Here, in association with Sage, we look at two companies that improved their operations by turning to a comprehensive software solution
In a competitive SME landscape where better internal efficiencies can give a company the edge over its rivals, small and medium businesses should be aware of the importance of having the right accountancy software for their company needs.
In modern times, it can be argued that there is a requirement for software that not only caters for your finances but also manages your customers and business insight in one solution. If you have access to a programme that is designed to easily share data, work smarter and ensure your business works together efficiently, delivering clear cost benefits, you may have a system that dictates the success of your venture moving forward.
ECS Brokers provide financial and risk management services and help businesses of all sizes to get the best value from their insurance rates. When the company was looking to update its own business management software, they naturally sought out great value for money.
That meant moving from a traditional installed solution to a new web or cloud-based option with Sage 200 Online. Sticking with Sage, who have provided their business software for many years, gave them confidence to change how they track customers’ payments and cash flow.
‘We’re a small company, with a small team,’ says accounts manager Russell Boldock. ‘We’ve always been comfortable using Sage, so that’s the first place we look.’ They didn’t want to make a big investment in hardware or software, so Sage 200 Online provided the ideal solution. Because it’s a web-based service, there’s nothing to install, and businesses can add or remove users and features as their needs change. That keeps initial costs low, as Boldock explains: ‘We saved cost initially by not having to provide hardware. You can avoid buying stand-alone software and a server that runs for three years and then gets out of date.’
Now they run their day-to-day business in the cloud, ECS also benefit from regular back ups, meaning they no longer have to worry about having the data they need when they need it. Sage 200 Online is built on the Windows Azure platform and runs in data centres that comply with key industry standards for reliability and security.
The flexibility of Sage 200 Online means it’s easy for ECS to add or remove users or additional modules as they need to, meaning they pay for what they use, not for what they don’t. So as well as being cost-effective, it provides a flexible solution for the future. ‘Using Sage 200 is more modern,’ says Boldock. ‘Going to the cloud is just a natural progression, keeping up with technology. It’s the way to go.’
Circus Starr is a touring circus troupe that provides entertainment for thousands of disadvantaged, disabled and vulnerable children. As a not for profit organisation, it asks businesses to donate the price of tickets for its shows, to allow thousands of children to enjoy the fun of the circus.
Managing cash flow is an important part of the business for fundraising director Michelle Crossley, who is also responsible for the day-to-day accounts. In the past they used Sage 50 Accounts software alongside a separate ticketing programme, but with the number of tickets and donations, they often found they were doing things twice and came to realise they needed a solution that would meet more complex business requirements.
The company switched to Sage 200 Online, of which Crossley says, ‘It’s cut our workload significantly. We used to have to work out the VAT on ticket sales in the ticketing system and then add it to Sage. Now we just click a few buttons and it is all done in one go. We can’t believe the difference it has made.
‘And of course, having one system instead of two is cheaper and that’s important to us.’
Having a cloud-based solution allows Circus Starr to access data on the move and the flexible nature of Sage 200 Online means the organisation can scale up or down their modules and users depending on their business needs.
Already being familiar with Sage software helped make the transition easy, but Crossley says she’s now finding she can do more than ever. ‘I’m using things like prepayments and accruals, without really thinking about it,’ she adds.
And she’s confident Circus Starr will continue to discover new benefits as they continue to learn more about the power of Sage 200 Online: ‘I’m sure we’ll keep finding new things that we can do with it that will save us time and work.’
Part of Circus Starr’s success is down to the fact that they make it easy for small businesses to give back to their community through small donations. This means that they deal with hundreds of thousands of small transactions and payments, so need a simple to use and robust way to manage them all. Being confident that it could deal with the many thousands of invoices and 40,000 customers was their primary reason for choosing Sage 200 Online.
‘Sage 200 Online’s advanced reports have been customised especially to fit our needs and have been invaluable, as we are unique in what we do and the way we operate. Being able to access Sage 200 Online via a browser means that updates are automatic so we can see exactly where the sales are at any point in time.’
Sage Business Partner, Solutions for Accounting helped Circus Starr get set up with Sage 200 Online and continues to support them. Michelle says, ‘The support team are excellent. If there is anything I don’t understand I know I can email them and they will get straight back to me with any advice I might need.’
So, although initially nervous about making the change from an established software system, Circus Starr is glad that they did as it has helped to reduce costs and streamline systems, to ensure the smooth running of the business.