Estimated reading time: 6 minutes, 44 seconds

REVIEW: Peachtree 2012

I've stopped looking for blockbuster new features in Sage Peachtree products. The Sage Peachtree line, especially its upper tiers, provides enough accounting tools - in terms of what your clients can do with their financial data -- to please the lion's share of small businesses. It's just about exhausted what it can do with customizability, too, and no one could ever use all of the reports it offers.

So it seems like there are two directions the products can go. Sage chose the first with the 2012 versions. It's giving users more ways to view the data that's already stored in the program, saving a lot of lookup time. This is valuable. It saves time here and there, it gives managers ways to cut to the critical numbers, and it ultimately improves workflow.

The second way Sage Peachtree can grow is up - into the cloud. The program is already supported by several online tools, like PeachSync, Online Backup, and Remote Solutions (powered by Citrix). But there's no additional upward movement in the 2012 line.

Slices Of Vendor Data
The most useful feature in Sage Peachtree 2012 is the new Vendor Management Center. Similar to those already in place for Customers and Inventory, this was a much-needed addition. Like the other Centers, this page displays numerous tables whose data can answer most questions you have about your vendors and payables. You can choose from 14 different content types, including:

• Purchase Orders
• Item Purchase History
• Vendors & Purchases Tasks
• Aged Payables
• Top Vendors: Last Twelve Months

There's an impressive amount of flexibility here, including the ability for each user to customize the screen to display what he or she wants to see. You can set individual filters for each table, like date range and Item ID and do complex searches. In addition, you can alter each table's column structure and size, and print or send (to Excel, email, or PDF) individual tables. This screen can be a real time-saver, and I can imagine that the purchasing staff would spend a great deal of the day here. (Available in Complete and higher.)
Client benefits: Saves time. Improves purchasing workflow. Helps purchasing manager stay on top of purchase orders and payables.

Avoiding Repetition
Another welcome addition is the Copy command. You have to wonder why Sage Peachtree didn't do this sooner. Say your client gets a call from someone who wants to duplicate an order that was made last month, only some quantities need to be changed.

Instead of creating a whole new invoice, you can open last month's invoice and click Copy. This unlocks the fields in the form for changes that can be saved as a new form. This feature, available in all 2012 Sage Peachtree products, works with quotes, sales orders, proposals, invoices, purchase orders, and general journal entries.
Client benefit: Saves time.

Needed Assistance
There'll be a gradual rollout of the new Sage Advisor, which is an extra layer of user assistance that's more focused than the voluminous help files. When you open certain windows (as of this writing, only customer, vendor, item, and employee records are supported), a small box appears next to them containing instructions for the field where the cursor is situated. Tab around the fields, and additional help text appears. You can set the frequency of these messages or turn them off. (Available in all Sage Peachtree 2012 products.)
Client benefit: Educational for beginners or users exploring new features.

Next up: Sage Peachtree System Check. I'm glad they threw this in, as I'm forever forgetting where to look for some Sage Peachtree system data. It's a handy feature, a clearinghouse of information about the Sage Peachtree program itself. From this screen, you can do system backups and restores, check for updates, and perform data integrity tasks like verifying data and viewing the error log. Your company particulars are spelled out here (i.e., employers IDs, posting method, and security details), and you can run data maintenance tools like importing/exporting, archiving, and year-end processing. Your system's memory and disc space numbers are here, too. (Available in all Sage Peachtree 2012 products.)
Client benefit: Convenience; easy access to commonly used tools.

Sage E-Marketing for Peachtree is a standard email marketing solution, but it's built to use your Sage Peachtree database. You'll get to choose from numerous templates and tools to build a variety of campaigns. Reporting tools help you gauge what works and what doesn't. There's a free 60-day trial. Pricing depends on things like volume, frequency, and number of landing pages.
Client benefit: Expands on existing customer relations, providing new ways to interact and market.

Reports On Steroids
While you can already export Sage Peachtree reports to Excel, the new Business Intelligence tool gives you much more power and flexibility. It provides both modifiable boilerplate reports and custom frameworks. You don't have to physically export your data, and it's updated in real time. Business Intelligence is available in Sage Peachtree Complete, Premium, and Quantum 2012, and requires Microsoft Excel 2003 or higher.

Several standard reports come with your subscription; more may be added during product updates. The original templates include Balance Sheet - Actual vs. Prior, Income Statement - Actual vs. Budget, Purchase Analysis, and Sales Analysis. You can modify these reports by filtering and adding fields, and you can start from scratch, creating custom output.

Reports can be scheduled to run automatically. You can also import reports from another user and export them to interested parties. If you have Microsoft Excel 2007 or higher, you can use the Report Designer, which lets you alter the report by dragging and dropping fields. The Report Designer also includes a What-If Analyzer and a Formula Builder.

A one-user license is $250.; additional users, $50 each. The Connector Module, which lets you pull data from additional sources and multiple Sage Peachtree companies, and provides access to all Sage Peachtree data fields, is $100. The Connector also offers additional customization options.

This doesn't seem to be a tool that the average small business would need. Peachtree has enough built-in reports to please a lot of users, and Premium and Quantum users have access to Crystal Reports. There's nothing overly difficult about using it, since Business Intelligence adds a program tab to Excel that contains its related tools. But BI's interface looks tired and dated, and it could be more user-friendly. That's not the kind of face I'd put on such a powerful offering.

Still, Excel aficionados should take the 60-day free trial to evaluate its usefulness.
Client benefit: The best reports available for Sage Peachtree.

Small Changes
As always, there are numerous smaller tweaks that can accelerate your workflow, like:
• Simplified network installation. It's now a single-screen process, and you can install to multiple workstations simultaneously (Complete and higher).
• Default assignments for Workflow transaction statuses. Gets rid of one impediment to a smooth, speedy workflow (Quantum only).
• Expanded payroll fields. New legislative initiatives, including the 2010 Health Care Act, will expand the depth of information that you need to record on employees. Sage Peachtree Pro 2010 and higher make this possible.
• Easier access to Tracking Notes. Quantum users can now mouse over Tracking Notes in list views to see their content without opening the transaction. And by clicking in the Tracking Note column, you can see each Note's history and add new ones.

Should your clients move up to a 2012 version? Considering the high price tag Sage puts on its upgrades and the new features offered, I'd say no in most cases. If they haven't upgraded for a couple of versions or so, it's a good idea to get current. You may have a few clients for whom Business Intelligence would be a selling point. But probably the lion's share of your clients can chug along with 2010 or 2011. (All features not yet available at product launch.)

Kathy Yakal
Kathy Yakal has been writing about personal and business technology since 1983, as an editor and writer at COMPUTE! Publications. She writes frequently for The Progressive Accountant on technology topics.She began freelancing and specializing in financial applications in 1988. Her columns, features, and reviews have appeared in publications including Barron’s, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine, and PC Magazine.
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