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Software satisfaction

As I am at the early stage of evaluating accounts preparation and tax software I have been taking a very keen interest in contributors views on good software. These views were tending to point away from SAGE so it surprised me to see SAGE shortlisted for so many awards in the upcoming Sofware Satisfaction Awards 2011. SAGE still seems to be have its supporters in many categories. Any views on this?


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Awards mean absolutely nothing

The big software houses can afford to cajole lots of rather dumb users to say good things about them and then get an award. This is also the case in the advertising and printing industries.

So ignore the awards and look at Aweb feedback from real, intelligent users.

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I was surprised that VT are not mentioned anywhere in the awards.

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Don't believe all you read on the internet

This forum has collected a vociferous group of people who do not like Sage, I am not sure why but I suspect that it is the size and type of practice that post here.

We use Sage all the time, we know how it works, we know how to get it to do what we want it to do. It is not a very simple bottom end package as favoured by many on here and you cannot expect to just pick it up and go. 

I predict that there will now be a huge number of posts disagreeing with me but they are not representative of the profession as a whole.

No I am not paid by Sage

Yes I have used other packages.

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Ah but Chris ...

... I think you mean SAGE book-keeping, my interpreation of the OP is that he is asking about the post book-keeping packages?

Despite vociferous opponents on here, I would not change from IRIS.

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I agree with most of what Chris says about Sage. My whole business is based around the Financial Controller and payroll software. Up to a few years ago Financial Controller was a fantastic product. Now it is plagued with dodgy programming, and an ancient platform that slows processing to the point of forcing me to reboot on a regular basis.

The payroll software has a bug on it at present that I consider quite major, but Sage are in no hurry to sorting this out. When I think of the sort of people who are the major users of this product, I wonder how they will cope with wrong figures at the end of the year because they did not understand how to deal with the bug.

However the original question was why Sage has won so many awards and that was what I was answering.

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Anything but SAGE

When neither VT or Moneysoft get a mention in the SSA - you have to wonder how valid the results of the awards are??

SAGE buy a lot of advertising space on websites - hence perhaps are looked on more favourably by the media company concerned????

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Your cynicism is getting the better of you. All I'm asking is for people to be firm, but fair to Sage - and AccountingWEB. And to get your facts straight. VT and Moneysoft have both entered the SSAs in the past and done very well; Moneysoft won the 2007 payroll prize and VT came second in the tax/practice category the same year). But they decided not to continue entering when we started asking for an entry fee to cover administration costs.

Yes, Sage do spend money advertising with us, and on marketing executives and PR agencies to talk to us and feed us information. I can't lie - the resources they put into this effort does result in more coverage than smaller vendors. But that is all part of the Sage business model and even with the advertising income, I think that their stance would be that they see AccountingWEB as an important channel through which to communicate with their customers and prospects. That's certainly what we set out to achieve, and our business model depends on us doing so for all sorts of organisations.

The extra attention for Sage also means that the company comes in for a lot more negative coverage. And as my previous post shows, I have no qualms about slagging Sage off - but I try to do so honestly, based on provable facts.

(PS - if I didn't, they could potentially take me and AccountingWEB to court for libel - which is why you should always think twice about publishing unsubstantiated and potentially damaging allegations on a public website.)

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Sorry OGA

We use Accounts Production, Taxation, Practice management, the whole shooting match.

It had some rocky moments when PM first came out but is fairly solid now.

BBW - I know VT & Moneysoft and Quickbooks, and Xero and Kashflow...

Whether or not it is worth investing time and money in Sage or Iris depends on the type of work your practice is doing, I am sure many practices do fine without making that investment.


Moonbeam which payroll bug is annoying you at the moment? I'm not involved in payroll so am not up to speed with current issues.

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Sage Payroll Bug

Where an employee joins with eg a P46, and then presents the employer with a P45 a month or so after that it should be a one screen operation to enter the details of the new P45. Now, when you do this the screen flips over and moves some of the figures to different slots so that figures are not where they should be anymore. It then asks you whether you want to send this online to HMRC. Quite a few users probably wouldn't notice that the figures have been moved to the wrong slots. I noticed and of course Sage knew all about it when I rang. They assured me that HMRC would see the figures in the right slot, but of course I've got no proof of that. Further I was told to go into the year to date figures on the employee record and change them there and all would be OK. I have subsequently discovered that you also need to ensure the tax code on the employee record has also been changed. So this is a good 5 minutes of extra work plus the nasty feeling that maybe all of that is still not enough.

So I then need to check the individual's payslip to ensure it's OK. When you are processing 15 people at a time it adds time that should not be required if the payroll is operating properly. And I have a distinct lack of confidence in the product, as I don't have time to check each person's pay calculation.

