The Road Ahead for Sage MAS 90/200
What’s in store for Sage MAS 90/200 in the upcoming 4.4 release? What follows are notes and comments from last week’s Sage Insights partner conference in Nashville, TN. Sage titled this session “The Road Ahead” and offered a glimpse at what’s coming up for all of us.
The notes were provided by Robert Wood at DDF Consulting Group (www.ddfcgi.com) in Starke, FL. Robert’s LinkedIn profile is http://www.linkedin.com/in/bertowud and he can be followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertowud. Robert is an owner at DDF where he enjoys working on projects that require “out of the box” thinking. He specializes in software implementation, Crystal Reports, Excel and integrating MAS 90/200 with other software systems. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and kids, reading and watching movies.
The notes refer to two Sage employees: Erika Jelovsek, Senior Product Manager and Roberta Vigil, Product Manager. Erika and Roberta provided expert demonstrations of the new features in Version 4.4 and more importantly, maintained incredible patience with all of the curious Sage partners in attendance.
Also included are comments from Wayne Schulz at Schulz Consulting (www.s-consult.com) in Glastonbury, CT. Wayne’s LinkedIn profile is http://www.linkedin.com/in/mas90guru and he can be followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mas90guru. If you want to stay up to the minute about all things MAS 90/200 related, I suggest that you follow Wayne on Twitter. He will also keep you up to date on everything technology and gadget related.
I have included a few of my observations as well.
A Reminder from Robert: All planned features that we’ve discussed (as well as shipping deadlines) are preliminary and tentative. Until the product ships you should not assume that the feature will be included. While we strive to maintain this information so that it is as accurate as possible we cannot be responsible for features that are (or aren’t) added but which we’ve discussed here.
Changes in MAS 90/200 Version 4.4:
- Customer number will be 20 characters. For existing users there is a setting to convert from seven characters, but once that setting is changed, there is no going back.
- All new implementations will have 20 character customer numbers. This is in addition to the two digit division number.
- Item numbers will be 30 characters. Same deal as customer numbers (once changed there’s no going back). Existing users can choose to move up. New implementations will be 30 characters.
- Inventory transactions can now go up to four decimal places to match work orders. If you use the decimal places you no longer lose digits to the left of the decimal. This setting will be in Common Information.
- Addition of a Standard Cost Adjustment utility. This utility will be patterned after the Automatic Price/Cost Change utility
- As a result of adding this utility, the ability to change Standard Cost from the Inventory Maintenance screen has been removed unless the quantity on-hand for that item is zero.
- The System Activity Log will indicate the starting item number, the finishing item number and the number of items updated by the utility.
- The utility will create a journal entry and update to the General Ledger. This feature eliminates the need to enter a manual journal entry for changes to Standard Cost.
- In Physical Count you can have the current quantity on-hand print on the worksheets and have it populate current quantity on-hand in Physical Count Data Entry.
- Addition of the option to print current or historical Standard Cost on the Inventory Valuation Report. Because of this change, the Inventory Valuation by Period will work properly.
- The Inventory Detail Transaction Report, Inventory Valuation Report by Period, and Inventory Trial Balance can be printed in either portrait or landscape mode.
- Standard Cost items can be valued at zero cost. They will be relieved from inventory at zero cost. The inventory account in General Ledger will be untouched while Standard Cost is zero. The purchase cost will be offset in General Ledger at the time of Purchase Order Receipt of Goods/Invoice.
- The CI_Item table will contain all inventory items, miscellaneous items and saved comments.
At least for the moment, Sage considers MAS 90/200 Version 4.4 to represent the completion of the Business Framework:
What will happen to the still unconverted modules of Payroll, Bill of Materials, Work Order and Job Cost? Sage is not sure yet. There was some discussion of “replacing” Job Cost with either a project accounting module or adding project accounting functionality to the core in some form.
WAYNE: I heard the same feedback from walking the trade show floor and talking to developers. In the product planning session for Sage MAS 90 and 200, I was left with the impression that Sage is NOT indicating that the remaining modules will never be updated to the framework but rather the timeline is undetermined.
