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SSA13: ERP & business intelligence analysis

27th Nov 2013
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The increasing presence of cloud applications in the 2013 Software Satisfaction Awards for small business software was not as strong in the ERP and business intelligence categories, but is still having an impact on these corporate software sectors. Andy Price takes a look at the final results.

Although Sage 200 has now joined NetSuite, and Aqilla in the mid-market cloud accounting race, the majority of shortlisted entrants in the ERP and business intelligence categories were integrated client/server ERP programs. But that did not stop NetSuite from winning the ERP category.

In the online SSA13 survey, each piece of ERP and business intelligence software was rated individually on a scale of 1-5 on its ease of use, functionality, support, and value for money. The product ratings were balanced with a customer advocacy score – a calculation based on the percentage of customers advocating the use of the software minus those who would not do so.

With a sample of 772 responses compared to nearly 5,000 small business survey responses, ERP is a much smaller universe within AccountingWEB, but that figure has grown from 4-6% of the SSA accounting population in the past few years to 14% in 2013. Compared to the popularity of the cloud applications in the payroll and small business accounts categories. In the SME ratings, 42% of respondents used cloud applications and we identified a 15-20% differential in product ratings between cloud and desktop systems. We think this could reflect reduced system admin burden and more immediate relationship with the software provider, which has more improtance for small business software users, but there appears to be a similar cloud "bonus" of around 10% within the SSA13 survey. The category winner NetSuite effectively reaped the benefits of this difference.

But product ratings are not the only factor in the awards. Towards the bottom of the ERP shortlist, there are anomalies where Microsoft Dynamics GP, for example, gained lower average product ratings but had a higher customer advocacy score than Access and Exchequer.

Sage continues to have a strong foothold in the mid-market and ERP accounting sectors. Not only did Sage 200 gain 21% of the survey sample, Sage Accounts 50 is also used in many companies with £5m+ turnovers that could also be classed in this category.

The share of the vote needed to qualify for the ERP shortlist was 2.5% which saw software giants like Microsoft only just make the cut. But ERP customer advocacy ratings were lower than in other SSA13 categories, showing that some of these applications are still failing to meet expectations - a perception that has hovered over ERP since the boom times of over-ambitious 1990s business re-engineering projects.

SAP Business One represents a potential shift in that perception, however. The system has been tailored for the needs of mid-market businesses that need fast implementation and had a significant impact in the 2013 ERP survey - the first time the product has been assessed in SSA process. It pushed ahead of Pegasus in the number of users responding to the survey and while it lagged just behind the Infor subsidiary's modular accounting system in the product ratings, Business One had a 7% higher customer advocacy score.

Meanwhile the business intelligence victor, Pegasus XRL, reflected the continuing hold of Excel on this sector. The program, which has won the BI award in previous years, connects to Pegasus Opera data tables and extracts the data straight into a spreadsheet for analysis using familar tools and techniques.









SAP Business One








Corero Resource 32000




Sage 200




Microsoft Dynamics GP












Business Intelligence


Pegasus XRL




Sage 200












The 68% advocacy rating isn’t huge for the business intelligence winner, Pegasus XRL, though its share of the vote is steady and its average score is a full half a point higher than its closest rival, Sage 200 – making it the clear winner in terms of competency in the business intelligence category. With just 220 respondents, it is also clear that business intelligence remains a minority interest among AccountingWEB members.

Pegasus XRL was one of several native BI tools that come with mid-market financial and ERP applications, including Sage 200, Access, OpenAccounts and SAP Business One. Among the BI specialists only Cognos gained enough responses to make the SSA13 shortlist. Small pockets of SAP's Crystal Reports and Business Objects users showed up in the survey, but they were outnumbered by those using the BI tools supplied with SAP Business One.  The ability to work in real-time with accounts data is becoming more popular, but it appears that accountants want their analytic facilities to be built into their accounting applications. Or they prefer to keep using Excel.

Further analysis and comparisons will be available to vendors in benchmark reports being compiled on each sector, and these will feed into AccountingWEB software buyer’s guides in early 2014.

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