In my opinion, it has to be the Statement Designer in Sage 300, also known as ACCPAC. I don’t think any other accounting product provides for a better tool. Now, before you brand me as bias, here take a look at what it can do.
Uses Industry Standard tools
Everyone uses Microsoft Excel. It is easy to use and is powerful and complete in features. So, being able to use this instead of learning a new tool is not only convenient but means you get productive immediately.
Embedded within General Ledger, users can be assured that the integration of the data in General Ledger is both automatic and trouble-free.
There are a number of products in the market that uses Microsoft Excel directly and indirectly but none come close to the way Sage 300 does it.
Once you initialized the program, you have access to the General Ledger data by entering functions in cells, just like what you will do when you want to use a built-in function in Microsoft Excel. There is even a function utility to help you format the function like in Microsoft Excel. This is how convenient it is.
And, if you think you are already an expert in this, you can even type in the whole formula with any of the Statement Designer’s built-in functions together with any standard functions in Microsoft Excel in the Microsoft Excel’s formula bar. This is how tight the integration is with Microsoft Excel.
Furthermore, to automate the layout of the report, the utility comes with the concept of template lines. What this means is that you can layout the report using special codes and some of these codes perform tasks such as replicating the formula in a certain column to all rows beneath it until another column formula is encountered.
Templates can allow for filtering of rows and perform groupings. So, if a range of accounts is to be retrieved and printed as rows, you can determine to filter by a single or range of accounts or use an Account Group for the purpose. This can be further refined with a simple code to determine if they are printed as a row or summarized and printed as a group.
The tool is so flexible and intuitive, you can even code cell by cell in the worksheet when any of the template rules cannot do what you intended.
As this utility is an add-in for Microsoft Excel, it means you can do whatever is provided for by Microsoft Excel. So, you can craft charting dashboards with it besides just standard financial reports.
When all else fails
Learning to use this is a breeze. You can actually learn how to do this in a couple of hours. This is not bragging but a fact.
Of course, financial reports are quite a standard thing in an accounting system. So, instead of expecting you to create your own Balance Sheet and Income Statement reports, the application comes with a number of different layouts of these. You get Current Month, Current Month and Year-to-Date, compared against budget, 12-month rolling, etc.
All these are written in a generic manner. So, you can pass it around and use it with any company’s data* and with any financial reporting period. Even if the version of your General Ledger changes, these reports still work without changes*.
* Reports are simply definitions of layout and formulas. Data is automatically determined based on the Company that you are logged into. Layouts are generally version agnostic, however recent releases of General Ledger provided for more Account Groupings and these require changes to existing reports. This is not really a bad thing as the small and easy amendment will make reporting even more dynamic, with more granular groupings.
A special print program is provided that allow substitution of your report definition at runtime. So, if you have intentionally left out telling the report the year and period or even a range or type of accounts, you can do this at printing time by specifying them then.
Doing so means you can aid in automating the report production since substitution of values can be performed outside of the report definition.
Sage 300 has a good macro tool embedded in it. It is probably one of the rare accounting products in the market place that uses Microsoft Visual Basic for Application (VBA) as the macro language. It is just not simply embedded but they took the extra effort to make macro recording possible.
What this means is that you can use the recorder to record actions taken. Then, you can replay the recorded steps whenever you want the same actions repeated. Being a macro language means you can actually edit the macro code generated and add in friendly prompt dialogs or provide for additional behaviors that are not catered for in the original action.
Some useful ideas for this include, grouping a number of reports together to be processed at one go. This is great if you want some automation for month end reporting. Link it to Microsoft Scheduler and you have one hell of a power tool, and it’s free!
Not forgetting that you can always choose to print reports to Screen, File, Printer or Email. And, you can choose a variety of popular formats such as CSV, TXT, PDF, etc. This is not only convenient but it means you can even automate the distribution of reports.
Where do you go from here
Sage 300 current releases offer this tool as the financial reporting tool of choice. There were attempts to replace this with Sage Business Intelligence and later Sage 300cloud intelligence. Try them and I am sure you will come back to this tool because it is not only easy to learn but because it has powers beyond your needs for financial reporting.
Imagine a tool released in October 1994, for the first release of the predecessor of today’s version, and it is still unbeatable 24 years later. Not forgetting that this tool is a remake of the ACCPAC Plus Financial Reporter that first introduces the concept of “Spec Code” and reporting templates.
Today, of course the world is slowly evolving to take advantage of the internet. This means you may be tempted to switch to Sage 300cloud*. However, this means you need to change the way you create and print reports. The amount of investment of time and effort spent on creating the existing reports is wasted, with no particular gain in performance or capability.
* Sage 300cloud is a web layer for the current Microsoft Windows version of Sage 300. It requires the use of Sage 300 for it to work. This is being offered to users of Sage 300 so they can take advantage of the benefits of Cloud deployment with no change in processing or data.
APPtalics came out with a simple solution for this. It wraps the printing function in the core product and makes it a web application. This product is called GLFS for Sage 300cloud where GLFS stands for General Ledger Financial Statement. And, this happens to be the first Sage 300cloud add-on product in the world! Not bad for a startup company when so many Sage 300 third-party developers in the world could not roll out native Sage 300cloud applications.
With the deployment of the Sage 300cloud version, you can now still run and print your Statement Designer reports, with no change and no loss of capability. What this really means is that you can continue to tap the power of Microsoft Excel for your reports with Statement Designer and still leverage on the new technology offered with Sage 300cloud.
This is truly the best of both worlds!
So, what do you think? Are you hampered by the tool that comes with your choice of accounting software? After all, choosing accounting software is more than just data entry. It is very often driven by the need of powerful reporting capabilities. This tool not only offers a solution but it allows the accountant the power to create reports on their own, without having to explain the requirements to a programmer. This is efficiency and time and cost savings for your company.
To experience this today, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Charles Cheng was formerly from Sage Software Asia in Singapore. He was with them for nearly 30 years, working as a Regional Technical Support Manager and Customer Service Director. He started back in the days when the product is an MS-DOS product called ACCPAC Plus and has seen the product transition to Microsoft Windows and now the Cloud. He can be contacted at Charles.Cheng@apptalics.com.