BTerrell Group Blog

Chris Firra

Recent Posts

Travel and Expense Report Evolution

Posted by Chris Firra on Wed, Mar 19, 2014

Expense Report - the old days

Many years ago, small businesses adopted preprinted employee expense report forms.  The use of a standardized form was an attempt to have employees enter all of the information necessary to properly categorize the expenditures.  Employees were instructed to staple all of the supporting receipts to the form, which then was physically passed on to the supervisor for review.  The supervisor reviewed the receipts, and ostensibly checked whether there were enough of them to cover the reimbursable amount claimed by the employee.  

On occasion, a form would be sent back to the employee for revision, but if all was good, the supervisor sent the little bundle of paper down the hall to the accounting department.  With a little luck, the form arrived with all its attachments at the Accounts Payable office.  The A/P personnel then had to again match the receipts to the amounts claimed, check the total, code the expenses and enter the transaction into the payable system.  This was no small chore for companies with many employees in the field, and soon their file cabinets were bulging with all of the vouched and supporting receipts.

Expense Report

Next, only a couple of decades ago, after Microsoft Excel came along, someone got the idea of having employees complete an expense report using an Excel template.  The template had some terrific features like ensuring that expenses extended and footed properly.  The completed report could be emailed to the supervisor, who would again electronically forward it on to accounting (via email) after approval.  The paper receipts either followed separately or were converted to .pdf and also attached to the email with the expense report.  Accountants rejoiced as this cut down the incidents of math errors and lost paperwork.  This method endured, despite the fact that the expenses still had to be manually entered into the accounts payable system.  Additionally, every time a new expense category or department was created, the template had to be revised.

Expense Report3 resized 600

Within the last few years, wonderful new travel & expense report automation has become available for small business.  In our office, we utilize the expense report feature of Intacct's Time and Expenses module.  It provides each employee with a quick way to enter expenses that are properly coded with valid general ledger account and project number.  Additionally, scanned receipts or photos can be attached to the report to provide necessary support.  Once entered, the expense report appears on the supervising employee's dashboard for review and approval before becoming available for payment.  The real net gain is that an accountant does not need to reenter the transaction, much less make sure that the report foots.  Incidentally, Intacct offers a less expensive "employee user" license that provides dashboard access as well as expense report entry and approval.

Mobile Expense Reporting

For other organizations, a more full-featured integrated travel & expense management application may be appropriate.  Web-based travel & expense solutions  such as ConcurExpense Cloud and Expense Anywhere enable employees to capture receipts and and submit reports from their mobile devices.  Most can also retrieve corporate credit card transactions and support rules to evaluate expense amounts at the time of entry.  The application programming interface (API) of both of our core accounting offerings, Sage 300 ERP and Intacct, enable integration with these solutions, eliminating additional data entry.

If you find that your accounting personnel are spending too much time handling travel and expense reports, it might be time to allow your process evolve, especially if your process still involves paperwork.  Feel free to call BTerrell Group to discuss integrated expense management options that will work with your accounting system.

 

Tags: Sage 300 ERP, Intacct

Windows XP and the Meaning of Life (or End of Life)

Posted by Chris Firra on Fri, Mar 07, 2014

Windows XP

You may have read or heard by now that Microsoft has announced that the end of life for both Windows XP and Office 2003 officially will be April 8, 2014.  Both of these products became mainstays of business computing, and Windows XP, in particular, has had an astounding lifespan (for an operating system) of nearly 13 years.  Despite the fact that Microsoft released 3 subsequent major versions of its Windows operating system, (Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8), WinXP had continued to hold more than 38 percent of the operating system market share for personal computers as late as a year ago.  But now, this king of PC operating systems is almost dead…

Or is it?  Windows XP computers will not suddenly stop functioning on April 8.  So, what does end of life actually mean?  

RIP Windows XP

To begin, this means that Microsoft will no longer will support Windows XP.  Translation: technical assistance will no longer be available from Microsoft.  More importantly, there will be no more updates available (automatic or otherwise) to correct bugs or to plug security gaps.  Internet-connected machines running WinXP may be vulnerable to new threats.  Additionally, other applications from Microsoft, like Office, will not maintain compatibility with Windows XP.  It follows that software from all other vendors that rely on Microsoft products will follow suit.

It's not surprising that IT departments are accelerating the retirement of computers with Windows XP in favor of new machines with the newest operating systems, like Windows 8.1, and applications like Microsoft Office 2013.  We are even noticing replacement of what are often the oldest workstations in the building, those in the accounting department.  

A bit of shock and confusion usually accompanies anything unfamiliar, like a new computer.  (If you've used Windows 8, were you at first stumped by trying to find the start menu?)  Ultimately, this is usually at least partially offset by the benefits of new features, like Windows 8.1's Storage Spaces, the much improved File Explorer, and Office 365 OneDrive.  Yes, despite what you may have heard, Windows 8.1 is actually more stable, more secure, and more feature-rich than Windows XP.  There is no reason to hang on to WinXP, if you don't have to.

