Riding the new accounting wave

27 Mar 2006

Using accounting software today is no longer a case of simply balancing the books. The technology is moving in the direction of giving business managers a real-time picture of how their business is performing at any time

Nick Carr, implementation specialist with accounting software firm Sage, explains that it is no longer a case of pulling together ledgers and profit and loss reports. Instant reporting, business intelligence, analysis and integration with other software packages are the hallmarks of today’s mission-critical accounting software. The ability to integrate with other software packages such as Excel is another vital factor, he says.

“When businesses choose accounting software today, they are looking mainly at solutions that will grow in line with the company’s growth,” Carr explains. Discussing Sage’s Mid Market Solution (MMS) package, Carr says total transparency and knowledge of how a firm is performing at any time is now possible. “I’m from an accounting background and I’m stunned at some of the tools now in the hands of accountants. MMS has the most comprehensive report writer Sage has ever produced and as well as accessing reports such as profit and loss, sales performance for the week, it is possible to track the origination of orders and work out overall costs instantaneously.”

Dealing with the demands of growth drove the Port of Cork to adopt the MMS package. Port of Cork employs about 120 staff, and approximately 20 people need to use the accountancy package at various times. The number of people using the system didn’t change, but because the amount of traffic, and therefore orders and invoices, increased, the larger package was required.

Last year was Port of Cork’s best year, with some 10 million tonnes of throughput. With this in mind, Port of Cork decided to upgrade its accountancy package. Previously the company had been using Sage Line 100, and about a year ago made the transition to Sage’s MMS package.

Port of Cork accountant Tom McCarthy (pictured) says that while Line 100 was a good package, the company had grown to the point where that solution had reached the end of its natural life. It was time for a change and MMS came into play. “One of the primary reasons we moved on to MMS was we needed a bigger accountancy package and we wanted one that was Windows based,” says McCarthy.

The main benefits of MMS over Line 100, according to McCarthy, is that it’s more user-friendly. “It allows us to carry out more functions quickly,” he says. The Windows-based nature of MMS meant that after its installation staff were adept at using it in a very short period of time.

McCarthy says the transition from Line 100 to MMS was straightforward. “We were well prepared so when the information was taken over [from Line 100] people would have been used to it within a week or two weeks. It wasn’t a big hassle for workers to get to grips with the new package. I think that’s primarily because it was Windows based and everybody here was familiar with this operating system. There was no particular problems from that point of view.”

Sage business partner MCS Computers was instrumental in installing the system. It transferred the information across from Line 100 and installed MMS in the Port of Cork offices.

Another facet of MMS that the growing company needed was more specific reports. MMS has a wider functionality of reports than its precursor package, but these alone weren’t adequate for the company’s needs. Integration with other systems was essential to adapt the software to increasing business demands. Again, this was facilitated by MCS.

The ability to customise the software to create more complex accountancy reports and to integrate the software with other systems was advantageous for Port of Cork.

MMS also integrates with the new Port Management Information System (PMIS) the company installed in January. This system gives the company an overall view of the traffic that is scheduled to come through the port and has been integrated with MMS very successfully from an accounting point of view, says McCarthy.

Carr explained that the latest of MMS integrates with Microsoft’s SQL Server technology, ensuring that firms can have instant access to vital information across the organisation. “The ability to work with SQL Server means managers can grab information pretty instantly from anywhere in the organisation, ensuring transparency. This is absolutely the way forward and we have quite a few sites in Ireland now live with this solution,” he concludes.

By John Kennedy and Niall Byrne