Catherine Marks: Navigating On-line and Off

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by Richard McCausland

So is the middle-market finally ready to embrace hosted software applications in a big way? Compass Enterprise Solutions thinks so—and for good reason.

Since April, the year-old Charles, Ill.-based reseller has persuaded three customers, including a startup, to give Accpac Online hosted accounting services a whirl. “It’s ideal for startup companies that don’t have all the cash and [IT] infrastructure in place,” yet need the functional depth provided by Accpac Advantage Series, comments Compass founder and president Catherine Marks, CPA.

Partner Insights

At the same time, the Application Service Provider model is well suited to established companies that have multiple sites, or which need to accommodate the working preferences of employees, she points out. Two Accpac for Windows customers made the switch to online hosting. “They wanted their employees to be able to work remotely from other offices or from home,” explains Marks.

This growing acceptance of Web deployment represents a sea change of sorts for Marks. Only three or so years ago, as co-partner of another Accpac reseller firm, “We looked at becoming an ASP, but there was a lot of resistance at that time,” she recalls. Much of that stemmed from bandwidth and security concerns, but those fears have largely melted due to technology advances, according to Marks.

Also, Accpac has widened the potential audience for Web-hosted applications by expanding the Online solution to include not only Advantage Series accounting, but also e-commerce (eTransact), human resources, manufacturing and distribution (Warehouse Management System), financial analytics (CFO), and Customer Relationship Management—all for a monthly subscription fee.

Marks is already sizing up new candidates for Accpac Online among Compass’ 20 or so users of the DOS-based Accpac Plus. She’s looking at inviting these users to a seminar on Web hosting with the overriding message: “This is an option for you guys.”

The inclusion of CRM within the Accpac Online framework will benefit both offerings, in Marks’ view. “Anyone who has customers can use CRM,” she says. That’s a lot of market potential. Marks observes, “Just as accounting was our foundation, I think CRM is our future.” Not that Compass will downplay its accounting roots. In fact, “We’re hoping the CRM will drive more accounting sales,” notes Marks.

She’s particularly heartened by the recent introduction of AccpacCrm.com for as little as $17 per user per month. Customers always have the option of moving their accumulated data to on-site deployment when it makes financial and operational sense, she notes. The hosted service features a free 30-day trial subscription. “That will give [prospects] a chance to see it in action,” says Marks, who is already planning a seminar for this month to spread the word.

An Accpac Veteran

With over ten years experience in public accounting and consulting, Marks is also an Accpac alumna. While there, she played a key role in shaping its Qualified Installers program, and also functioned as a liaison with the reseller community when the vendor launched its Windows product. She left Accpac five years ago to co-found Banyan Business Consulting, also in Charles, which grew quickly through acquiring the Accpac installed bases of three competitors.

A year ago, Marks struck out on her own, bringing many of her clients with her. “Our goal is to be over a million dollars by next year, and to be a Premier Accpac partner,” she states. There are four employees, with a fifth expected shortly.

The reseller handles the entire Advantage Series. A “typical” software sale might involve a five-user Corporate system at $15,000 to $20,000, or a similarly configured Enterprise system at $25,000 to $30,000. Services usually run 1.5 times the software cost.

Besides ASP deployment and CRM, Compass is making a heavy push into document management under senior consultant Greg Feltz. He previously owned a firm specializing in OCR/ICR form processing and Web-based image retrieval applications.

For users aspiring toward a paperless office, Compass can customize their Advantage screens to include a button that will automatically retrieve the image of a particular invoice. The user can then annotate any “page” of the retrieved document, which may be faxed or emailed.

Richard McCausland is Senior Editor of Accounting Technology and can be reached at richard.mccausland@amgpubs.com.

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