Windows XP3

The same holds true for the business and accounting applications that run on Windows operating systems.  Sage will soon release Sage 300 ERP 2014, which will feature full support for Windows 8.1 and Office 2013.  From all indications, it will be faster in a number of areas and bring many new features, which will be covered in future articles.  

So, if you are hanging on to the past, now is the time to join the future by transitioning from Windows XP and Server 2003, and then planning your upgrade to Sage 300 ERP 2014.  The best way to get started is to contact us today!

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Tags: Sage 300 ERP

A First Step with Intacct Smart Events

Posted by Chris Firra on Mon, Feb 24, 2014

Recently, I've learned about what I believe are two of the best features of Intacct Platform Services, Smart Rules and Smart Events.  These tools add logic, data validation and control to the core Intacct applications without writing complex code.  With this entry, I want to share my experience with Smart Events.  To learn more about Smart Rules, I'd suggest visiting the excellent blog posting by Joe Zhou from our sister company, CodePartners, entitled How to Create Intacct Smart Rules.  

Smart Events may be thought of as a way to add an action to an event that matches a pre-defined condition.  The triggering event could be the addition of a new master record, such as a vendor, or the posting of a transaction, like an A/P bill.  The defined action could range from a simple email notification to a call to the Intacct application, or even posting a transaction or update to another web application in the form of an HTTP post. 

On a recent project, problems were occurring when incomplete vendor addresses were encountered during bill payment.  Based on the customer’s business model, it made sense to let the A/P supervisor know when a vendor with missing address info had been created.  I had little experience with creating Intacct Smart Events, so I turned to Joe Zhou at CodePartners for assistance.  Although it took a little bit of trial and error to complete it, I was surprised to see just how simple the resulting Smart Event was.

I should reiterate that creating a Smart Event requires that Customization Services has been subscribed and activated.  A link appears in the Platform Services or Customization menu that enables creation or maintenance of Smart Events.

Intacct Customization Menu

When the icon is launched, a wizard appears that prompts the user to select the Owner Object or the primary object that is the basis for the event.  In my case, I wanted to check the vendor address when the A/P bill was saved, so the Owner Object was A/P Bill.

Intacct Smart Event: Owner Object = event to kick off action

The next step involved defining the Event and the conditions related to the event.  This step also included specifying the type of Action that was to occur, which affected the next step for the wizard.  For my smart event, the events included Add and Set (update).  It would not be necessary to check the address when an A/P bill was deleted, so I did not include that event.

Next, the specific conditions to trigger the action needed to be specified.  Conditions are specified in a format that Intacct refers to as Injection Parameters.  The same format is used with applying Smart Rules, and the general format of an injection parameter looks like the following:

{!OWNER_OBJECT_ID.SECONDARY_OBJECT_ID.FIELD_ID}!

Use of a secondary object is optional and is only used when the field to be tested resides in a related object.  Multiple secondary objects may be referenced as long as there is a relation between it and the preceeding object.  Also, multiple injection parameters may be linked using && (AND) and || (OR).  For my Smart Event, the Condition looked like the following:

({!APBILL.VENDOR.DISPLAYCONTACT.MAILADDRESS.ADDRESS1!} == '' || {!APBILL.VENDOR.DISPLAYCONTACT.MAILADDRESS.STATE!} == '' || {!APBILL.VENDOR.DISPLAYCONTACT.MAILADDRESS.CITY!} == '' || {!APBILL.VENDOR.DISPLAYCONTACT.MAILADDRESS.ZIP!} == '')

 The next to last step was to define the action, in this case, an email notification containing details of the issue to be addressed.  Fortunately, Intacct allows the same injection parameters values to be used in the body of the email.

Intacct Smart Events: Defining Action

Finally, the last step was to name, describe, enable and save the new smart event.

Intacct Smart Events: name, describe, enable and save

Hopefully, this simple smart event will save the A/P supervisor some heartache during future vendor payment runs by proactively identifying issues before they become problems.  It's clear that using Intacct's smart events can help manage by exception, and that I’m just scratching the surface with this application.  It will also be interesting to see how it can be used to synchronize other web enabled applications.

Feel free to contact us if you would like to learn more about customization of or integration with Intacct.

I'll once again take a moment to thank Joe Zhou for his help with this task.  I'll suggest that readers that are interested in learning more should check out the blog at CodePartners.com 

Tags: Intacct

Sage 300 ERP in the Cloud

Posted by Chris Firra on Fri, Jan 31, 2014

An on-line version of Sage 300 ERP has now been available for over ten years.  Side-stepping the semantic question of whether Sage 300 Online is truly a "cloud application", it is certainly a true statement that the on-line application has been since its inception a hosted version of the award winning on-premises accounting software, offering all of the same functionality.  Because it is remotely accessible using a MS Windows computer and internet browser, it offers all of the benefits of a SaaS-based, cloud application.

