provides employees with access to only the information and activities that they need to perform their duties.

A new Business Intelligence feature lets you view trends and analyze sales, expenses and profitability data, as well as access reports from any Internet-connected computer. Company Directory is another new feature that’s designed to let you search QuickBooks for customer, vendor and employee contact information, which includes shipping and mailing addresses, and locate these on maps. At press time, this feature was in beta.

Perhaps most attractive is Enterprise’s intuitive interface, which is the same as the standard QuickBooks. Installing server or multi-user host options for Enterprise is more involved than installing stand-alone QuickBooks. But if your business began with QuickBooks and would prefer to stay with it, Enterprise breathes new life into the franchise that may keep up with your company’s needs.

QuickBooks is priced at $3,000 for a five-user pack, $5,000 for a ten-user pack, $7,000 for the 15-user pack and $9,000 for the 20-user pack.

Sage MAS 90 screen shot
Sage MAS 90 offers an in-depth, mid-market solution with tightly integrated CRM, HRMS, payroll and other business management applications.
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Sage MAS 90
An in-depth mid-market solution, Sage MAS 90 offers comprehensive and tightly integrated CRM, HRMS, payroll and other business-management applications. The newest version 4.2 features the Sage MAS Fixed Assets management module and Business Insights Explorer (BIE), which integrates with the company’s CRM solutions that include: ACT by Sage; SageCRM/SageCRM.com and Sage SalesLogix.

Sage’s Abra HR and Abra Payroll offer complete solutions for managing employees and Sage Payroll Services provides a complete online payroll service. The e-Business Manager allows customers to log on and place orders directly into Sage MAS 90 and there are optional applets that add storefront capabilities such as customer service.

The program lets you view multiple transaction types in a single view, locate customers and see related orders, invoices and payments, as well as apply filters to all views. The inventory and distribution modules support return merchandise authorizations, bar codes and credit card processing.

In general, candidates for MAS 90 are companies that need to handle larger transaction volumes, add more users and support such functions as remote warehousing or integrated shipping. Sage MAS 90 is available through local Sage MAS business partners and pricing is customized to the application.

Theory in Practice
A real world story about out-growing QuickBooks comes from Nicole Donnally, founder and CEO of BabyLegs, a manufacturer and seller of leg warmer-style apparel for babies. With some 100 SKUs, four pricing tiers and 12,000 customers, Donnally said that QuickBooks became slow and unresponsive. The company also needed to manage multiple inventory locations, and they had to rely on hand re-entry, a clumsy, error-prone technique for importing sales from the firm’s stand-alone Web site into QuickBooks (CSV files didn’t work).

After considering its options, the company settled on NetSuite, which the company incorporated between February and July of 2007. The transition wasn’t smooth, and there were major glitches. For example, the credit card processing wasn't activated and, as a result, they had to review thousands of sales by hand.

And there were certain capabilities that the company thought would be included in the price, but were only available as modules that cost extra. According to Donnally, many of the problems were the result of an over-confident sales representative and modules that were released too quickly.

On the plus side, NetSuite’s ability to integrate sales directly into accounting and fulfillment eliminated the need for a full-time person to input data. NetSuite also allows the company to better target mailings towards customers.

There is indeed life after QuickBooks but when making this very significant move, be careful and take your time. “Be very clear about your needs,” said Donnally. “Think through all the processes and communicate them effectively to whomever is doing your implementation. Double check your numbers everywhere so you know that they are accounted for correctly.”

Wayne Kawamoto has written over 800 articles, columns and reviews about computers, new technologies, the Internet and small businesses. Wayne has also published three books about upgrading PCs, building office networks and troubleshooting notebook computers. You can contact him through his Web site at www.waynewrite.com.

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