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Best Software ‘ BusinessWorks Gold

BusinessWorks is a long-time player in the mid-market accounting software market. Its latest version introduces new e-business features such as enhanced remote access, e-mail forms, and import/export of sales orders, plus two new accounting modules. Other enhancements have been made to nearly every module in the package that keep this integrated suite on the leading edge of accounting software technology for medium-sized businesses.

Accounting modules available include the System Manager, GL, Cash Manage- ment (new in version 4.0), AR, AP, Order Entry, Inventory Control, Purchase Order, Job Cost (new in version 4.0), and PR. A number of other productivity add-ons are available such as Custom Office, GoldMine Link, Crystal Reports, F9 Financial Report Writer, and the StarShip freight manifest solution.

The new Cash Management module (included at no additional charge) consolidates bank reconciliation features into a single comprehensive module. The Consolidated Cash Flow report helps forecast and manage cash by providing current and future calculated balances for all cash accounts. The report combines inflow from receivables, outflow from payables, and current GL cash balances. On-demand check printing lets you process checks instantly for payees that don’t require an invoice, and you can also enter handwritten checks.

Job Cost brings the ability to estimate and track project costs, including labor, materials, equipment and overhead. Each job created starts out in bid status and is then ultimately moved through the phases defined to completion. Jobs can be priced using a fixed-price method or cost-plus using an amount or percentage. Within each phase, BusinessWorks tracks start and completion dates, component costs, indirect expenses, and the estimated cost to complete the phase.

The latest version of BusinessWorks Gold brings new stability and scalability by introducing the Pervasive SQL database engine. There are two versions of BusinessWorks depending on the number of concurrent system users. BusinessWorks Gold Standard supports up to five concurrent users. BusinessWorks Client Server edition supports up to 20 concurrent users.

After you log in, the BusinessWorks Launcher appears. The Launcher is the main workspace area that contains a menu, a module toolbar, a vertical resource bar, and an HTML viewing area. The module toolbar contains an icon for each of the suite’s modules. Clicking on one of the icons displays a drop-down menu with additional choices applicable to that module. The resource bar provides quick access to user customization options such as tasks that automatically open at startup, shortcuts to your most-often-used tasks, help tools, utilities, and online electronic guides and tutorials.

Data input screens are very well planned and intuitive. Grid-style lookup screens are available for all major primary fields such as customers, vendors and so forth. The lookup screens start in Quick Search mode, but another tab (called Power Search) lets you customize the search to a particular database field, enter sub string searches and limit the number of records returned. Buttons on many of the data-input screens provide quick access to related data, such as customer history totals.

As with most of the mid-range accounting products, most of the program’s customization features focus on reporting capabilities. These capabilities are discussed below in the reporting section. From a user perspective, you can customize some things about the desktop to suit your personal preferences, such as creating startup tasks and one-click shortcuts to commonly used tasks. Each user can also create F-key shortcuts to nearly any application. For example, you can define the F6 key to launch another application on your computer. Various other messages and reminders like insufficient available inventory quantities can be turned on or off for each user. On a global basis, you can allow or disallow prior-month posting as well as other settings.

User access can be controlled by user ID, company ID, module, menu and option. A simple tree structure lets you check off the available module and menu options for each user.

Integration and data export are provided primarily through the Custom Office module, which offers a number of e-business tools such as mail merge, file attachments, and custom worksheets that are the bridge to Excel-based analysis and reporting. With mail merge, you have the ability to create customized mailings targeted to groups of customers, vendors, or employees using Microsoft Word. The attachment manager brings paperless office functionality by allowing you to attach objects like bitmaps, Word and Excel documents, or multi-media files directly to any chart of accounts record, customer, part, job or employee.

Several other data import features were introduced in version 4.0. Sales people in remote sites can now transmit quotes and orders back to the office for quicker order processing. With special programming, orders can also be imported from the company’s web storefront.

Each module has a Reports submenu on the main toolbar that provides access to the many built-in reports. Each report has numerous options for selecting records by date, account number, vendor or other appropriate filtering criteria. Each report can be previewed, printed, copied to the clipboard, published as an *.RTF document or e-mailed directly from the report preview screen.

As mentioned above, the Custom Office module also provides tools for customized reporting and analysis through Microsoft Excel. Using a wizard, you just select the table (for example, AP Vendors), then select the desired fields (such as ID or RemitName), sorting order and filtering options. You can then export to numerous formats, including HTML, Word, Excel, text, comma-delimited (*.CSV), and clipboard. Since modules in the BusinessWorks Gold suite now utilize the SQL data engine, you can also query data files using any number of third-party data mining and analysis tools, such as Microsoft Access or Crystal Reports.

