It’s hard to believe that Summit 2013 is just over two months away! summit 2013 logo

Summit 2013 will be held July 21 through July 26 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center located just across the Potomac River from Alexandria, VA in National Harbor, MD. The first three days of the conference are geared toward Sage partners and the customer days are July 23 through July 26.

Why would you want to attend?

  • See first-hand all of the new products and technology that Sage is working on for your business.
  • Participate in Sage City. Want to learn about what’s working for other customers in your industry? Join in the exchange of ideas that is all part of the innovative Sage City.
  • Exposure to new ways of thinking, working, and improving your business. I’ll be posting another Summit-focused article this Friday with many more details about sessions that will help you bring innovative ideas back to your company.
  • Visit the Expo to receive hands-on demos of the latest add-on’s and enhancements for Sage products. Have you been thinking about implementing an EDI or bar code system? If so, the Expo is the place to be. And those are just two examples of the many products that will be exhibited at the Expo.
  • Soak up the history of Washington, DC, Old Town Alexandria, and Mount Vernon. Or catch a Washington Nationals or Baltimore Orioles game (both teams have home games during Summit).

To help make your decision a little easier, you can use the promo code of PTOC2013 and receive $200 off of the registration fee.

Here is a link to the list of sessions.

I hope to see you there!

I’m always looking for ways to demonstrate the absurdity and inherent risk to businesses like yours who work with software consultants (or CPAs or attorneys) who bill for their time.

This past January at the international VeraSage conference, I was talking with Ron Baker about how we can more effectively get the message out that the only way for a business to know that a software consultant knows what they are doing is by having that consultant provide them with a fixed price for every project.

Ron provided a wonderful insight.  The most effective way to demonstrate the absurdity of a particular idea (in this case, the billable hour) is to ridicule it.

Greg Kyte, who is a VeraSage Fellow, CPA and professional stand-up comedian, and I started working on a video lampooning the practice of billing time.

The result is Bob’s Barbecue.  It is the first in a series of videos which will depict all of the many ways that the billable hour is harmful and risky for your company.

This year, for the first time ever, Sage is combining its traditionally separate annual sage_summitconferences into one big conference.  In the past, Sage Summit (which is for users of Sage software) took place in the Summer and was a completely separate event from Sage Insights (which was for Sage partners).

The partner-focused part of Summit runs from Sunday, July 10th through Tuesday, July 12th.  Beginning on the afternoon of the 12th and running through Friday, July 15th, the conference switches gears and becomes completely focused on customers.  The best part of this arrangement is that Sage and partners (like us) will jointly welcome and host the customers.

It provides a fantastic opportunity for you to not only spend time with Sage executives and educators but to work one-on-one with your Sage partner to improve your knowledge of Sage products and to hone your project management skills to make you an invaluable team member for your company.

Here is a guide to all of the General and Breakout sessions along with prices for attending the conference.  Summit is being held in the Washington, DC area at the Gaylord National.

It’s a great location for bringing the family along as well.  All 3 of us are going this year, which I’m definitely looking forward to.  There is a Metro station close by and a water taxi that runs the Potomac from National Harbor to Georgetown, Old Town Alexandria and Mount Vernon.

I’ll see all of you there!

AccuForce Staffing Services, LLC, a staffing company in Kingsport, TN has been a Sage MAS 200 user for the past few years.  Although technically a customer of Aries, the management team at AccuForce had not used our services for quite some time, preferring to perform all of the accounting setup in MAS 200 themselves.  However, in December of 2010, their new CFO, Sarah Fleenor, contacted us inquiring how they might accomplish several goals with their MAS 200 system.  Though Sarah initially contacted us simply because she was told by Sage that Aries was their “MAS reseller”, it quickly became a closer, more positive and strategic relationship as it became evident that the Aries business model would be a good fit for their company.  They understood the value of Aries’ fixed, upfront, money-back guarantee pricing approach to projects.  “I like the fixed price model and am all about planning and testing before going live,” commented Sarah about the Aries model.

AccuForce and Aries team members worked collaboratively to scope the projects, breaking them into smaller projects to fit their budget and timeline.  Our first project was to redesign the General Ledger chart of accounts.  Due to many of the accounts being set up incorrectly from the start,  financial statements were not accurate.  We provided AccuForce with a fixed, budgetable price for the project and agreed on a timeline for completion of the project to coincide with their producing year-end financial statements.

Future projects include providing ongoing technical support, a MAS 200 upgrade which will allow them to take advantage of new features such as PositivePay for Bank Reconciliation, and eliminating manual entry of payroll transactions by using MAS 200’s Visual Integrator module to automatically import those transactions.  These projects will allow AccuForce to run their business more effectively and efficiently.

AccuForce Staffing Services, LLC is a world-class, technology-forward staffing company committed to helping individuals find the careers they desire and assisting companies find the kind of employees to make their business a success by concentrating on talent and fit.”

How can your small- to mid-sized business drastically reduce Information Technology (IT) costs and minimize the stresses of dealing with IT?  The answer is in the clouds.

Almost a year ago we completely eliminated our Exchange and Sharepoint servers.  Those two applications managed our e-mails and documents.

What replaced them?  Google Apps.  We quickly and easily moved all of our e-mail, documents, spreadsheets, images and presentations up to Google’s servers in the cloud.

