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Accounting Systems In The Cloud
According to analyst firm Forrester Research, cloud computing is projected to be a $160 billion market by 2011. However, breaking down that macro figure into more isolated markets is a bit of a difficult task. In my most recent quest for an on-demand accounting and CRM software system I've discovered that just determining which business software suppliers operate in the cloud and which do not can be an unnecessarily lengthy task.
I initially reached out to the mainstream ERP software suppliers such as SAP, Lawson, Sage and Microsoft. With each vendor I was clear that due to our decentralized nature and desire to outsource the accounting software and CRM application we clearly desired software as a service (SaaS) systems. Each vendor acknowledged my request, suggested that they could accommodate my desire and then proceeded to sell me on on-premise systems. I found the entire experience insulting and a significant waste of time.
I then proceeded to focus my software selection on more legitimate SaaS accounting and front office suppliers. Fortunately, I knew of NetSuite, Aplicor and BizAutomation. I would have liked to uncover a few more candidates to increase the surveyed population and competition, however, I was not able to find any more legitimate on-demand accounting software vendors. I did consider Salesforce.com with one of their AppExchange partners, however, it became clear very quickly that the AppExchange programs were a bit superficial, the integrations between the programs quite weak and the opportunity for vendor finger pointing very high. I also suspect the differences in the UIs (user interfaces) between Salesforce.com and the third party programs would extend the learning curves for our users. Lastly, I must admit I was not excited to negotiate two vendor contracts for what I feel is one enterprise business system.
While NetSuite, Aplicor and BizAutomation all offer impressive online accounting systems, the vendors could not be more different. NetSuite is a Silicon Valley SaaS player born from the seeds of Oracle. Every call from NetSuite was a 'sell first, ask questions later' approach which got pretty old. Aplicor was just the opposite and BizAutomation was somewhere in the middle.
From the software demonstrations we narrowed down the finalist list to NetSuite and Aplicor. Primarily due to some advanced accounting feature sets we ultimately selected Aplicor. The accounting and sales people on the project team were heavily biased toward Aplicor's ease of use and our CFO favored the reporting in Aplicor. We were a bit troubled by the excessive rants and flames directed at NetSuite by former NetSuite users and business partners and published on a number of social media sites, however, since Aplicor's product was superior for our needs we didn't need to review those comments and allegations further. I personally liked Aplicor's technology and web services integration approach better, however, these factors played almost no role in the final decision process.
We're now into the accounting software implementation pilot and all looks good so far. I'll likely publish another post some time after the go-live and hopefully share some accounting software implementation lessons learned.
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|This blog is focused on hosted, on-demand or software as a service (collectively SAAS) business solutions. To qualify as a SaaS solution, the service should be offered on a subscription (pay as you go) purchase price, housed in a multi-tenant data center and delivered remotely over the Web to web browsers. Business applications include about any front office or back office business system. Frequently cited business applications include Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, Sales Force Automation (SFA) systems, Enterprise Resource Planning(ERP) systems, Supply Chain Management (SCM) systems, Manufacturing Systems and Human Resource (HR) systems.|