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Sage Payroll Bug described earlier

A developer at Sage has been in touch with me to explain that the problem is not serious at all.

He connected to my computer this morning to look at the effect of another employee with a P45 issued after they'd joined the company with a P46.

The helpline had previously told me that I needed to check year to date and tax to date figures on the person's record, but in fact this is not required. I assume that the fact that the previous employee that I had been working on did not get their tax code updated was because I did not change this on the P45 notification screen properly. Apparently there is another issue with users getting badly confused with program dates etc and whoever I spoke to on the helpline may have got the instructions for solving that problem mixed up with the instructions they gave to me.

He told me that as far as he is aware the only problem for people using the system correctly is the misleading report that appears on the screen after entering the new figures. I feel reasonably confident that he is right.



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@ Chris

Chris Smail wrote:

BBW - I know VT & Moneysoft and Quickbooks, and Xero and Kashflow...


Chris have I ruffled your feathers/whiskers with my comment? My comment wasn't directed at you so I don't know why you felt the need to reply in that fashion?

All I was saying is that given how popular those packages are on AWeb seems rather dubious that they do not feature on the SSA - hence the OP shouldn't base his decision on the SSA. 

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Chris ...

... you don't need to apologise for using SAGE, it's a free country :o)

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Keen to see others recommendations

I really wouldn't bother with Absolute Accounting, it is a horrible system with a poor user interface and average customer support. May be ok for iXbrl filing but useless at presentation to client.

Unless there is a vast improvement I will likely be looking to switch suppliers when my licence is up so am keen to see what other software people are recommending. I may even be tempted back to IRIS!


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No worries you cannot touch my soul..

I do get rather fed up with people bad mouthing Sage on here when they clearly have no idea what they are talking about, but to judge by some of the questions (and answers !?!) I do think we have a disproportionate number of very small firms doing very basic bookkeeping posting here. 

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The problem with SAGE ...

... is that the majority of its users ARE very small users doing very basic book-keeping so I don't think the AW representation is disproportionate!

Unfortunately their needs are frequently not addressed and the basic functions are ignored in favour the "twiddly" bits used by the minority.

I am talking in absolute terms and appreciate the minority in number probably pay the majority of the licence fees!

Although the reporting is getting more and more slick, and the management functions more and more diverse, the basic book-keeping entry is more and more cumbersome and on many clients I find it quicker to knock up a posting batch in Excel and import it rather than keying direct to SAGE.

Two long outstanding irks of mine are the inability to change account headers, and the inability to post a paying in slip as a single figure and apportion to the various S/L accounts (and linked to that the convuluted way you have to deal with refunds and the like.

The other major pet hate is the inability to match items with different tax codes. In particular CIS invoices are a pain. I post the invoice in full with VAT at T1, then to post the CIS deduction I post a credit note, but this has to be T1 and then over write the VAT as zero otherwise I cannot pay the invoice off in the bank module. This was also a pain with the change in VAT rates, as I use T1 for the new rate and T11 for the old ( as it takes a while for all the purchase invoices to come in, or items at the old rate are credited much later) but you then have problems with allocating the cheques.

That said, SAGE is adequate and is fairly robust in terms of audit trail and tracing problems and once you know the foibles and as long as you follow a regimented procedure works well enough.

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Sage experience

I have about 25 years experience using Sage, and I thought it was ok, but pricey. I have always moaned about the compatibility problems.

For small business Sage takes too long to learn, if it is to be used correctly. Small business can't (and needn't) afford that level of investment when there is better, cheaper, and more user-friendly software on offer.


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sufficiently old

to remember (just) the vhs v betamax war in the early days of vcrs. VHS  won due to better pr and was probably not the better product. Many people have the same view about SAGE and other products in the market

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The Innkeeper ...

... Agreed, and the same probably goes for all the MicroSoft competitors that Mr Gates has buried!

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I suspect that we may be of the same vintage !!!

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User-friendly or not is a BIG issue...

Here the sort of wholly unacceptable aggro that you'll get with Sage Accounts Production, if you wish to include an accountants report in a non-audit set of small company accounts:

Have to go into
STUPID SAGE DATABASE (as in difficult to follow & overly

complicated garbage)..
eg. S284 25aug2011...

To get into database where numbers are visible...
Pages > Settings > Database

WINDOW as will not then get the database entry numbers!)

