"Best has to do something about getting rid of some of the products in its line. Don't you think so?" queried a reseller at a conference this spring. "No," I shot back.

A lot of people have spent a lot of time talking about multi-product lines, particularly the burgeoning Best and Microsoft portfolios. Microsoft Business Solutions has four GL mid-market packages -- Great Plains, Solomon, Axapta, and Navision. In the United States, Best has MAS 90/200, MAS 500 (different despite the name), AccountMate, BusinessVision, Accpac Advantage, and Accpac ProSeries, and don't forget Platinum for Windows.

None of these facts demand that the product line be simplified. Products lines should be simplified if a product loses money and can't be made profitable, or doesn't work right and can't be fixed. But, there's no reason to kill a product just because a company has many different ones.

At Convergence, the MBS user conference, Doug Burgum faced a similar question about the possible need to kill off existing products to prepare for Project Green, which will eventually unify the MBS offerings, but which will give the company its fifth GL line when it emerges in a couple of years.

Software products, Burgum noted, are at their most profitable in the later years of the product cycle. They help fund the new products. Burgum didn't cite them, but reasons include the lower R&D costs and lower cost of customer acquisition since the products have referenceable sites and reputations, among other factors.

When Dave Hannah was chairman of what was then called State of the Art (now Best’s Mid-Market Division), I asked him why SOTA still marketed the antiquated DacEasy line.

"It still makes money," he responded, offering many of the same reasons. Since the company was selling to the installed base -- not trying to reach new users -- it had low marketing costs. Giving users some new features now and then kept them happy and kept them upgrading. You'll notice that DacEasy is still on the market.

For example, why should Best kill either Accpac Advantage or BusinessVision, the two products that give it more than 80 percent of the Canadian market?

If products can cover different geographies or different niches or different price points, there is no reason they can't co-exist.

Burgum often parried questions about the acquisition of Solomon the same way. Why spend all that money to buy a product and kill it? If you want an example of what not to do, look at Great Plains’ purchase of RealWorld, which it quickly pulled from the market. There many be as many as 18,000 RealWorld users out there, with absolutely no love of Great Plains or Microsoft, despite incentives to upgrade. MBS could have at least been getting some money out of these folks by following the DacEasy example.

The idea is to make money, isn't it, not to offer the latest technology for technology's sake?

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