Losing support for your accounting system is not always a bad thing — sometimes it can be the ideal opportunity to introduce new technology that streamlines processes across an organization.

It can also be a real shock when you only have two months to do the implementation. In the case of Danier

Leather, a Toronto-based retailer with 90 stores across Canada, it was notified eight weeks before its year-end that the accounting package it had been using for 15 years would no longer be offering upgrades. It was a mixed blessing: Danier was unhappy with the limitations of its software, a package from Montréal-based STS. It didn’t integrate well with other IT systems and its modern business structure, so the retailer could make a case for adopting a new accounting package.

“”This software was just horrible,”” Bryan Tatoff, Danier’s senior vice-president and CFO, says of its old accounting system. “”We’re lucky because the company finally said we’re not going to have it anymore and we’re not going to support it anymore, which was a blessing because then I could justify some new accounting software.

“”Our merchandising systems and logistics systems are great, but money was never invested in the accounting systems,”” adds Tatoff.

The old software, which came as an add-on to Danier’s merchandising system, would purge historical data every 30 days, which meant the retailer had to rely on mounds of paper print-outs. It was able to print out monthly statements on individual stores’ contributions as compared to budget, but little else. “”That’s about the functionality we had in our old system.””

As a replacement, Danier selected Microsoft Great Plains Dynamics. Tatoff says he was looking for something that was not just an accounting tool, but an information system that could share financial data with everyone in the organization who needed access to it.

“”We needed something really simply to use,”” he says, especially since not everyone in the organization is computer literate, and the software had to be implemented rather quickly.

“”What we also liked about Microsoft Great Plains was that it integrated with Excel and Word and our systems here.”” It also enabled Danier to have departmental budgets where users could drill down into in detail, says Tatoff. On the old system, he says, it would have taken someone a week to analyse the company’s courier expenses.

Danier was also looking for something that could scale with the organization.

“”We’re a growing company so it could easily grow with us,”” says Tatoff. It has multi-currency features, and integrates well with the payroll system. It also has journal entry capability. “”Before we would have to manually do journal entries. Now we get everything into Excel and it’s just uploaded and it saves hours upon hours.””

Tatoff says Danier also had to consider the support it would require. Some of the packages it considered were clearly better suited for much larger enterprises than Danier, he says, or they didn’t have the integration capabilities the retailer required. “”We have a very lean accounting staff and IT staff,”” says Tatoff, “”so we’re the owners of the system. We have to make sure we can implement and use it.””

Tatoff says a lot of the credit for the quick successful implementation was Microsoft Great Plains partner Strophe of Laval, Que. Marc Otis, a senior partner with Strophe, says there were two main challenges: Danier’s tight implementation deadline and bringing over all of the retailer’s historical data from the old system and making it accessible. “”It was not typical because of the short time span,”” he says. However, it was straightforward in that Dynamics integrated easily with Danier’s other systems.

Warren Shiau, software analyst with IDC Canada in Toronto, says software such as Microsoft Great Plains Dynamics addresses mid-market enterprises that aren’t looking for a large ERP solution. “”The mid-market is still very wide open. Microsoft is building out a lot of functional areas for the whole Great Plains offering that tread into areas the larger enterprise vendors are coming into,”” he says. “”They’re building out all of the ERP/supply chain/CRM stuff.””

In the meantime, he adds, firms such as Oracle and PeopleSoft are moving down into the mid-market.

Shiau says mid-market companies are looking to get more than just the application layer. “”Once you start looking at the economics of getting everything — not just the applications layer but also underlying infrastructure — from one vendor . . . you’re getting a better economic offering.””

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