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Driving the changes in accounting packages

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Keith Fenner, strategic sales director, Softline ACCPAC, says that with more market consolidation, the breadth of ERP solutions available today should be complete in terms of moving towards a fully integrated platform.

ERP solutions have become institutions in their own right in many large organisations – addressing comprehensive accounting and financial intelligence needs. While their integration typically includes aspects of CRM, Business Intelligence, accounts, warehousing, service management and manufacturing, there are two main areas that developers, solutions providers and clients will have to consider going forward.
The first of these is definitely the internet. The world is moving rapidly into a web-based environment with a standard requirement being access anywhere at anytime on any device. Data thus needs to become fully portable in terms of 3G and wireless data networks, with devices like PDAs able to afford intelligent functionality. To deliver a truly web-based application therefore, the bandwidth pull should be low enough to operate the software effectively. This is proving to be a key challenge for many developers.
At Softline ACCPAC, we’re using our CRM solution to deliver access in this manner, as CRM provides the top layer of information for any organisation. By integrating functional ERP areas into CRM, it becomes a simple task for ACCPAC to deliver sales, marketing, accounts, service and customer care data to a mobile device. By adding rich CRM flavours to this such as workflow, alerts, escalation and notifications, a fully mobile solution is within reach at low cost with a proportionally low total cost of ownership (TCO). This is something affecting all software development in a very real way.
The second area driving development is definitely that of future technologies – making sure that products are designed with these in mind so as to ensure their lifespan. Ajax seems to be a leader in web-based technology; making web pages feel more responsive by exchanging small amounts of data with the server behind the scenes, so that the entire web page does not have to be reloaded each time the user requests a change.
This is a concept that would have tremendous value in an accounting and accounting software context, increasing the web page's interactivity, speed, and usability. The business case for the innovation is also simple: the TCO is low as there are no workstation setups involved as all data resides centrally. By developing with this in mind, more applications will become available on Windows or Linux, as well as support multiple browsers like IE, Mozilla, Safari and Opera.