This year’s eLeaders find online accounting and e-commerce effective business platforms.
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By Robert W. Scott
A funny thing happened when Laurie Notarianni, owner of Pyramid Consulting, tried to contact her client, Fuze Beverage, which had implemented Accpac’s Advantage software line via its hosted system called Accpac Online.
The eLeaders story is an annual feature published by Accounting Technology that outlines how end users utilize accounting systems that make use of Web-based technology, whether through hosting or by e-commerce features.
Imagine making that move with an accounting system based on a server. It would have taken two or three days of billable time and thousands of dollars for Pyramid to make the move. Instead, the company left Pyramid, based in Uniondale, N.Y., somewhat perplexed that the client didn’t send a “We’ve Moved” card.
That’s part of the benefit of hosted systems. It was simply a matter of moving computers and reconnecting to the Internet. There are many more benefits, says Joseph Rosamilia, chairman of Fuze, a two-year-old company founded by president Lance Collins, a beverage industry veteran like Rosamilia, who started one of Snapple’s largest distributors. Snapple, incidentally, is a major client of Pyramid’s.
Fuze (www.fuzebev.com), a distributor with some manufacturing characteristics, needed an integrated system that could respond to the fast pace required in keeping up in the competitive beverage market, while allowing key employees to work from home.
“This whole program supplies us with the information that we need on a daily basis,” says Rosamilia, who usually accesses Advantage from his home. Rosamilia gets the reports he needs quickly, and can make changes via the telephone. In fact, one of Pyramid’s major jobs is writing the changing reports needed by Fuze or helping keep up with the changing bills of materials needed as beverage flavors shift to meet market demand. There are six system users.
Despite its requirement for heavy-duty reporting, most orders are faxed or emailed. “We are a small company,” notes Rosamilia. “In a growing company, one of the biggest fears is being out of stock.”
Although Rosamilia does not foresee the need for advanced e-commerce features, that could change. Notarianni says beverage companies typically follow a fast growth path, reaching $40 million in about three years and $100 million in five years. At that point, she continues, established vendors acquire most start-ups.
Fuze switched to a mid-market product because it had outgrown the use of spreadsheets for production reporting, coupled with QuickBooks. “They were flipping out,” says Notarianni. “You are doing high volume, we are not doing little cases of stuff.” Recent growth included the addition of 30 salespeople.
When it comes to electronic commerce, Oldcastle does things in a big way. With $1 billion in sales, the division of Dublin, Ireland-based CRH Oldcastle employs 5,000 people served by an IT staff with its own development team. It has also become the largest installation of Axapta, one of four financial systems from Microsoft Business Solutions.
“[Our] 150 locations are like mom-and-pop organizations,” says Jerry Kottelenberg, Oldcastle’s chief information officer. “They don’t have a whole lot of stuff. We needed software that is user friendly and easy to learn. On the flip side, those locations are part of a large corporation that has reporting needs and which must be consolidated.”
While Oldcastle does not take orders over the Internet, it does use electronic transmission in its business, including electronic data interchange. It receives orders through a value-added network for EDI connections with major vendors.
The Microsoft technology comes into play through the use of BizTalk. The company’s IT infrastructure “is a hybrid of different standards,” says Mike Merfeld, a partner with En’tegrate, the MBS reseller that sold the system. En’tegrate began installing the Axapta system in 2001. But Oldcastle still has orders coming in via a legacy system. “The BizTalk front end is playing traffic cop,” says Merfeld. “All transactions go into BizTalk, which decides which transactions go to one system, and vice versa on the way out. It’s an e-commerce, enterprise integration story tied into one.” As Kottelenberg notes, that integration includes handling traffic coming out of a 20-year-old Unix system.
En’tegrate has been selling Axapta since 2000 when Damgaard, the original owner, marketed the product. With about 50 people in the United States, En’tegrate’s founders came from the Baan environment. With this background, the VAR had the tools to handle what Merfeld describes as “one of the first and largest deployments of Axapta Commerce Server, and BizTalk.”
Currently, Oldcastle has a 750-user license-about $1 million in software-with the software running at a single site co-located inside a Sprint backbone. The rest of the sites connect to the server via frame relay. Frame relay is a simplified fast-packet-switching data communications methodology that lacks the data integrity guarantee of the X.25 protocol. Data is routed through virtual circuits and can transmit at rates ranging from 56Kbps to T-1 speeds.
Oldcastle also uses Citrix WinFrame across the frame relay network to make the Axapta screens available to remote users. Kottelenberg chose Citrix over Microsoft Terminal Server, which, he says, “is 60 to 70 percent of what Citrix is.”
Uhula may evoke a pig roast on a Hawaiian beach at sunset through product names such as Rad-Tiki, Tropical Boogie, and Mermaid’s Garden. But the company itself is about as Hawaiian as its 4,000-sq.-ft. offices in San Clemente, Calif.
Founder Marcia Needels and her daughter made up the company’s name, although it turns out to be the name of an African love goddess. But the company’s success has nothing do to with luck.
San Clemente, Calif.
Individual sales are $140 to $180 for a typical comforter, with the average total order falling between $200 and $400. The company also has hundreds of SKUs and the need to track 20 to 30 shipments daily. It also has active sales via its online store.
The ability to deal with online orders made eBusinessVision an excellent choice, says Needels. “I’m not computer savvy,” she notes. Those eBusinessVision features came in handy recently when a customer placed an order “for something that we only had two left of. I wanted to get that off the Web store. All I had to do was perform an upload and it was removed,” says Needels. That capability avoids the need to explain to customers that their orders could not be fulfilled because the product was not in inventory. Standard pricing for an e-Business system like Uhula’s is $89.95 a month, plus $399 for set-up.
P.S.,-although it’s not strictly an accounting issue, Uhula’s public relations also make this family business intriguing. In the last year, the company has received feature coverage in Better Homes & Gardens, Family Circle, and Good Housekeeping.