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REVIEW; A Trio of Mid-Market Accounting Apps

Mid-market solutions are right-sized for many businesses. These tools are the middle child of the accounting software space. Not simple enough to be used by many of the smallest businesses and not complex (or expensive) enough to even be considered by many of the Fortune 500, they are designed for that broad chunk of businesses sitting squarely in the middle of the market.

While their siblings on either end of the market get most of the attention, these tools offer a range of features and solve a variety of business issues at a price that is far below the top-tiered solutions. As the shift toward software as a service and cloud applications continues to gain traction, mid-market vendors have had to extend their solutions in new directions. As a result, their users have greater control of how and when they access critical business information.

We'll take a look at three of the leading mid-market applications.
1. Epicor ERP (Version 9)
2. Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010
3. Sage ERP Accpac (Version 6.0)

Epicor ERP
Epicor Software
Irvine, Calif.
(800) 999-1809

Epicor ERP
Of the three vendors reviewed, Epicor is the only one with a clear industry focus. From its manufacturing roots, the company has expanded through strategic acquisitions of products serving the distribution, retail and service industries. The company's April combination with Activant Solutions has added additional strength in the retail market.

Epicor ERP has the depth and breadth of features you would expect to find in a manufacturing solution including its family of management applications: Financial, Sales, Service, Supply Chain, Production, Human Capital, Planning and Scheduling, and Product Data. If you're keeping track of the initials in the Management family tree we currently have: FM, SM, SM, SCM, PM, HCM, P&S and PDM.

Add to that list the GRC module (Governance, Risk and Compliance) and you will discover that the company also delivers environmental and energy management tools.

In an attempt designed either to further muddy the acronym waters or to use up the three remaining letters in the alphabet, Epicor also offers the Epicor EPM Performance Canvas which delivers graphical KPIs and scorecards based on data stored in Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS). According to their materials, each "canvas" includes more than 250 pre-built "gems and slicers". I don't know about you, but I can never get enough gems and slicers.

The software is built on a framework that supports application deployment via a "smart client, browser-based interface, or mobile device". The idea is that a user can access the exact same product using a device of his choosing. Microsoft

Dynamics GP
Redmond, Wash.
(888) 477-7989 Option #1
Price: Starts at $2,610 Dynamics GP Business Essentials (single user).

Dynamics GP
As a member of the Microsoft family, Microsoft Dynamics GP has an obvious advantage when it comes to integrating with Microsoft Office tools. Microsoft Dynamics GP takes full advantage of opportunities to create, share, and organize business information. Starting from graphs and charts displayed on the company overview dashboard, a user can drill into details of any business area.

Along the way, that user might also find he needs to purchase other Microsoft tools including: Microsoft Dynamics CRM, SQL Server 2008, Microsoft Power Pivot, Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Dynamics Business Analyzer or Microsoft Link Instant Messaging.

The product can be customized by .net programmers and includes a wealth of modules from Financial to HRM to Project Costing. To access each of these modules, Microsoft Dynamics GP offers a hybrid approach to cloud computing. Whether it's the technology or the pricing model that inspires you to take to the cloud, Microsoft is happy to oblige.

Their Internet portal allows users to access certain key application functions from the cloud while maintaining the full application on the desktop or server. You can host the full application with one of their business partners for a monthly fee. You can also build intranet sites to share internal documents and manage workflow.

In order to make the application accessible by users, the software organizes information by role. Each user's homepage shows only the information, links, and modules that they need to access. Within the application, individual forms can be tailored for streamlined data entry. Microsoft Dynamics GP offers many benefits to users who are already familiar with Microsoft Office products.

Sage ERP Accpac
Irvine, Calif.
Price: Accpac Online, $150 per user per month. On-premise, $2,500 to $100,000.

Sage ERP Accpac
Well, I can now say I officially do know Jack. Jack would be the animated character that graces the pages of the Sage Accpac website. He walks you through the new features of Sage ERP Accpac 6.0 which is the first look at the company's next generation software.

Rather than moving the entire product to their new technology, Sage has created a blended release.

According to Sage "the new web framework user interface components require a web server to function and use new technology." Old screens and new screens will "co-exist and old user interface screens can be accessed through the new Sage ERP Accpac Portal, even though they have not been moved to the new web framework."

The look and feel of the old desktop and the new portal couldn't be more different but the core technology underlying the Sage ERP Accpac product remains. Users can still count on the multitier architecture of Sage ERP Accpac to provide choices when it comes to operating systems, databases, and deployment methods.

When it comes to business intelligence, Sage ERP Accpac delivers a series of customizable snapshots that lead a user to drill downs for critical reporting and transaction details. Sage ERP Accpac Inquiry offers ad hoc reporting and basic queries and promises to reduce time spent in Crystal Reports. For further analysis, Sage ERP Accpac Intelligence is bundled in the application and uses a Microsoft Excel interface.

Sage ERP Accpac product bridges the gap between accounting and CRM tools and even offers a free SageCRM 7.0 license with the accounting application. More functions have been delivered inside the CRM interface, presumably so that sales people can do their job without having to directly open the accounting application. The focus of this release appears to be lower total cost of ownership and enhanced accessibility.

Geni Whitehouse CPA.CITP, CSPM
Geni Whitehouse, CPA.CITP, CSPM is the Founder of Even a Nerd Can Be Heard, an organization focused on communication skills for smart people.  With past roles ranging from partner in a CPA firm to leader of the technology practice in a firm, she has a wide range of experiences to share.  She is a former software company executive and industry analyst and a two-time graduate of the Jeff Justice Comedy Workshoppe. She is passionate about finding interesting ways to talk about what some might consider boring subjects and has discovered that there is no shortage of material. She is the author of How to Make a Boring Subject Interesting : 52 ways even a nerd can be heard.
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