[IMGCAP(1)]Legal matters, mega alliances, and yet another cloud bookkeeping product on the market were the big items on tap this week and I'm here to tell you what I think about it all.

Again it was the vendors that offered the most significant news in the world of Accounting Technology, starting with what could be a settled law suit between Epicor and ISP Alternative Technology Solutions, as well as a major partnership between Oracle, NetSuite and Big Four firm Deloitte, followed by the launch of a Hawaii-based cloud bookkeeping company named Cheqbook. So let's get started...

News: ERP product maker Epicor Software Corp. may have finally settled its copyright infringement lawsuit against Alternative Technology Solutions as the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California entered a nationwide injunction against Alternative. The federal court order explicitly bars Alternative from possessing, copying, using or accessing any Epicor products or documentation which have not been validly licensed, and from using validly licensed Epicor software for an impermissible purpose. 

My Take: So for what has been publically revealed about this case, it has been since early this year a big "he said, she said" with particular attention to how things are worded (as is often the case in legal matters). Basically Epicor claims that Alternative did not have the right to represent the Epicor brand, where as Alternative -- an independent service provider -- has claimed it never did anything wrong and has essentially been helping Epicor all along with the products and services Alternative provides to its customers. The two parties, however, seemed to have reached a mutal agreement which was a part of the recent court order so that the two parties can, basically, live in peace. In fact the wording of the order allows Alternative to continue to service its current and future customers. The order also permits Alternative to continue to provide implementation, customization and consulting services to their customers in the manner used before the litigation under the terms of a client's valid Epicor end user license agreement. Is this the last we'll hear of this matter? We'll see, but for now it seems the bullets have stopped flying.

News: Oracle, NetSuite and Deloitte have formed a strategic alliance focused on plans to deliver integrated human capital management (HCM) and ERP cloud services for midsized customers.

Deloitte plans to work with Oracle and NetSuite to develop a practice with highly skilled practitioners specializing in tools and implementation services to help customers adopt the soon to be integrated SaaS technologies. Additionally, Oracle plans to develop a product integration and go-to-market strategy with NetSuite for Oracle HCM cloud and NetSuite cloud ERP to deliver a single offering that connects HR and finance systems for midsized customers.  Also, for large organizations where Oracle HCM is already deployed, two-tier deployments of NetSuite in smaller subsidiaries will connect with its Corporate HR system.

My Take: Ok that's a lot, so what's the bottom line here? Well, from NetSuite's perspective I can say that this goes along with their strategy of wanting to be one of the ERP products in an enterprise's "two-tier" approach. This is of course in a situation, say for example where Oracle is the system of record for the main entity but other enitities or offices in the U.S. or around the world are not so convinced Oracle is the best system for every other entity or they don't need everything Oracle offers for all of them. So, in comes NetSuite. The company made a big deal out of this very scenario at its SuiteWorld conference when the CTO of Qualcomm came up during the keynote address and explained why they went with NetSuite for other entities. Now, with Deloitte in the mix they're potentially offering access to clients who potentially need Oracle for human capital management and NetSuite for cloud ERP. These would essentially be "midsized" businesses, but that wasn't clearly defined in the announcement.

Now, another thing some of you may be thinking is while all of this is well and good, NetSuite seems to be working awfully close with Oracle lately and what is the potential they may have a permanent marriage. Again, it's all just talk but you know you're thinking it. If you want, read more into NetSuite CEO's own response to the aforementioned Qualcomm CTO testimonial, when he said "if I were SAP or Oracle, I'd be worried" to which Nelson replied "well, maybe just SAP." Granted, in software publisher competition terms SAP is a bit of a mutual enemy of Oracle and NetSuite, but the two are going after them in their own way.

Anyway, I don't want to run off the rails here but as for the news itself, I'd be interested to see if NetSuite works out a similar deal with other large CPA firms to help be that other tier in an enterprise's "two-tier" ERP plan.

News: A new small business-focused cloud bookkeeping product has been launched by Cheqbook, a Hawaii-based company that offers color-coded alerts and categorization for all entries.

Though the product itself was essentially in production for the past two years, mostly used inside of founder Doug Levin’s CPA firm Levin & Hu CPAs, Cheqbook went through several updates based on user feedback before its recent official launch. He claims it is currently being used by 250 companies, mainly those with $1 million or less in annual sales, and is currently planning marketing strategies and different ways to reach accountants.  

My Take: On the one hand, to be fair, there are a good number of cloud bookkeeping offerings readily available on the market -- some of them even free. So where exactly is this new Hawaiian startup going to fit in? On the other hand, good for them. They all seem to have one mutual enemy: QuickBooks. While Intuit can still claim millions of users on their product, an increasing number of businesses and their accountants are finding that it's not always the best fit -- especially if you are, say, doing $1 million or less in annual sales. You probably don't have that many staff, and it may be likely that they want to spend more time running the business than doing financial entries. Granted, the product and it's main desktop competitor Sage 50 have made improvements but with all of the cloud alternatives (again, some of them at no cost at all), it's just good to have a choice.

It's too early to see what impact Cheqbook will really have, but they do claim to have some differentiators, one of which is their color-coding of all book entries, which shows a user exactly what needs the most attention and what category each entry is in without having to flip through other screens. We shall see, but if they're able to work out getting accountants to pay attention to them then they're off to the races with the rest of the pack.


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