WAYNE: The Payroll module seems like a slam dunk to upgrade since Sage indicated 50% (or slightly more) of all Sage MAS 90 implementations use Payroll. The issue with a Payroll upgrade (both from stated reasons and behind the scenes chatter) is that it’s complex and the code being updated is from many years ago.
Several other changes with 4.4 are:
- The addition of web services (more on that below)
- Customizer enhancements (also more below)
- Parallel migrations. Roberta demonstrated the parallel migration functionality. It’s basically the same steps we went through when converting from 3.71 to 4.x. The wizards all look the same. The logic is the same.
Version 4.4 is scheduled to be released Q1 of 2010. (This is new release information as the prior date was Q4 2009).
- Adding scripting functionality to specific MAS 90/200 events that no longer require user interactions (no buttons).
- You can establish validations on any column. These validations work with the user interface, Visual Integrator, the business objects, and presumably the new web services.
- You will be able to automatically total detail numeric UDFs to the header object and create cumulative calculations on multiple records and save those calculations to the table or UDT during update. Example given was if you are totaling quantity sold by salesperson, you could have the calculation update to a UDT or to a UDF in the salesperson table when the invoices are updated.
- Going forward all VB scripting customizations will survive upgrades.
- MAS 90 Small Business Edition will include Payroll as an option and Sage SPS Credit Card will be provided at no charge.
- What are web services? Web services are the Business Objects optimized for use with the web. The demonstration was a website developed by ISM Barsa for Moonstruck Chocolatier (thanks Moonstruck for the free samples. No I’m not sharing.). It’s not online yet. The rep from ISM Barsa said the most difficult part of implementing the web services elements of the new website was ripping out the existing Business Objects code so they could implement with the new web services.
- WAYNE: The go to person for web services is Angela Goldsmith of ISM Barsa – email@example.com – LinkedIn – ISM Barsa Web Site. I spoke to Angela several times about the web services and her company is providing some assistance to get this all running.
- The first phase of web services will include Sales Orders, Contacts, Customers, and Credit Cards. Phase II will include Inventory Items and more. Again the stated purpose was to optimize the Business Objects for the next generation of e-commerce.
- Stated benefits of web services: scalability and separate front end from back end. My interpretation was they were further splitting up the programming of the MAS 90/200 interface from the data layer for use in third party applications.
- Challenges for implementing web services: knowledge for back-end development and data mapping in and out is complex.
- The Business Object interface was not designed for direct over the net communication and Web Services is designed for direct over the net communication.
- WAYNE: My interpretation of the Web Services is that they’re cool new extensions for linking to third party shopping carts. In the product planning session for Sage MAS 90 and 200, I was left with the impression that while eBusiness will remain for the foreseeable future that these Web Services may become the “going forward” primary e-Business connection.
- On the front page to MAS 90/200, Sage is adding links to the new Sage MAS Community forum and to their new hosted feedback solution, Ideascope. When you submit an enhancement request from Ideascope it will try to match your recommendation up with existing recommendations and allow you to say that your request matches one that already exists and add your vote to the tally or you can add yours as a new request. With the link to Ideascope on the front page in MAS 90/200 and not having to log into a website to make requests, it should make it easier for customers to submit their suggestions. Ideascope will be available soon. Erika did not give a date.
What’s happening with FRx?
Sage hasn’t made a decision on a replacement and appears to be early on in their search for a replacement. Most customers prefer using Excel and want drill down, wizards, real time data, and simple conversions. While development has discontinued, Microsoft will continue to support FRx until December 2011, so Sage doesn’t feel huge pressure to make a decision.
- WAYNE: General feedback was that FRX hasn’t broken in the last 5 years and probably will continue to work another 5 years – so there’s not a huge sense of urgency to move existing FRX users though certainly after 2010 (when FRX new sales end) there will need to be a different financial reporting solution bundled with General Ledger. We’ve received no indication on what the replacement for FRX will be though F9 or Biznet BizExcelarator are two leading candidates in my opinion.
- JOHN: We have customers using the BizExcelerator as an alternative to FRx. My opinion is that it is the superior product to F9 and will be the ultimate replacement for FRx. The question for FRx’s longevity may reside in Microsoft’s ability to keep it running in future operating system versions. A patch made it compatible with Vista but for how long will Microsoft be able to patch it?
