In 2021, small businesses need bigger ways to join the dots

A man in a warehouse holding a tablet

In 2021, small businesses need bigger ways to join the dots

In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk about Big Data, and how it promises so much for businesses.

This excitement makes sense – after all, thanks to our connected world and the Internet of Things, we can use technology to give us all kinds of insights into our products and customers.

But not every company wants entirely new datasets to handle and analyse.

In our experience, a lot of companies just want better, smarter ways to manage their existing data and information. And sometimes, that can translate to one simple need: “I just want my systems to talk to each other.”

It’s for this reason that we’d like to introduce you to Sage 200.

But first, a little background.

The roots of Sage 200

Sage is a real British success story. Back in the early ‘80s, Sage’s founders wanted to automate accounting processes, so they worked with a team of Newcastle University students to develop the original software. And staying true to its roots, Sage still has an office in Newcastle. But it also now has 7.5 million business customers across the globe, with 800,000 of them in the UK and Ireland, including more than one third of the FTSE 100.

One of the Sage’s most popular products with small businesses is Sage 50. But a small SME can soon become a medium SME – and when it does, software requirements often change.
You may identify this in your own business. Perhaps you’ve used software for word processing and spreadsheets, and have reached a point when you need to upgrade your licence for more features.

Similarly, while Sage 50 is an excellent product for accounting in smaller businesses, it does have its limitations if your business grows beyond a certain point. And that’s where Sage 200 comes in…

The basics of Sage 200

From the ground up, Sage 200 is built for bigger businesses – the medium enterprises that fall into the SME category. According to Sage, it can handle more than 100,000 annual transactions and is designed for businesses with multiple cost centres, departments and locations – and for firms that need warehouse inventory management.

The software is available in a number of deployments. It can run in the cloud, or it can be installed on a server at your business – the ‘on-premise’ version. Your choice depends very much on the specific needs and nature of your business.

Much more than accounting

Businesses move from Sage 50 to Sage 200 when they grow and see their processes and needs becoming more complex. Nonetheless, many companies still associate Sage software with accounting and finance. After all, it’s accounting where Sage started – and decades on, it still tends to be associated with those business functions.

But one of the most valuable aspects of Sage 200 is that it goes beyond accounting and finance. It is modular, meaning you can add in modules for everything from stock control to customer relationships, using the CRM module. Here’s a full list of the modules available:

• Base platform (sold as a single user suite):
・Financial Ledgers (Sales, Purchase and Nominal Ledgers)
・Cash Book
・CRM
・Business Intelligence
・Sage Services

• Commercial modules:
・Stock Control
・Purchase Order Processing
・Sales Order Processing
・Price Book

• Additional modules:
・Project Accounting
・Bill of Materials
・Manufacturing

Another benefit of this modular setup is the agility it gives you for your business and its future. If you’ve outgrown Sage 50, you may be ready for Sage 200 – but you may not yet want to add additional modules, preferring to work on an ‘as and when’ basis. Sage 200 gives you this flexibility from day one, allowing you to be confident that you’ve chosen a system that can genuinely grow with your business.

The customisation doesn’t stop there.

Integrated services and adapting to the unique ways you work

There are more ways you can adapt and enhance Sage 200 to better suit your business. One option is to consider integrations with third-party software. We work with a number of Sage-accredited partners that can help with everything from document management to linking your finance functions with your website.

For example, one of our partners offers software that automatically converts invoices received as an email attachment into a Sage 200 entry. And another partner offers software that can connect your Sage 200 software to eCommerce platforms such as Shopify, Woocommerce and Magento.

Another route for customisation is to consider how the modules are built from the outset. I’m sure your business has its own unique ways of working. We certainly do. And so, one of the most valuable benefits of Sage 200 is that the modules can be customised at a very granular level to match your processes – a feature that is highly valued by existing customers, making Sage 200 stand out from similar products.

Imagine you have a particular, routine way of working on a regular task that you’d rather not change to accommodate new software. With Sage 200, the modules can be adjusted to suit your processes, which I’ll explain more below.

In doing all these things – allowing you to integrate different business functions in a way that suits you, your colleagues and your organisation – Sage 200 joins all the dots.

When I say this, I think back to my early days involved with Sage 200 (then known as Sage Sovereign) and can remember visiting many companies that ran manual ledgers and were reluctant to move to a software platform.

