In June, Sage unveiled the latest major update to its Sage 200 software. As always, it offers users a range of additions, tweaks and improvements to make running a business as easy as possible.
But what’s in the latest update, and why should business users be looking to migrate to this new version? Our presales consultant Andy Saltmer takes a look, and answers key questions you might have.
Q: What are the key new capabilities in the newest release of Sage 200?
A: There are a wide range of enhancements large and small in Sage 200 2016, but what’s really interesting is some of the new payment options available for the first time.
For instance, you have Bank Feeds, which allows a system to be updated in real-time with information from a firm’s bank account. This will be hugely useful because in the past, a balance shown on the system may not match up with what is actually in the bank, due to processing times for things like standing orders and direct debits.
There’s also Sage Payments, which allows users to preload money into an electronic wallet account to make payments to suppliers much more quickly, through the Sage system, giving greater visibility and control over a firm’s cash flow.
Furthermore, there are several smaller additions and enhancements based on user requests, such as being able to copy sales returns from orders and having a barcode field available in the stock module.
Q: What are the benefits of these new features to businesses?
A: The key positives for businesses include faster access to cash flow information, which allows them to be paid by customers and pay suppliers in a more streamlined and time-critical manner. This helps make the entire business run more efficiently by giving them greater confidence in their finances.
Q: What are the key drivers behind these developments?
A: Customers will see that Sage is investing their development budget into the areas of the product demanded by its customers. Sage has been using an online, forum-type feedback system for the past couple of years to gauge the feelings of its customers, in order to develop the type of features users are asking for.
The more people who vote on specific suggestions on the Ideas Hub, the more likely it is that Sage will introduce them in future products. This has further been enhanced with the introduction of screen-specific feedback, which allows users to comment and request additional functionality on every screen they enter.
Q: What one enhancement excites you the most and why?
A: This isn’t really a single enhancement, but the improved payment functionality offered by tools like Bank Feeds and Sage Payments will be a big change for many users. The combination of being paid by customers, paying suppliers faster and being able to access real-time bank feeds gives a real sense of the exact position of the company at all times throughout the working day.
Individually, these are all great features, but when they come together, they make Sage 200 much more robust by giving greater business visibility to the customer.
Q: Are there any features in earlier versions that are no longer included?
Sage don’t tend to remove features from earlier versions, particularly in the core modules but they do enhance and improve them. So for instance, over the years, replacement reporting tools have been introduced, like swapping ‘Excel Integration’ for ‘Excel Reporting’.
I think the biggest change to the product in recent times was the replacement of Sage 200 CRM, which was replaced by ‘Sales, Marketing & Services’. The benefits of this include more flexible licensing options for end users, such as including named users or a modular license as opposed to the previous licensing options and a single ‘full system’ installation.
Having a single code base for ‘CRM‘ (Sales, Marketing & Services) across the entire suite of Sage products allows greater and faster developments in the future, as well as making the system much easier and cost effective to upgrade.
Q: What’s the difference between Standard, Extra and Online?
A: The Standard offering is the off-the-shelf version of Sage 200, and is very much a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution that lacks some of the functionality offered by Extra. Users of this product won’t have the same flexibility should there be a requirement to customise the system or if they have needs that are covered by the accredited third-party development community.
Extra is the full product, offering the full suite of third-party products, Business Intelligence, Sales Marketing & Services modules, and will allow custom development on a site-by-site basis.
In terms of functionality, Online offers the same features as Standard, along with a limited number of the 3rd party applications in the development community, but whereas Standard is an on-premise option, Online is delivered via the Sage cloud. The benefit of this is that users will receive more frequent enhancements to the system as they’re developed and rolled out to everyone, by Sage. However, the core of all three versions are the same and the unique requirements of the customer should dictate which version best suits their needs.
Q: Where do you see Sage 200 going next?
A: I see the product going from strength to strength. The fact that the new features being implemented are being driven by customer feedback can only be a good thing. I believe that over the next two to three years, once the existing customer base has moved away from old versions and everyone has the ability to use the technology advancements mentioned above, the product will continue to be shaped by the people who use it day in day out.
The blend of small ‘quick win’ developments and larger new development items will offer something for a multitude of differing businesses in different sectors.
Q: Why should existing users of Sage 200 consider upgrading to the 2016 version?
A: The main benefit of upgrading will be to stop firms from falling behind, in terms of the technology that’s available to them. For instance, some older versions can’t run on Windows 10 or and Microsoft are stopping support on some versions of SQL Server and other operating systems, so it’s important that as other infrastructure advances, so does a firm’s software.
Another compelling reason will be to give the customer more of a voice in Sage. I’ve spoken above about how user feedback plays a key role in determining which new features will be added – and it is firms that are on the latest version that will be more influential in this.
Q: In 3 words, describe Sage 200 2016
Progressive, advanced, futureproofed.
By Andy Saltmer