- Another big issue is PA-DSS compliance or Payment Application Data Security Standards. These are the rules that require credit numbers to be stored only in encrypted form and standards designed to protect consumers from credit card fraud. Sage has engaged an audit firm to get them certified by later this year.
- International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) compliance is something Sage is looking into and has in the works, but they are looking for feedback.
Some new features with MAS 90/200 EES (Extended Enterprise Suite) version 1.3 are:
- Salesperson mapping to allow for divisions
- One salesperson in CRM can be mapped to different required salespeople in MAS 90/200
- Opportunities can be entered on-the-fly from CRM
- Copying of orders from selected company will be allowed in CRM
- FAS will be updated to reflect the changes required by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
- Fixed asset snapshots tool will be added to FAS
- CRM will be supported in a Terminal Service environment
- EES Version 1.3 will be based on the MAS 90/200 Version 4.3 code
Planned features for MAS 90/200 EES 2.0 are:
- MAS 90/200 info will appear in the CRM User Interface
- Opportunities can be entered on-the-fly from MAS 90/200
- Ability to copy orders to/from any customer in CRM
- Addition/integration with FAS 2010.1
- Addition of role-based landing pages in CRM
- CRM will support Microsoft IE 8
- EES Version 2.0 will be based on the MAS 90/200 Version 4.4 code
- The order entry screens in CRM will be the JavX screens from MAS 90/200. This provides the dual entry lines in MAS 90/200 order entry and any JavX customizations made to the MAS 90/200 screens
- Scheduled to be released in Spring 2010
Planned features for EES versions beyond 2.0:
- Support for additional security roles including purchasing agent and customer service (RMA)
- Multiple company support. One CRM database will be able to update multiple MAS 90/200 companies
- Mobile solutions (iPhone and Blackberry)
- Business intelligence tools
- With EES having three different databases, we may see some consolidation toward a single platform (i.e.: move FAS to SQL instead of Sybase).
Future requests from customers for Sage MAS 90 and 200 enhancements are:
- Electronic payments for Accounts Payable
- Electronic bank reconciliations
- Sales history tracking for drop shipped items
- One-click General Ledger journal entry reversals
Sage MAS 90/200 from 2010 and beyond:
- Inventory multi-bin capabilities
- Expansion of additional key field lengths (e.g. Vendor Numbers)
- Positive pay capabilities
- Addition of other Extended Solutions to standard products
- Vertical industry functionality
- Additional business intelligence capabilities
- Database upgrade from Providex to SQL
- Better reporting
- Easier data transportation/warehousing/extraction
- Only for modules currently in the business framework
- Scheduled for release approximately 6 months after version 4.4 is released
- Erika: Next question.
- Sage is probably moving to more of a project accounting model than job cost.
- A suggestion from the audience was Sage should survey existing job cost customers to see what they thought.
- No decision has been made yet.
- JOHN: My thought is that there may be a push in the future to move Payroll users over to the on-line Sage payroll service. However, I think that is several years away.
- ROBERT: And wouldn’t sit well with many of the Sage partners.
MAS 200 SQL Version 3.7x
- I asked Erika what was the migration path for existing MAS 200 SQL users. Her answer was none. They would either have to convert from MAS 200 SQL to current 4.4 or use a tool like the DSD SQL to MAS 3.71 conversion utility and then upgrade.
- WAYNE: During Insights 2009 we learned that Sage is in negotiations with DSD Business Systems to purchase their MAS200 SQL Migration Utility. The game plan appears to be that Sage will discuss migration with each MAS 200 SQL 3.74 customer on an individual basis to get them to the MAS 90 4.x platform. There likely will not be one broad migration announcement for those customers still using MAS 200 SQL 3.74.
- JOHN: The migration utility may offer an alternative to the option of moving to MAS 500 for customers who are using Version 3.7x. However, I got the distinct impression that the SQL database for Version 4.4 will be MySQL and not Microsoft SQL Server (keep in mind that is an impression and not a statement of fact). I’m not sure that MySQL would be acceptable for most IT departments who are looking to consolidate all of their applications in an already existing MS SQL environment.