With the increasing sophistication of accounting software, the importance of its role as part of a company's overall executive management system, and its Internet/intranet component, resellers need to know more than just the specs of the package. They need to understand how it works and how it can be applied in different business environments. Australian Reseller News' Durelle Fry has asked several leading accounting software companies what they do to educate resellers about productsACCPACACCPAC is sold and supported through a network of value added resellers (VARs) and qualified installers (QIs).
VARs are trained and supported on the sales cycle. QIs attend compul- sory technical training courses, sit for exams, and supply satisfied client ref-erences to achieve the four levels of QI status: approved, certified, executive and specialist.
Regular sales and technical training courses are held across Australia, and QIs also have access to CD-ROM-based training materials.
Arrow Research has a national dealer accreditation training program. This accreditation is a mandatory prerequisite to become an Arrow dealer.
The accreditation program is a structured six-day training program, separated into six major topics, each covering a day. These include cashflow, stock control, advanced stock control, financials, costing and production. These six topics are typically spread over a three-month period.
Once completed, attendees are awarded their Arrow accreditation.
If more than one individual at an organisation works with Arrow, all individuals involved must attend the accreditation program.
In addition to the accreditation program, supplementary workshops are also conducted, covering topical issues such as group certificate processing. A seminar is also held in each state when new modules or software versions become available, and attendance at these seminars is a prerequisite to distribution of new software.
Taking a slightly different approach and aiming to provide the reseller with training to improve their own business, is Attache Software.
The company has reduced its five-day dealer training course to two, with pre-course study material. According to Michael Rich, managing director of Attache, this "cuts the time dealers are out of their businesses plus how much of the training can be done at the speed of the individual". The two days concentrate on typical support questions and network issues and the like.
Attache also has an annual dealer conference. Guest speakers cover such material as time management, loyalty programs, a broad spectrum of marketing helpful hints "as well as some good fun".
Staff of Data-Tech offer training on a store-by-store basis and sub-distributors conduct reseller training nights.
In-store training is conducted at breakfast or evening sessions. Data-Tech has adopted a very simple approach to training sales staff, arguing that because these people need to know about "thousands of products in several categories", it is best to teach them to utilise the brochures, boxes and test drives in- store to serve their customers. Data-Tech teaches sales staff the "top five selling points" of its family of products and says that this "is largely what the reseller needs to remember". The selling staff are taught how to find answers on the product boxes and brochures and to use the toll-free 1800 number that Data-Tech has set up to assist sales staff with difficult customer questions.
Another aspect of Data-Tech's training scheme is the "in-store demo day". The company spends a day in each store demonstrating the product to customers who have questions, at the same time giving staff one-on-one training.
Data-Tech merchandisers visit about 200 of the company's key resellers "on a revolving basis" on most days of the year, and they are available to assist and train store salespeople.
Jiwa's training program is a two-part process. The company's two-day seminar accentuates the actual package. The more comprehensive five-day course includes material from the short course, but also covers the intricacies of MS-SQL Server and Windows NT to provide an in-depth grounding of every aspect of the product and its underlying technology.
The courses are hands-on, with the attendees commencing with new PCs and installing MS-NT, MS-SQL Server and Jiwa from scratch. For people familiar with traditional LAN accounting packages, the client/server approach is a new experience. Apart from the volume and speed benefits, basic features such as roll-back technology, backing up while processing, Internet/intranet abilities and report flexibility are new concepts.
Kerry Proctor, sales, marketing and administration manager, of Jiwa Financials said: "Most salespeople will never personally install an NT and MS-SQL-server system, but they need to become aware of the benefits this platform offers Ñ what can be done and how it can be done. By enabling them to schedule, say, MS-SQL backups or understand roll-back technology, we provide a practical way for them to appreciate the benefits of a client/server approach."
The courses are run regularly throughout the year in the major capital cities. Jiwa's objective is to work closely with a small number of quality resellers (called Jiwa Solution Providers or JSPs).
Navision uses "highly qualified and certified" partners to provide solutions to its customers. These partners are trained in all aspects of the product including all application functionality, report writing, customisation capabilities and development of tools required.
Navision provides regular training courses at no cost to partners in major capital cities in Australia. To become a certified partner after training, applicants must pass exami-nations and commit to maintaining their skills through ongoing training and development.