0151 = N change to Y
0151B = N change to Y
01511 = Y change to N

Select the numbered database item (do not open it first!)
Click Edit (this opens it) then click Detail
and a check box has to be ticked (for Y)
or unticked for (N)

Starting conditions before editing:
&D.0150="N" OR &D.0150A="N" OR &D.0151A="Y" OR

&D.0151B="Y" OR &D.01511='Y'

Before editing full conditions:
(&D.0150='N' AND &D.0155='N')  OR (&D.0151="N" AND

&D.0151A="N" AND &D.0151B="N" AND &D.01511='N') OR

&D.0150A="N" OR (&D.0050="Y" AND &D.0153A="Y") OR

&D.01501='Y' OR &D.0020='N'

Page order:

PS. Properly written software by programmers in tune with

users who are NOT software writers would simply have

three radio buttons (instead of above typical Sage idiocy):
<> Include accountants report
<> Exclude accountants report
<> Use Sage default settings
In the instant case the first radio button would be clicked.

Now, looking at keeping your software upto date with Sage Accounts Production you do NOT jump to the seemingly obvious by clicking "Update" - instead there's a secret / by word of mouth unintuitive routine to follow - you must first click "Edit" and then choose which master copy to update to BEFORE you do the seemingly obvious thing and click "Update" at a later stage!  Why the choice of which master copy / dataset to update to couldn't be logically accessed after clicking update only Sage software writers can answer - but it typifies the way some software writers work (Not just Sage Accounts Production). 


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try vt

and your wish will come true

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Go into to data screens, check the box for type of report - hey presto!

If that is too much effort, if no box is checked it will ask you when you run the report.

IRIS also offers an "alias" system, where you can substitute a specific report for another on a client specific basis.

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@Moonbeam - have to disagree

As someone closely involved with the Software Satisfaction Awards, I have to challenge your assertion about awards. And using the information we have gathered over the years, I think that there are justifiable reasons to defend Sage's Practice Solution.

One of the criticisms that sometimes gets thrown at AccountingWEB is that it's populated by a gang of blinkered, anti-Sage militants. Yes, there have been issues concerning Sage's bookkeeping and practice products and we have reported on them consistently through the years. But part of it is the Microsoft effect - so many people use Sage (and the multitude of products that it has acquired), and have been doing so for so long that it has to support a bewildering variety of products and customer configurations, so overall satisfaction rates and market perceptions suffer. To give Sage credit, it invests a lot of money in its support operation, and the company rarely ducks an issue when it is raised by AccountingWEB members.

On to the Software Satisfaction Awards. While the "Anyone But Sage" tendency is very vocal on AccountingWEB, the awards survey data shows that there is a significant community of Sage tax and practice software users out there. The ABS crew have a point in one area: Sage, IRIS and other "suite" suppliers cannot match the product quality and consistency of smaller, best of breed software suppliers such as TaxCalc, Relate and PracticeEngine. Of the bigger players, only Digita has come close to matching the niche providers.

But if you accept the merits of integration - and with the coming of iXBRL filing, the argument in favour has become much stronger - the SSA data that we have collected over the years tells an interesting story. Take a look at these tables compiled from the tax/practice results in the following years:



*CCH didn't participate in 2010 SSAs - figure quoted is from 2007

To put it politely, in 2007 Sage's tax/practice products were struggling to achieve even mediocre satisfaction ratings, but in the intervening years it clearly did something about the weak functionality and significantly improved reliability. Contrast its 14% improvement in customer satisfaction to that of IRIS...

I'm guessing the iXBRL issue will skew this year's results for all the suppliers and the well publicised struggle Sage had to deliver its integrated iXBRL toolset may have slowed its overall progress on the customer satisfaction front. But in my experience, Sage took the whole issue very seriously from the off and had one of the best informed teams on the accounting technicalities - the difficulty it had was retro-fitting the new capabilities into an ageing software infrastructure. The company devised a transition plan and communicated it very clearly, but lacked the programming expertise to hit the original timetable. That, it has to be said, is a persistent criticism of Sage that hasn't gone away. I don't think anyone has been too severely inconvenienced by the 31 March delivery of iXBRL-equipped  accounts production packages - especially since HMRC's software won't be ready for post-31 March year ends until October.

The point of this extended post is to defend the Software Satisfaction Awards as a valuable exercise that celebrates good suppliers and helps to provide insights into the products and suppliers who don't always get the limelight. Sage software and the company behind it do their job reasonably well for a lot of accountants. If you are going to criticise them, I would urge you to do so based on personal knowledge or published facts rather than prejudice. I hope I have shown that the Software Satisfaction Awards help us to do just that.

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The scoring grid seems to leave out one important issue - namely how good the support is

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Another (temporary) flaw in the figures

Not only that... when I tried to fix a formatting problem, I inadvertently pasted the 2010 figures over the 2007 chart. The error has now been rectified. Sorry for misleading you.

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