Training is provided through a number of online guides and an extensive help system. The guides are in *.PDF format and are very well written to get the new user productive quickly. In addition, throughout the context-sensitive help system are many ‘How Do I’?’ sections that have step-by-step instructions for the most common activities. Live support is also available through annual main-tenance agreements.

Best Software is a major provider in the accounting software industry. A subsidiary of The Sage Group, Best has accounting packages in nearly every industry size segment. At the low end, Best offers Peachtree, while at the high end, it offers MAS 90, MAS 200 and MAS 500. Other products in the Best Software family include ACCPAC, BusinessVision and Platinum for Windows by Best. BusinessWorks is in the middle of the pack, but has the advantage of a relatively easy upgrade path to the company’s high-end products for the growing business.

Economically priced, a single-user package with our specified set of base accounting and reporting modules would run $2,185, while a similar five-user package would cost $4,685. Additional modules would be $595. The first year’s maintenance is included in the package cost, and is $575 after the first year. Training averages $345 per module for instructor-led courses through nationally located Authorized Training Centers.


Review sections for the mid-range accounting products include the following:
Modules Available/Scalability. Within this section, we look at the general breadth of modules available from the company. Although our prototype pricing only includes a base set of modules, there are many occasions where a company has special needs. The availability of ancillary modules provides for expansion of the integrated module set to meet new business requirements. Scalability is the capability of the product to grow with the business. Many successful mid-range businesses start with only one or two employees and grow to hundreds of employees within a short period of time. If the accounting package you start with supports a maximum of five users, you’ll be looking for a completely new package when your business outgrows it, which could be potentially expensive in terms of data conversion and retraining.

Ease of Use/Transaction Entry. This section is fairly self-explanatory and simply evaluates the overall user experience in using the software, from the main menu to the data-entry screens. As a general rule, all the products reviewed here are very modern and pose no specific problems in this area. I found them all easy to use and navigate, although some are more mature and refined than others.

Customization/Security. Most vendors in the mid-range market have made a deliberate attempt to keep their products simple. The ability to customize the product is generally focused on the reporting area. However, several vendors do provide the ability to customize for layouts and terminology to match specific industry needs. One other thing that should be highlighted is the ultimate customization tool: source code. A number of products do provide program source code either as part of the purchase price or as a separately purchased feature. Security is very similar across these products, with most having a menu-level system that restricts users to specific menu items and tasks.

Integration/Import/Export. Many mid-range products rely on third-party add-ons for functionality that might be built-in or integrated in a high-end product. For instance, point-of-sale, e-commerce and EDI are functions that may be provided by the vendor as an integrated module, or may be provided by third-party add-ons. If third-party add-ons are supported, it is important to have a relatively simple way to move data into and out of the program using import and export capabilities.

Reporting. Generally, all of these products provide high quality reports. Several provide built-in custom report writers that let you create reports based on your own formats and needs. My preference is the products that have standardized with Crystal Reports as their report engine. This implies two things: First, the database is an ‘open’ database structure that allows direct access to the data files for reports and queries; second, you can purchase the Crystal Reports professional designer and create your own custom reports using an industry-standard format. Many third-party developers specialize in Crystal Reports design and can provide assistance to meet nearly any need.

Support/Training/Help System. This section is also fairly self-explanatory. It is an evaluation of the program’s online help system, as well as the availability of product support, whether through live telephone support, e-mail support or an online knowledgebase. Of course, the best products provide a combination of all these methods. Classroom or web-based training should be available for budget-conscious new users at times and locations that are convenient.

Company History. When purchasing most accounting packages, you are certainly buying a tangible, installable CD, which will be used by people in your company to do their work. However, you are also establishing a business relationship with a company that is expected to provide updates, enhancements, bug fixes, training and support. How long has the company been in business? How many times has ownership of the company changed hands? Is the company based in the United States, Canada or overseas? All of these factors will change the nature of your relationship with the vendor you choose.

Relative Value. Basically, this is the ‘bang for your buck.’ Generally, the more sophisticated products that offer more modules will have a higher cost. This is to be expected. However, this category attempts to consider the big picture. With the feature set and cost considered, does the vendor offer a competitive product at a competitive price?

We hope you find these reviews informative and helpful in your accounting software search. Each product reviewed here is a high-quality product that is worthy of consideration. As I have always encouraged, you should get a demo package from the vendor, install it on your system and try it out! Ask questions, evaluate your needs, compare it with your existing system, and pick a product that fits your budget.