Regular updates of information are also available through online access to information databases using Lotus Notes or Web sites.
Pastel software is sold through Pastel Dealers, members of the Pastel Public Accountants Forum, and Pastel Gold Consultants.
Resellers who apply to become Pastel Dealers pay a $195 application fee. This provides them with a Dealer Starter Kit which includes:
The new $10 Pastel SOHO guided tour.
An evaluation version with full documentation of Pastel SOHO Accounting.
An evaluation version with full documentation of the Pastel Partner range.
An evaluation version with full documentation of Pastel Payroll version 2.7.
A stock of Pastel brochures and marketing material, including Pastel posters and retail brochure holders.
Pastel CD-ROM containing Pastel's Knowledge Base, Networker's Guide Btrieve ODBC drivers, year 2000 guarantee certificate, Pastel bitmap images and demonstration versions of all Pastel's software (including Fixed Assets).
Pastel Dealer Utility Disk including data conversions, Pastel SOHO Knowledge Base and other utilitiesIn addition, dealers are able to attend two- and three-day end-user training courses with Tailored Solutions, Pastel's Authorised Training Centre, at a discount.
Pastel also holds dealer information workshops every quarter. These cost $249 for two days and are for dealers only. The workshops focus on selling and supporting the software. Dealers are able to arrange detailed product demonstrations for potential clients, either with Pastel sales staff or with local Pastel Gold Consultants.
Informal dealer evenings are held periodically in the major centres. These sessions highlight upcoming product developments.
Resellers of Quicken, from Reckon Intuit, have access to a "specially designed, full colour Quicken brochure". In addition, resellers will receive a self-running demonstration version of Quicken; point-of-sale material (shelf); on box point-of-sale material; and a CD-ROM featuring all the Reckon Intuit range as well as product descriptions, price lists and fact sheets.
Training for new channel partners is offered in modules, which are run at least three times per year. Different types of reseller organisations are required to attend various combinations of training.
The first of the four modules is a two- day sales and marketing course which includes Sybiz orientation, how the channel program works, lead referral scheme, Sybiz marketing strategies, how to effectively sell Sybiz systems, how to define markets and a third-party developer program.
The second module is a two-day product training which provides a full overview of all Sybiz products and hands-on training.
The third module is a three-day authorised support consultant (ASC) course which provides technical training. This includes installation, network set-up and requirements, file structures and relationships, and databases. The course is designed for the technical field staff of resellers. A prerequisite for this course is attending the two-day product training course.
Finally, there is a one-day developer training course, which assists software developers new to Sybiz with issues such as DDE, implementation of Sybiz products and other programming issues. Sybiz Developers all receive a copy of the Software Developers Kit.
The cost of these courses includes a full two-user NFR copy of Sybiz Vision. Resellers who already have the software receive 50 per cent off the price of a Vision module which can be redeemed at a later date. The company points out that resellers require, as a minimum, a demonstration pack of Sybiz Vision in order to sell the software.
Free for registered Sybiz resellers, is both a monthly sales forum which focuses on different topics and products each month, and a monthly technical forum which is held on the same day as the sales forum, and which deals with technical discussion and training on new products and features. A monthly technical brief is provided by the national support team.
When Sybiz launches a new product, update seminars are conducted nationally.
Sybiz requires a different level of training from solution providers, resellers and authorised support consultants.
The solution providers, who are responsible for top level sales, support and training to Sybiz customers, must attend the sales and marketing course, the product training, and the ASC course.
Commonwealth Quickline has Commoncents
In a recently formed alliance with Commoncents Software, the Commonwealth Bank will distribute its Quickline online banking software with Commoncents accounting software in the reseller and retail environment.
By utilising the distribution channels which have been developed by Commoncents Software, the Commonwealth Bank will enhance its national retail exposure in Dick Smith, Harvey Norman, Chandlers, Billy Guyats, Brashs and possibly, Myer/Grace Brothers and David Jones. Added to these distribution channels will be the Commoncents VAR network.
This month, Commoncents is launching Business 97, Business 97 with Payroll, Business 97 Multi-User and Business 97 (SQL Server Version). The company believes this launch should allow new resellers the opportunity to target the higher-end business market.