Recently, we've received inquiries from existing Sage customers that are interested in switching from the on-premises version to Sage 300 Online.  Why?  The reasons vary, but most relate to one or more of the benefits of Sage's SaaS product, including the following:

  • Elimination of the investment in new database/application servers and of ongoing maintenance of these servers, 
  • Freedom from backup worries, as database and environment backups are handled by Sage,
  • Secure, remote accessibility without the need for a complicated VPN, 
  • Predictable, flat monthly cost under a subscription model, and 
  • Perhaps most importantly, freedom from having to undergo periodic software upgrades, which are handled entirely by Sage.  

Sage customers also know that if they decide to switch back to an on-premises version, they have the ability to do so without having to undergo an expensive data conversion.

At last summer’s Sage Summit, Sage announced that Sage 300 Online would be a undergoing a significant overhaul to modernize both its underlying architecture as well as the user experience.  The roll-out of the new product is now gaining momentum. 

The improvements began with moving Sage 300 Online to the Microsoft's Windows Azure Platform, which combined multi-tenant database platform services with private, virtualized environments for the Sage 300 ERP applications.   The latest Microsoft Remote Desktop client, RDP8, replaces the older Citrix ICA client to provide a more modern, windowed, user experience.  By leveraging Microsoft's worldwide network of Azure datacenters, Sage should realize improvements in performance, scalability and reach.

Sage Cloud 1 resized 600

After logging in with a new Sage ID, users land in an application portalthat provides access to subscribed and authorized applications, such as Sage 300 ERP.  I would not be surprised to see access to new Sage Mobile applications available here in the future.Register Now! Cloud vs On-Prem ERP Solutions Webinar

Sage 300 Online is not yet suited for all customers, especially those with customizations or 3rd party applications that are not currently provided through the platform.  The supported 3rd party solutions include popular applications from Aatrix, Avalara, Orchid Systems, Pacific Technologies, and Wellspring Software.  New applications may be expected as they are vetted by Sage. Sage 300 Online is also moving to a "continuous delivery model", which means that new features and improvements should appear in the product sooner rather than waiting for normal 18-24 month upgrade cycles.

Want to learn more about comparing and contrasting cloud and on-premises solutions? Join us on February 12, 2014 for a webinar where we'll chat about the similarities and differences...and get your burning questions answered!

If you are interested in learning more about Sage software in the cloud, feel free to contact us.

Tags: Sage 300 ERP, Sage 300 Online

Connected Services = Productivity

Posted by Chris Firra on Wed, Jan 22, 2014

We live in an age when each new software product has an “API” or application programming interface that allows connectivity with other devices and systems.  The API concept powers the latest home and consumer electronics features that we love such as remote control of NEST thermostats, online exercise tracking like FitBit bands, and a host of functions on smart TVs.  Likewise, modern accounting systems utilize their APIs to communicate with “connected services” that extend the functionality of the core products.

The demand for cloud computing in business is said to be driven by several factors.  One such factor is that organizations are seeking to focus on their core competencies and “out-service” the functions that are better performed by outside agents.  For some time, we’ve received inquiries from companies about moving to cloud-based accounting software, and we are also now beginning to see interest in moving some of the high volume accounting activities to connected services.

For example, we recently assisted a client implement an integration to their bank’s payment services, which eliminated their daily check runs.  This small “out-servicing” will free up perhaps 1-2 hours per day of a key staff member’s time, allowing them to perform much higher value activities during that time.

Services such as Bill.com provide an out-servicing of much of the time-consulting activities related to accounts payable and accounts receivable.  The service provider connects to several on-premise and cloud-based accounting systems, such as Intacct.  Bill.com’s users can scan, fax or email their vendor invoices to the service, which will in-turn, post the invoices to the accounts payables module of their accounting system.  Further, Bill.com will automatically pay vendors according the vendor’s terms.  The time saved in data entry and payment processing can be significant.

Some connected services like DocAssist (check out our recorded webinar featuring DocAssist) promise possibly greater productivity gains by automating document workflows.  The paperless office has been an elusive goal for decades, and the high cost of document management systems has been a deterrent to adoption.  However, DocAssist combines document approval workflow with automated transaction processing, speeding up the time required to approve a purchase request, effect a salary change, or process any other document based transaction. Further, cloud-based document management provides a “pay-as-you-go” approach as well as the capability to interact with a number of accounting, HRMS, and CRM systems.

Connected services now provide many common accounting department activities, including payroll, employee expense management, payment processing, sales tax compliance, and federal/state tax preparation.  The connected services industry is still in its infancy, so we can likely expect that many new services to appear in the future.  The role of accounting departments will likely never be diminished, but its nature could well change by eliminating many high volume, low value functions, enabling a greater focus on providing high value activities such as decision support and performance management.

If you are considering connected services to provide greater productivity for your accounting staff, be sure to contact us!

Tags: Intacct