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Software review: Systematics Accounts

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25th Dec 2005
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Systematics Accounts and Payroll software from Earth Solutions is described as "real solutions for real businesses". We gave a copy to a real accountant, Nigel Harris from chartered accountants Burton Sweet, to see what he thought.

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The Systematics 'Business Suite' comprises sales, purchase and nominal ledgers, cash book, stock and invoicing. I looked at the single user/single company Standard Edition 'Business Suite' (SL, PL, NL, cash book, stock and invoicing) , which includes the Payroll software for up to 10 employees. There are higher specification (and higher price) Professional, Enterprise and Enterprise Plus (SQL Server) Editions too.

Who? you may ask. The first version of Systematics was developed for Apple II and was released in the European market back in 1979, so it's a product with a long history. It was subsequently re-written for MS-DOS based IBM compatible PCs and was promoted as Systematics I and II. Systematics was rated as one of the top 5 accounting products in Europe and some 37,000 modules of Systematics were sold to around 11,000 users. In 1987 the product was re-labelled as AccountsMaster and PayMaster (Payroll), names which may be more familiar to accountants as 60,000 suites were delivered across UK/Europe packaged with the then popular Amstrad PCs, making it the most widely distributed product in the market.

In 2000 the product was acquired by MAARS, which developed a new Windows version. By 2002 MAARS completed the development & testing of the Payroll module and released it in the market. MAARS also completed the Windows upgrade for the finance ledgers, stock control & invoicing modules and successfully had the accounting modules accredited under the ICAEW's IT Product Accreditation Scheme. In July 2002 Earth Solutions (UK) Limited acquired the product and quickly completed the development of additional modules.

On screen, Systematics has made great efforts to make Sage users feel at home. The screen layout, icons and menus are very familiar if you know Line 50, even if the engine under the bonnet is very different. The lookup facility is extremely powerful in every module, so you never need to remember an account code e.g. a customer account can be retrieved by entering part of the name, post code, telephone number - almost anything.

Systematics appears to do everything you would expect a comprehensive SME accounts package to do. For those familiar with Sage and the like there are a few key features of Systematics that set it apart from much of the competition:

  • It is period based, rather than date driven. Transactions are allocated to periods, irrespective of the transaction date, so there are no year-end procedures. This allows you to keep several years data live at any time. Select, for example, a customer - you can instantly view all sales in all years, and drill down to invoice and stock movement level in any year, however old. This takes some getting used to if you're a Sage user, but the advantages soon become apparent.
  • Very sophisticated analysis is possible. You can create up to 99 sub-ledgers (sales, purchases, stock, invoicing) which post to a single nominal ledger. Sub-ledgers can be configured to post transactions to, say, a specific branch or department, so that full accounts can be produced at branch or department level. Nominal account analysis can be up to three levels - for example, postings can be allocated to a branch, department and job, and reports produced at any of those levels. Alternatively, you can create stand alone subledgers - eg an export sales ledger - which is not integrated with the nominal at all.
  • You can also create multiple sales ledger control accounts within a single sales ledger.
  • All versions other than Standard offer true multi-currency accounting across all modules.
  • Reporting is flexible and user-friendly. There is full "drill-down" across TB and all reports in all modules. So-called "fixed" reports are in fact built using Crystal Reports, and can be customised using Crystal. Editions of the software above Standard also allow you to create customisable reports on the fly from within Systematics. The cross-tab reports provide virtually any combination of data from across the system, and if that's not enough you can export any report to excel for further analysis!

The stock and invoicing modules are very impressive, even in the Standard Edition, and in the higher versions these modules offer features I have only ever seen in much more expensive software. The Professional Edition 'Corporate Suite' adds sales and purchase order processing too - at a total package price just under £500 this has to be a product to consider if you need these facilities. I was particularly impressed with the reporting and output flexibility. Quotes, proformas, sales orders, delivery notes and invoices all have separate sequences of document numbers, unlike systems that use the same numbering throughout. So if a quote doesn't result in a sale you don't end up with missing invoice numbers! Each customer can be set to receive a printed or email statement, and the latter can be set as PDF, HTML, RTF or plain text for each customer.

The stock module handles multiple warehouses, up to seven customer price lists (with optional expiry dates) to cater for special arrangements with key customers and if you also record suppliers' price lists your buyers can check for the best price before placing orders. Naturally, the stock ordering system can monitor stock levels against usage and delivery lead times and recommend when stock lines need to be reordered.

I have a client who needed Sage Line 100 just to be able to print delivery notes and labels at a remote warehouse. Systematics can be configured to print up to eight copies of invoices, etc, each with a user-defined title, and each sent to a different printer and location!

The single user/single company Standard Edition 'Business Suite' costs just £175 plus support. The more feature-rich Professional Edition allows you to run up to 10 companies with up to eight users for £385, or £495 for the 'Corporate Suite'. The Enterprise Edition offers even more features and allows unlimited companies at £685 and £995 respectively. The SQL versions are significantly more expensive, as you would expect. The company recommends the SQL version for larger multi-user installations to improve the operating speed of the system.

For £400 Earth Solutions can convert around 70% of Sage Line 50 data for use in Systematics, once again easing the transfer.

The software is completely scaleable - in reality, all editions are based on the same source code, with certain features disabled in the cheaper editions! This means that the upgrade and expansion path is pretty painless as a business expands or its requirements increase. Consequently the software is targeted across a range of business users, from mass market/entry level accounts systems up to bigger mid-market systems such as Sage Line 100. The competitive pricing and functionality makes it extremely attractive at any of these levels.

The Payroll package does pretty much what it says on the tin. Once again, for users of Sage and similar packages there are several salient differences:

  • Systematics allows you to keep two consecutive years open at once, so there is less pressure to run the year-end routine. And you can always go back to the last year and run P35, P11 or P14/60 reports even after you have closed the year. You can even go back into the previous year and re-run weeks or months and then produce revised end of year reports, all without affecting the new year. Other software packages require you to restore a backup of the previous year first.
  • Historical reports - including payslips - can be run over as many years as you require.
  • Once again, pricing is extremely competitive - the Enterprise Edition allows virtually unlimited payrolls (999 companies with up to 99 payroll files per company) for an unlimited number of employees, and up to eight users, and all for £525 plus £275 pa support. If you currently run an in-house bureau system you are probably paying significantly more for alternative software!
  • Unlike some other systems, BACS comes as standard, you don't pay extra
  • Like some other payroll packages, Systematics Payroll runs on an 'exception' basis. For any period, only variable data such as overtime needs to be entered. All regular wages, salaries and deductions are entered automatically by the system (although they can easily be overridden if necessary), making the running of a monthly salary-based payroll extremely quick and simple.

First impressions - why haven't I heard of this software before?! I have many clients - and I'm sure many readers do too - who have far more expensive software that doesn't do half of what Systematics does. The upgrade path through the Systematics "Editions" offers far more options than most lower-end software, and should be a big attraction for anyone specifying software for a new business with big expansion plans.

For more information about Systematics click here

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