The new products include a demonstration CD highlighting Commoncents software, Commonwealth Bank products such as Novated Leasing, Better Business Planner and Quickline online banking. The demonstration package will also contain samples of the latest releases of Vet Anti-Virus Software, Genius Payroll, Australian Business Online, Communique graphics and multimedia presentations.
Year 2000 plus two
Attache claims the year 2000 is only one of three issues that have to be addressed by the accounting software industry in 1998.
The other two issues are the move to Windows-based products and the need to be ready for a GST. Attache Software is promoting the installation of its product as an alternative to amending old software, because the product addresses each of these issues and saves the user from the high cost of updating an outdated product. It also eliminates the risk of finding that a program is obsolete soon after it has been updated.
Michael Rich, managing director of Attache Software, believes that "well before the year 2000 virtually all businesses will have moved to the Windows operating system". He estimates that "already over 80 per cent of all new PC software installed today is Windows based".
The company is convinced that "some form of GST is likely in Australia and it could be announced well before the year 2000". Attache is not alone in offering GST-ready software. Those products which are being used in countries where a GST already exists, such as New Zealand and South Africa, also have expectations of a GST in Australia and they are marketing this as a distinguishing feature.
Rich says Attache Business Partner answers all three issues and offers functions such as multi-user, improved financial reporting and sales analysis, purchasing control, and user design of laser printed forms.
Designed for the "mid-range" accounting software market, the RRP of a module starts at $980 with a cost of $495 for an extra network user.
What's new in accounting products?
ACCPAC claims to be a fully integrated accounting system designed for companies with sophisticated accounting requirements or industry-specific needs. The three main product lines are ACCPAC for Windows; ACCPAC for Windows Plus, for smaller businesses; and the DOS-based ACCPAC Plus.
Just released by ACCPAC is version 3.0 of ACCPAC for Windows, and version 5.5 of BrioQuery for ACCPAC for Windows. Just about to be released is SmartSales for ACCPAC for Windows.
ACCPAC for Windows version 3.0 is a full Windows-based package that features multi-currency in all modules, spreadsheet based financial reporting, ODBC, SQL Server support and a powerful macro programming language. The RRP per module is $2295.
The BrioQuery Analysis and Reporting module comes with a full suite of templates for financial analysis and reporting. The user can perform investigative analysis and reporting as well as create new reports. Features include the production of comparative reports with any number of columns; the ability to analyse data with built-in multidimensional, comprehensive analysis; a full suite of 3D charts; charts and graphs embedded within financial reports; the ability to create consolidated reports; exporting or importing with Microsoft Excel and other data sources; and a spotlighter feature which allows users to drill down into their own data.
SmartSales is a sales force automation (SFA) software program that allows sales people and sales managers to accurately track sales opportunities and produce objective forecasts. SmartSales is tightly integrated with ACCPAC for Windows, allowing both programs to share information such as product, pricing and customer information.
The distributor for ACCPAC in Australia is MicroChannel.
The latest release of the mid-range accounting software package, Attache Business Partner, now includes a laser forms designer which features a large number of type fonts and enables the printing of company logos. The company believes many businesses will no longer need to have customised stationery printed externally.
Michael Rich, managing director of Attache, told Australian Reseller News that the Graphical Forms Designer feature also works with most colour printers, offers a number of standard layouts that can be used as a base, has both landscape and portrait printing, and lets the user print multiple copies of an invoice with a different identification remark on each one.
Another addition to the latest version of Attache Business Partner is a General Ledger Financial Reporter which converts traditional accounting reports into tools that are more useful for operational management.
Navision Financials from Navision Software is a comprehensive financial and business management system which, in addition to providing an organisation's accounting requirements, helps to manage the human resources, sales and marketing aspects of businesses in the $20 million gross revenue and upwards range.
Features include comprehensive drilldown and drillaround capabilities, easy to customise, online help, Internet capabilities including e-commerce, modular, and easy integration to desktop applications such as word processing and spreadsheets.
The RRP of an average set of modules is from $20,000 depending on the number of users.
The Internet function of the product has recently been "significantly enhanced". The Internet commerce tool interfaces with Microsoft Commerce Server, Internet Information Server, Microsoft Wallet and Microsoft SQL Server. The tool provides users with a seamless integration of their financial software and Internet commerce sites. Businesses can now change the price of a product, create new product lines or publish e-mail messages for cross- selling opportunities, all within Navision Financials. In addition, all information relating to the commerce transaction is entered directly into the user's business management system.
