summit 2013 logo Sage Summit is the largest gathering of the year for Sage customers and business partners.  The conference will take place July 21 – 26, 2013 and is being held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is a United States federal statute signed into law on March 23, 2010 by President Barack Obama.  It’s also referred to as Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act.  PPACA represents the most significant government expansion and regulatory overhaul of the U. S. healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.  PPACA is designed to increase the affordability and rate of health insurance coverage for Americans, as well as reduce the overall costs of healthcare for individuals and the government.  It provides a number of mechanisms, including mandates, subsidies and tax credits, to employers and individuals to increase the coverage rate and affordability of health insurance. Capture  The PPACA requires insurance companies to cover all applicants within new minimum standards and offer the same rates regardless of pre-existing conditions.  Additional reforms aim to improve healthcare outcomes and streamline the delivery of healthcare to Americans.

On Wednesday, July 24, Sage is offering an all-day learning track that will unravel the complexities of the PPACA.  Speakers will break down the health care reform by topic, including key provisions, insurance carriers, small business tax credits, and compliance requirements.  Attendees at this special track will learn:

  • What the Affordable Care Act means for your business.
  • What your responsibilities as an employer are.
  • How it will impact your bottom line.
  • Steps you should be taking now to prepare for provisions that start in 2014.

Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institute will be a keynote speaker at the session.  A noted healthcare expert, Mr. Aaron will talk about the fundamental issues and challenges of health care reform and the impact on small and midsized businesses. Mr. Aaron will also address questions from attendees received during the registration collection process.    Also speaking will be Bernard DiFiore, president and CEO of BenefitMall.  Mr. DiFiore will lead a panel of insurance carrier experts. This question and answer session will dive into the realities of the Affordable Care Act.

Breakout session topics include:  The Affordable Care Act Explained, The Complexity of Healthcare: Balancing Costs and Benefits and The New Era of Healthcare:  How It Impacts You and Your Employees.

This will be an excellent track for business owners, executives, human resources managers, entrepreneurs and anyone seeking a nonpartisan, informational overview of the health care reform.

Visit Sage’s Summit website for more information on how to register.

Sage recently released the latest version of Abra Suite. Version 9.2 contains several new features and enhancements.

Among the highlights of this release are:

  • Sage Advisor Auto Update – Instead of the traditional method of downloading and installing product and legislative updates, the auto update allows you to apply those updates automatically. This functionality makes it much easier to keep up with the ever-quickening number of tax rate changes and  calculations. sage_advisor
  • Shared Abra Secure Queries – You now have the ability to control, edit, and limit sharing of secure queries you create in HR, payroll, time off, and training.shared_query
  • Abra Secure Query with Custom Fields – Employee-specific custom details can be added to secure queries. The custom detail option includes the ability to create single record or multi record custom details.custom_fields
  • Legislative Update Process Change – When payroll updates and releases are installed, the system will automatically update your system tax tables with all available taxes and you are no longer required to navigate to System Tax Tables to apply the legislative updates.
  • Reporting Enhancements – There are almost 100 changes and enhancements to the reporting functionality. The ReleaseNotes contain a comprehensive list.

Please note that as of June 2013, version 9.0x is no longer supported by Sage. This means that Sage will not release any legislative updates to 9.0x after that date.

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!

Version 9.1 of Abra (VFP) provides several significant new features.  Enhancements are included for HR, Payroll and Employee Self Service.

Highlights for Abra HR:

  • Support for Active Directory logons.  By linking your Abra login id to your Windows login id, you can eliminate the need for a separate login and password to get into Abra.
  • Ability to access Sage Abra Support through a chat link located within Abra.
  • Employee Find is faster and includes searches for both first and last names.
  • Increased security with SSN/SIN masking for all reports (standard and those created through Secure Query).

Highlights for Payroll:

  • Greater flexibility for creating custom payment forms.
  • Ability to choose whether or not a check should display in Employee Self Service.

Highlights for Employee Self Service (ESS):

  • Sage Employee Analytics has the ability to create custom graphical imagedashboards (when used in conjunction with Sage Crystal Dashboard Design).  Combine workforce cost and performance data into a high level overview and quickly drill down for more detailed analysis.  These dashboards can be viewed from most web browsers (Safari, IE, Chrome and Firefox).
  • The ESS user interface has been overhauled to provide easier navigation andimage the ability to customize the look and feel of your ESS system.
  • The new Time Off Calendar provides managers with a monthly view of employee’s’ pending, approved and rejected time off.
  • Employees and managers can access ESS on their mobile devices including imageiPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows CE, Windows Phone 7 and Windows Mobile.
  • SSN masking for dependents and beneficiaries in Open Enrollment.
  • The new Provider Enrollment Details report allows you to send open enrollment information to the benefit provider prior to sending the enrollment updates to Abra.