My favorite part of Google Apps is a component called Google Sites.  Google Sites gives us the ability to setup a site for every project and share that site with our customers and business partners.  Sites make collaborating with the project team more effective by providing a real-time project management tool.

Let’s say that your design team and distribution center is in the Unites States and your manufacturing plant is in Mexico.  A Site could be created each time your company creates a new design.  Everyone on your project team would have the appropriate access to project scope documents, design images and the issues list.  Since these documents are maintained in real-time on the Site, management would have constant access regarding whether or not the project is staying on track.

So, how exactly does Google Apps reduce costs and stress?

Using Google Apps eliminates license fees for software such as Exchange and Sharepoint and it eliminates the need to pay IT costs to support and upgrade these applications.

There are two versions of Google Apps:  Standard and Premier.  The Standard version is free.  We elected to go with the Premier version at $50/user/year.  The Premier version provides us with additional storage space (25GB as opposed to 7.4GB) and includes spam filtering and virus scanning.

Because you are able to leverage Google’s virtual servers, you no longer have to worry about technical issues with servers at your site.  We were able to get rid of all but one server (and our goal is to get rid of it as well).  Not having to deal with servers was a huge reduction in stress for our company.

Are there downsides?  Of course.  We have experienced occasional periods of sluggish performance.  And without internet access it is a little tough to connect to the cloud.

If you are a real Excel power-user you may be disappointed in the functionality of the Google Apps spreadsheet.

However, here is the beauty of these types of Apps:  they are constantly being upgraded (sometimes daily).  The upgrades happen without any effort on your part and they are included in the annual price.

Will they eventually catch up to the functionality level of Microsoft Office?  Yes they will.  And I think they will surpass that functionality in the not too distant future.

Is your company using Google Apps?  If so, what has been your experience?

If not, why not?

Sage is holding their annual partner conference, Insights, in Denver, CO in May.  I am presenting a session at the conference entitled Using Google Apps for Project Management and Customer Collaboration (GEN43) on Monday, May 17th at 2:30pm.

Although this conference is only available to Sage partners, I will be conducting a webinar on this subject later in May.  Everyone is invited to attend that webinar.  We will be sending out the details (date, time and GoToWebinar invitation) via our newsletter, blog and Facebook fan page.  The webinar will include an introduction to Google Apps, how it can dramatically reduce your IT costs, how it has changed our company and why cloud-based apps are the wave of the future.

I have invited the Sage partners who have registered for this session to comment on this article to encourage the sharing of ideas, opinions and questions about Google Apps (and cloud computing in general).  My goal is to make the session a collaborative one and to make sure we cover the topics of the most interest to the group.  Here is the abstract from the Insights website:

Google Apps are a low-cost, easy-to-use and effective tool for managing projects of all sizes.  With Google Apps you can manage e-mail, documents, spreadsheets, presentations and collaborate with customers and colleagues.

So far, my proposed agenda is to cover these topics:

  • What exactly are Google Apps and why should I care?
  • A brief look at what’s involved in implementing Google Apps.
  • How have Google Apps impacted our company?
  • How have Google Apps impacted our interactions with our customers?
  • How we are using Google Sites (a component of Google Apps) for project management.
  • What is the future of cloud-based applications?
  • How will the cloud affect our businesses and our customers’ businesses?

My intention is to make this session as interactive as possible.  The apps themselves are not complex and I am pretty sure none of us wants to go through a long demo of exactly how to create a document or a spreadsheet.  So, I am emphasizing how Google Apps in particular are changing our world.

Dialog about the project management aspects of Google Apps is also a main component of the session.  I believe that every project (no matter the size or complexity) can be managed through Google Sites using the tools from the Sage Consulting Academy.  And I will be going through real-world examples of how we are using those tools.

To date, there are 31 people signed up!  I am really looking forward to hearing from many different perspectives within the Sage community.  Partners who work with pretty much every Sage product (I think the only exceptions may be Timeberline and MasterBuilder) are attending this session.

Please let me know what you think about the proposed agenda and if there are some other topics you would like to talk about.

This past Thursday,  Sage unveiled their brand new corporate blog.   The folks at Sage chose me to become one of a select few guest writers for the blog.

My first post entitled “Why Does Work Suck?” explores an idea that has become a fundamental part of our business and personal philosophy.  That idea is a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE).  The basic concept is for businesses to eliminate fixed work schedules, required meetings and rigid vacation/sick/personal policies and to focus on achieving results.

I expect to be a regular contributor to the Sage blog with as many as one post per month aimed at educating  some two million global Sage customers and prospects about a host of business and technology topics.  Some of my upcoming topics include:

  • How to reduce IT costs and stresses
  • How to initiate a project within your company
  • What is project management and why is it important?
  • Pricing strategies
  • How to choose a web designer

If there are any topics you are interested in learning more about, please feel free to make suggestions via a comment.  The topics can be specifically related to Sage and Sage products (such as MAS 90 or MAS 500) or anything related to business and technology.

The Sage blog is part of Sage’s overall social media strategy.  You can follow them on the Sage fan page on Facebook and on SageERP for Twitter.

And if you have not already checked them out, here are links to our blog feed, Facebook fan page and my Twitter page:


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