by Seth Fineberg

Irvine, Calif. — With the recent announcement that Accpac chief executive David Hood will depart the company effective June 30, resellers and industry analysts are taking the earlier-than-expected move in stride and are looking toward their future under Best Software and Accpac’s new general manager, Susan Sheridan.

For many, Hood’s stepping down officially marks the assimilation of the recently acquired business management software maker into the Best Software family. At the time that the acquisition was announced late last year, it was thought that Hood — who served at the company’s helm since 1999 — would stay on until at least the end of this year.

Instead, he decided it was “appropriate to step out of the way.”

“It started to become clear that, while I wanted to ensure an effective transition and that the process was smooth for everyone, for me it was like my job was done and I thought it was time to move on,” Hood said. “It was very satisfying to cradle my baby in a comfortable space and put it somewhere where it fits.”

During his tenure, Hood developed key strategic alliances with companies such as IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat and SuSe Linux. An initial public offering was initiated by Hood and filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission prior to the ultimate sale of Accpac to Sage on March 8, 2004.

Long-time Accpac resellers like Miami-based NextLevel Information Systems have endured numerous ups and downs with the company, but believe that Hood had set things in the right direction and, for the most part, are looking forward to their future under new leadership.

“[Hood] took some serious sales and marketing leadership issues and turned it around. The company was under-performing in every area and I really credit him that he had a vision of an end-to-end business management solution and made it a reality,” said Manny Buigas, NextLevel’s vice president of sales. “With Susan coming on it’s a great transition. For a long time, I felt we had the best product that no one knew about, but with the new ownership and leadership that is going to change.”

Buigas said that his only concern, in the long term, was if Best would place the same commitment to R&D on Accpac products as their former owner.
Upon Hood’s departure, Sheridan, the senior vice president of marketing, assumes the role of general manager of Accpac, which is now officially a Best Software business unit.

She admits that her new role will be challenging on a number of levels. “One of the best things about taking this job is that I inherit the great team David has built and retained, but now we need to focus on how we will be integrating more with Best,” Sheridan said. “Change is difficult. This is a big, well-running machine and you can’t change things too fast, even though I would like to do things as quickly as possible.”

Best has made 17 separate acquisitions throughout its corporate life. Last year, it divided its product lines into two separate divisions: small business and midmarket. Each division has separate business units with general managers who oversee them.

Analysts like Dr. Katherine Jones, research director at the Aberdeen Group, believe that figuring out how and what to integrate in this acquisition-built family of Best products will be one of management’s biggest challenges.

“The company really needs to look at what they want to be when they grow up. They have good products that may not be strategic to them and may have a long and happy life somewhere else,” said Jones. “Integration is very strategic for them. At some point in a company’s life, they look at migration from product to product, and have so many diverse products [that] some have been hard to migrate to.”

Jones added that she believes that Sheridan is “well-positioned” for the Accpac business unit’s growth and that she brings years of marketing strength to the company.

Sheridan’s business unit will also include the BusinessVision product line, obtained last year by Best’s U.K.-based parent, Sage Group plc, when it purchased Softline Software. BusinessVision president Murray Aston will report to Sheridan.

BusinessVision resellers may not be as familiar with Sheridan and Accpac, but those that are have confidence that she, with Aston’s aid, will keep the company and its products on the right track. Much of BusinessVision’s operations are still based in Toronto.

“It’s a very interesting play putting Sheridan in place. She knows the reseller world and now she’s got the reins over the BusinessVision partners,” said Bruce Andersen, principal at Woodland Hills, Calif.-based BTA Consulting. “I think she will be very savvy in not taking apart what’s going on in Toronto. I think she will do great things and I hope she will see the advantage of having a product like BusinessVision.”

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