CPA Technology Advisor's 2006 review of high-end accounting systems was published late last month. The review includes analysis of Intacct, Sage – Accpac, Dynamics GP, Sage – MAS500, and SouthWare.
The solutions were evaluated across these categories:
Usability/User Experience & Security
Support, Training & HelpOverall Assessment
Accpac and MAS500 got perfect 5.0 scores, followed by Dynamics GP with 4.5 and SouthWare and Inacct both with 4.0.
The review was written by David Cieslak and Bob Gaby and appears in the December 2006 edition of the magazine. Cieslak and Gaby, both CPAs, are experienced veterans of the business applications market. Any time I see Cieslak's name, an alphabet soup of certifications and titles follows (CPA, CITP, GSEC, GIAC, etc). Gaby has similarly impressive credentials. Credentials aside, I'm not sure these guys were the best candidates to write the review as they have a vested interest in the outcome.
I'll say for the record that I've had some correspondence with Cieslak in the past (phone calls, emails, etc), and believe he is a person of integrity. Even so, given the authors' close ties to the products involved, this review is not difficult to discredit.
In addition to the link to the review itself, I'd submit the following links for your consideration.
The Partner Bios page for Arxis Technology Inc – Not only are Cieslak and Gaby co-authors of the review, they are also the two principals of Arxis Technology.
The products page for Arxis Technology – Arxis Technology represents both Accpac and MAS500, the two products with perfect 5.0 scores, but does not represent Dynamics GP, SouthWare, or Intacct. If these are the top five high-end accounting systems (a very debatable point), a company that represents two of them must find itself in frequent, head-to-head competition against the other three.
An interesting article from WebCPA.com – Given that Accpac got perfect 5.0 scores across the board, it's worth noting that Cieslak is chairman of the Sage Accpac Business Partner Advisory Council. Read the overall assessment at the end of the Accpac section of the review. It would make Sage's Accpac marketing team blush.
An Arxis press release about Sage's Million Dollar Club – In October of 2006 Cieslak and Gaby's company was named to Sage's Million Dollar Club for having surpassed one million dollars in annual software sales with Sage. If you sell a million dollars worth of one vendor's products, you're probably pretty happy with those products. You may be sincere in your belief they are the best, but you should not for a moment try claiming with a straight face that you can be completely objective in writing this type of review.
It is good press for Sage, who put out a nauseating press release that read "Sage Software Flagship Enterprise Resource Planning Systems Beat All Comers with Perfect 5-Star Overall Assessments." I guess they thought that had a better ring to it than saying We're excited to announce that one of our top resellers that did more than $1 million in business with us last year likes the products they sell better than the products they compete against, but that would have had an inconvenient element of truth to it.
One last thing...the review purports to take into consideration feedback on the products from a survey of the membership of the Information Technology Alliance (ITA). ITA's membership includes CPAs, EAs, CIOs, CTOs, value-added resellers, specialty technology consultants and the developers of technology products and services. I called and spoke with the Executive Director of ITA who informed me that ITA currently has 84 members. If I look at the survey results as shared on the CPA Technology Advisor website I see a pattern in the numbers that tells me they probably had 14 respondents.
That kind of response rate equates to a margin of error of +/- 24%. Consider if political polls had a 24% margin of error. At +/- 24% yours truly is in a statistical dead heat with Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination or with John McCain for the Republican nomination. I trail the front runners Clinton and Guliani by as little as 10 points and 7 points respectively. I'm currently sitting at 0% in both polls (or as high as 24% in both). That kind or margin of error would make the polls absolutely meaningless. It certainly makes the ITA input into the software review meaningless. So we are left with a CPA Technology review apparently based entirely on the opinions of a firm that generates a great deal of its business on two of the five products reviewed. Is anyone still surprised at how it turned out?