Pastel's current product range for Windows networks is the Pastel Partner Range v4.1h (RRP from $995 to approximately $3500); Pastel Payroll v2.7 (RRP from $395 to approximately $2000); and Crystal Reports v6 for Pastel (RRP $350 for a single user and $850 for five users).
The company's latest product release is the Pastel Developer's Toolkit. The toolkit is a programming tool which lets a third- party developer read and write Pastel Partner data files directly, without having to load Pastel or create intermediate files.
Previously, Pastel "add-on" routines and "front-end" applications have been developed using the Btrieve ODBC driver, or by reading Pastel's Btrieve filed direct. The Toolkit now takes this one stage further and allows developers to create seamless links between their applications and Pastel data sets, which reduces the need for system modifications as versions of Pastel change.
According to Mike Katz, research and development director at Pastel, the toolkit was developed as a result of a large number of requests from Australian developers and Pastel users wanting to either access data directly from Pastel files, or write data directly into Pastel files. Katz said: "a developer can, for example, create a specialised invoicing screen for a particular vertical market, and simply send the information to the toolkit. The toolkit will perform all the validations as if it was a normal Pastel invoice, and update all the relevant Pastel files. Using the toolkit therefore ensures that the integrity of the data is maintained."
M.Y.O.B. AssetManager from Data-Tech has been designed to comply with the Australian Taxation Office requirements to supply accurate records of all assets of businesses and organisations. More complete control of assets also assists with insurance, determination of the true cost of ownership, and a more accurate profit and loss statement, using depreciation transfers.
With AssetManager, assets can be acquired, depreciated, written off, split, sold, transferred, disposed of, and revalued. The user can also automatically calculate the gain or loss from the sale of assets.
M.Y.O.B. AssetManager also links with M.Y.O.B. accounting products to facilitate adjustment of the General Ledger. The program also has the capacity to link accounting systems other than M.Y.O.B.
The RRP of AssetManager is $299.
M.Y.O.B. PowerPay. This product is a stand-alone payroll system designed to cater for organisations with up to 500 employees. PowerPay also links to M.Y.O.B. accounting products and other accounting systems.
Features of PowerPay include:
The ability to import payroll information from other systems such as databases and spreadsheets.
Catering for departmental/divisional analysis of payroll information.
The RRP of M.Y.O.B. PowerPay is $499.
Sybiz Vision is the flagship product of the Sybiz range, and is available by the module. A range of companion products is also available as well as Sybiz Business Solutions developed by third-party developers. Sybiz Vision is designed for companies with a single user up to a maximum of fifty users on a network, with a typical installation being between five and 20 users. A national support hotline offers support direct to Sybiz customers.
New features have been added to Sybiz Vision to cater for a wider range of businesses. The new version offers job costing for service industry businesses and kit sales for custom goods suppliers. Sybiz has also improved foreign currency handling and widened the range of electronic commerce options available.
The new kit sales function allows businesses to keep track of individual components of products such as computers, mobile phones and custom-built furniture.
Other new features are designed for organisations with international operations. These include the ability to have foreign bank accounts in addition to other multi-currency features, extended currency fields and improved GST/VAT reporting.
Electronic options include the ability to automatically reconcile bank statements in electronic format, and make electronic bank payments via a standard bank file which can be sent to the bank for processing.
The RRPs of Sybiz Vision modules range from $600 to $1750, with a typical system costing around $10,000. The price includes software upgrades issued during the first 12 months.
Tel (03) 9866 6511
Fax (03) 9866 6556
Attache Software Australia
Tel 133 045
Fax 1800 659 301
Tel 1300 300 227
Fax (02) 9923 2230
Tel 1800 555 007
Fax (02) 9770 9088
Tel (02) 9926 1218
Fax (02) 9929 2613
Tel (02) 9906 3666
Fax (02) 9906 3665
Navision Software Australasia
Tel 1800 358 070
Fax (07) 3221 0732
Reckon Intuit Australia
Tel (02) 9562 7900
Fax (02) 9562 7934
Pastel Accounting Software (Australia)
Tel 1800 024 851
Fax (02) 9909 3688
Tel (02) 9954 5211
Fax (02) 9954 5240