What are the most popular accounting systems in Canada today?

For the last two years, CAmagazine has conducted a Canadian customer survey of accounting and ERP systems. The survey solicits responses on how customers rate their systems, developers and implementation partners. It also includes questions about return on investment and future plans.

There is often some confusion as to the differences between an accounting system and an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. I define an ERP system as one that automates business processes across most, if not all, departments within a company. With that definition, even a system like QuickBooks or Simply Accounting can be considered an ERP system for a small company.

CAmagazine took a number of steps to enhance the validity of the results. First, the survey could only be completed by one person for each organization. Second, it could only be completed by an accountant with a CA, CMA or CGA designation. Third, responses were rejected if they were supplied by implementers of these systems, who are naturally going to be biased.

Categories

There were 264 surveys completed on a wide spectrum of systems. To compare the systems, each was categorized as either high-end, mid-market or small business. The report only included details for those systems for which at least five customer surveys were completed. This was done to improve the statistical reliability of the results. The high-end products included JD Edwards, Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP. The mid-market was made up of ACCPAC Advantage, Great Plains, Navision, and SYSPRO. Finally, small business solutions were Adagio, MYOB, QuickBooks and Simply Accounting.

At the high end, the battle is between SAP and Oracle. As you may know, Oracle now owns JD Edwards and PeopleSoft. In the mid-market, the big contenders are Sage, which purchased ACCPAC Advantage; Microsoft, which purchased Great Plains and Navision; and SYSPRO. For small business in Canada, QuickBooks and Simply Accounting dominate the market.

Note that there are many good systems not included in the results. Some systems are relatively new and don’t have a large install base yet in Canada. Examples of relatively new systems to Canada include SAP Business One and NetSuite. In other cases, the systems were not included because they are targeted to small segments of the marketplace and have a limited number of implementations.

Ratings

Each customer rated the products with excellent (4), good (3), fair (2), poor (1) or Not Applicable. Credit was given to high-end and mid-market systems with average high scores of 3.5 or greater. But high scores for small business systems can’t compare to high-end or mid-market. Small business systems cost hundreds of dollars while the average for mid-market systems in the survey was about $60,000 for licence fees and in the millions for high-end systems. Naturally, the customers of high-end and mid-market systems are going to want a lot more value from their investments.

Overall, respondents liked their financial systems the most, followed by manufacturing and distribution systems. SAP and Great Plains (Microsoft Dynamics GP) scored well for financial systems, and mid-market vendor SYSPRO did the same for distribution.

The survey included ratings for generic attributes such as ease of use, flexibility, stability, security, documentation, reporting, customization and value for money. High scores for flexibility went to Oracle, Navision (Microsoft Dynamics NAV) and SYSPRO, stability to SAP and SYSPRO, and value to SYSPRO.

The implementers were rated for overall satisfaction, adherence to schedule and budget, support, product knowledge and ability to improve business processes. The implementation partners for mid-market and small business systems came out ahead of their high-end peers. Although the implementers of high-end systems get paid the big bucks and often work for prestigious consulting practices, the systems are more complex and difficult to implement. In this area, SYSPRO was the only system that landed high scores in most of the implementer rankings.

The study also included questions about payback (number of years), improved customer service, increased accuracy, increased revenue, increased control, and better decision-making. The high-end systems have a long payback time, almost four years compared to three years for mid-market and one year for small business. SYSPRO once again scored highly in improved customer service, accuracy, control and decision-making.

Finally, the survey asked respondents about investments they planned to make over the next two years. Questions were asked about replacing the existing system, upgrading to the next version, adding customer relationship management (CRM), e-commerce, business intelligence (BI), budgeting and/or forecasting, consolidation, HR and supply chain management. The trend at the high-end and mid-market is to upgrade rather than replace. Replacing an ERP or accounting system is a big job and many avoid it if possible. A lot of companies look to improve their business processes by other means, including upgrading their software or adding new functionality.

You can see the full report here.

Michael Burns, MBA, CA, is president of 180 Systems, which provides independent consulting advice including business process review, business case development and system selection. Michael can be reached at 416-485-2200 or by e-mail at mburns@180systems.com.

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