Fast forward six months and I would revisit them to see how they were going. When I did, I couldn’t help but notice their ledgers sat on the top shelf gathering dust, and people asking “why we didn’t install this software before?”.

Fast forward again to these days, and very often it’s a similar story visiting companies that are growing, having started with a number of software systems that whilst helped the business grow, are now actually holding them back – systems that simply don’t join the dots and suit employees’ working routines.

Having said that, a lot of our working routines have been completely shaken by the pandemic – and there are many ways Sage 200 can help with this.

Why now?

If growth feels a little out of reach right now, but you’re still interested in getting your business systems to work better with your accounting functions, then it might be worth considering the changes we’ve all experienced over the past year.

Knowing that customers have no choice but to shop online, many businesses have turned to ecommerce to keep trading. That might be for selling physical products, or for delivering everything from fajitas to flowers. It might even be for selling services, such as consulting, recruitment, and counselling – if it involves an online platform to promote and secure such work, then it’s ecommerce.

Certainly, stats for the retail sector bear out this change in direction. According to leading consultancy IMRG Capgemini, November 2020 saw a 39 per cent increase in year-on-year ecommerce sales.

It’s a monumental shift that may be irreversible – and if so, we’re facing a future where ecommerce is the norm and other forms of shopping are the exception.

So where does that leave your business – and how does it relate to Sage 200?

Here’s where I share a more recent anecdote, about a customer’s experience of the pandemic.

Wanting to do all they could to weather the storm, this customer decided to move into ecommerce. And to begin with, it all went well – it even started to make up the shortfall in physical sales. But, as time passed, it became apparent that the website wasn’t talking to the stock system, which in turn wasn’t talking to the financial system.

And so, customers were unknowingly ordering out-of-stock items; the warehouse team struggled to manage inventory, and accounting struggled to track all the associated financials. Consequently, a sensible and well-intentioned move to ecommerce brought its own headaches.

If this sounds familiar – or your own business is looking to launch an online store, then this is precisely the time to think long and hard about how your systems talk to each other – and ultimately lead right back to your financials.

It’s also why we advise all customers looking to move to Sage 200 to invest time at the outset in understanding how your different business functions work together, so Sage 200 can be built to match. Doing so will mean it’s right for everyone from day one, and ready for future changes and growth.

Why AdEPT?

As I’ve mentioned, one of the most important parts of setting up Sage 200 is getting under the skin of your business. In the initial stages, this means we’ll spend time with you and your colleagues to understand your priorities, how you work and the other things that makes your organisation tick.

This is no small undertaking. But at AdEPT, we take the view that if you ‘fail to plan, then you plan to fail’. In other words, we want to get it right for you from the start so it’s right for the future. Not all companies have this ethos.

Beyond the initial setup, there are other unique ways we at AdEPT can help you.

We have in-house Sage developers, so we can add or adapt modules for you as your business changes or grows.

It all stems from our problem-solving culture. So, while in nearly all cases we’ll address issues first time round, we’ll also put our hands up when we don’t know something – but do all we can to find the answer and solve the problem, rather than pass you off with an abrupt ‘no, it’s impossible to do that’. Again, not all companies are like this.

Finally, we’re not the sort of company that completes a project and says goodbye. Our support and training staff focus on being approachable, with a can-do attitude. And as my anecdotes suggest, we value long-term relationships with our customers.

It’s for these reasons that we’re an accredited Sage Support partner.

Where next

If any of the points in this blog resonate with you and you’re interested in Sage 200, then it’s time to talk.

You may now be wondering how much Sage 200 costs and how long does it take to set up. Unfortunately, those questions depend very much on a long list of variables: the size and nature of your business; the size of your workforce; which modules you’re interested in; how you’d like them adapted to suit your business… the list goes on.

Consequently, as much as I’d love to give you a fixed price and an idea of turnaround, it’s impossible to do so without listening and learning from you. And that leads me onto my conclusion.

Let’s talk today

Having worked with Sage products for decades, I hope to have a wealth of experience about how its products, including Sage 200, can help your business.

But more than talking about how we can help you, I’d like to learn as much as I can about your business and your needs. It’s how I’ve been fortunate enough to develop long-standing relationships with clients throughout my career.

So if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch. You’ll find my contact details below.

• Mike Sheard is our Sage 200 Sales Consultant. You can find out more and connect with him here on LinkedIn. Alternatively, you can get in touch with him through our website, here.

Written by Mike Sheard

Sage Consultant