For more details about all of the enhancements in version 9.1, please click on the What’s New in Sage Abra v9.1 document.

Interested in learning more about the new financial reporting tool from Sage, SMISageMASLogo?  Here is a list of free web demo’s coming up over the next few weeks.  All of them include 30 minutes of demonstration and 30 minutes of Q&A.

SMI is Sage’s recommended replacement for FRx (which has been discontinued by Microsoft).  SMI is Excel-based and can be used to generate financial statements and is capable of generating reports for other MAS 90 and MAS 200 modules such as Accounts Receivable, Inventory Management and Sales Order.  In addition, reports can be created using multiple databases (even non-Sage databases).  For example, a report which combines data from MAS 90 and Abra HRMS.

For a more in-depth look at what you need to learn to get started with SMI, check out the list of Customer Resources that Sage has made available.

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!

Have you ever wondered where you can go to get answers to your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Human Resource Management Systems (HRMS) software questions?

The folks at 90Minds (of which we are proud members) teamed together to create Ask90Minds.  A free resource for questions regarding:

  • Epicor90-minds-200
  • Sage Abra HRMS
  • Sage Accpac
  • Sage MAS 90
  • Sage MAS 200
  • Sage MAS 500
  • SageCRM
  • SAP Business One
  • Microsoft Dynamics GP
  • Microsoft Dynamics NAV
  • Open Systems
  • Traverse

Why would you use Ask90Minds instead of the software publishers’ knowledgebases?  Because you want the real answers from real technology consultants who have years of in the field experience with companies just like yours.

90Minds is a network of 27 independent technology consultants who work everyday with a variety of business management software applications.  These consultants provide assistance with advanced technical questions.

In addition to technical support questions, you will find a rich and constantly expanding library of how-to articles, common mistakes and issues encountered with new software versions.

All of these articles are written in clear, easy to understand language that is unbiased by software publishers.

Give it a try and let us know what you think.

The HIRE Act (Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment), enacted March 18, 2010, is a plan to create jobs by providing a temporary tax break to companies that hire workers who were previously unemployed or worked part time.  Two new tax benefits are available to employers:

  1. The payroll tax exemption.  The first benefit provides employers with an exemption from the employer’s 6.2 percent share of social security tax on wages paid to qualifying employees.  This benefit would be effective for wages paid from March 19, 2010 through December 31, 2010.
  2. The new hire retention credit.   Businesses will also be eligible for a general business tax credit of 6.2 percent of wages paid to the qualified employee (employee must be retained for at least a year), up to a maximum credit of $1,000.

Visit the IRS website for more detailed information and check with your tax adviser on whether the new HIRE act applies to your company.

In 2 weeks we will be launching the Aries e-newsletter for all of our current and future customers.  The newsletter will be e-mailed on a monthly basis and will initially contain 3 sections.  Those sections are:

  • Tech Talk.  Amy will keep you up to date on all of the Sage, MAS 90, MAS 200, MAS 500, CRM, FAS and Abra news.  You will learn about new features, upcoming new versions, tax table updates and more.  Her section will also include how-to videos on a variety of subjects such as:
    • How to reverse a payroll check in MAS 90
    • How to create a MAS 90 Visual Integrator job
    • How to create an FRx report for MAS 90/200 or MAS 500
    • Using the MAS 90/200 ODBC data source to export data
    • How to import a journal entry into MAS 500
    • How to setup the Abra Link for MAS 90/200
  • Ramblings.  John’s thoughts and observations about general business topics for small and medium-sized businesses.  Have you been thinking about social media for your business?  How do you choose a website designer?  How do you effectively manage projects for your business?  Would you like to know why work sucks and how to fix it?  Or maybe you would like to know where to get great barbecue (the noun variety, not the verb).  Or even where to eat on your vacation in Myrtle Beach.
  • Webinars.  Adrian will be posting event details for our upcoming monthly webinar series.  A list of webinar subjects can be found here.

We will be adding a fourth section titled Customer Spotlight where we will feature one of our customers every month.  The section will contain an overview of our customer’s business and how Aries has helped them achieve their goals.

You may be wondering why would name our newsletter Ramifications.  Well, the first reason is that it is play on words based on our company name.  In Greek mythology, the constellation Aries represents the ram.  Secondly, the ramifications of a decision regarding a technology project can have dire consequences for your business if you do not have a thorough understand of the issues.  To use a medical analogy, would you want to have triple bypass heart surgery without a doctor giving you an extensive check up?  The same is true of technology projects.  Undertaking one without the proper diagnosis can result in the death of the patient:  your business.

The newsletter is being designed by Chad Barr and his awesome team at CB Software.  Chad’s company is an integral part of our internet marketing strategy including the design of our website.  Keep an eye out for my upcoming blog article about how to choose a great website designer.

Below is a mock up of what the newsletter will look like:

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