Tag Archives: Sage 50

The importance of [not] being idle – review, sift and react

In the modern era we are bombarded by information, updates, messages, emails, notifications, alerts….the list goes on!

In both our personal and business lives, there is information overload and increasingly we are learning to sift, skim read, delegate or ignore the information presented to us. With Cascade for Sage 50 we provide relevant business intelligence to SMEs which stops the need to sift, create from scratch or even ignore your business information.

How do we make it relevant?

We understand business. We have worked in businesses and understand the day to day challenges, information requirements and the ability to make decisions quickly and reliably. Cascade.bi makes accessing your business information very easy, our quick, click through drill and analyse technology allows you to delve into the deepest areas of your business and find the answers.

Does sifting increase risk?

Sifting data can be dangerous, you can miss key business information, make poor decisions or fail to make critical decisions at all.

Do you feel under pressure to clear all your notifications?

It may be feeling the need to have a clear inbox, (or at least keep it to one page), address all notifications on your phone / tablet, you will find that you are constantly sifting and clearing all of this information. The danger is that we all sift or clear notifications but fail to delve into the detail. It is important not to be idle and just by clearing the notifications, does not mean that you have all the information you need to make reliable and accurate decisions.

We make it easy to sift information from Sage 50

Let’s look at the example of not monitoring closely your profit by customer, something which as a Finance Director and business owner I have always wanted to achieve. The challenge is always preparing this in a timely manner, and once prepared, then having the time available to react to it before it is out of date!

Sage 50 BI

Being able to instantly identify which customers contribute to your gross profit, and those that do not, has a huge benefit as this information guides you to making the right decisions, delivering change and action across your business. If this information was sifted and not reviewed in detail, you may end up selling to customers at a loss without knowing.

What happens if we look at everything?

Whilst writing this blog, I have been bombarded by notifications on all devices including the same emails being received, tweets to @Cascadebi and LinkedIn messages and updates, together with BBC news feeds to my watch and IPad! This massively impacts on our productivity as they either interrupt our thought processes, distract and disrupt our productivity.

So what’s the solution?

It all comes down to “The importance of not being idle” (yes its a take on the Oasis track from 2005). We all need to understand that whilst we have to handle a significant volume of data, it is important to sift quickly, identify the important and crucially respond to, take action on, and resolve issues as they arise.

Whilst we recognise that Cascade.bi for Sage 50 provides yet more information to our customers, the data is very focused, relevant, reliable, comparable and understandable. It is easy to sift and delve into the detail, adding value to SMEs and business owners. We even provide a free email each week, providing a summary of your financial position and key metrics.

We are so confident that our platform will provide you with the information that you need to help run your business, that we offer a free 14 day trial to road test your data.

Please share your experiences of how you have managed data overload in your business in a bid to remain focused and driven.

The role of AI & Business Intelligence

We are certainly on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution which will change the way in which we all work. Whilst with the past three industrial revolutions, technology changes have been disruptive, they have not been net destroyers of job roles. Does AI promise this?

The world of business intelligence is fundamentally all about providing the right information to the right user and at the right time.

Throughout my career as a Finance Director, CFO and accountant within practice, I have worked with hundreds if not thousands of SMEs and the one common theme is them not clearly understanding their business performance…..so is there now finally the opportunity to solve this?

The benefits to SMEs of receiving business information are now beginning to become clear with a far increased adoption and awareness of the power of their own business data.

We at Cascade.bi have proudly developed our out of the box dashboard platform which connects to Sage 50, and provides SMEs with easy access to their data, increasing awareness of their business metrics. The access to Sage 50 business intelligence dashboard vastly improves the decision making process.

This data could take the form of very simple Google Analytics, through to the number of Twitter followers or customer or product sales. Moving forward the understanding of these can be interpreted using AI, however I believe the limiting factor is that all businesses operate differently and the owners do not have the time to teach AI the basic tasks, or perhaps do not even understand the basic tasks to a sufficient level of detail themselves.

AI is undoubtedly a powerful tool which can very easily take on tasks within a business. I think it will be adopted mostly in its most basic form, through machine learning and the standardisation of repetitive and rules based tasks. These tasks for an SME are often performed by the finance function and therefore areas such as credit control and some reporting will be eroded by a far more efficient process.

The adoption of AI for many SMEs may be problematic in the short to medium term as they fail to understand the power it can bring and generally lack the trust of a “computer system”. The most sophisticated businesses will embrace the technology first.

Let’s first take the example of a simple credit control team within an SME. They will periodically raise and send statements, (checking them first for errors), email and phone the customers to chase for payment and use a strong element of human interaction, emotional intelligence and discretion to ensure the cash is received in a timely manner. Using AI to replace this whole function would eliminate the relationship and rapport element to credit control and may end up damaging relationships with customers. Instead a hybrid solution of utilising AI would work, providing prompts to action, automated emailing of documents, leaving the emotional intelligence and relationship aspects to the human. If trained properly AI could free up the mundane tasks and make the credit controller more efficient.

AI is currently in its early stages and is good at the simpler, limited problems like sentiment analysis (e.g. is a free text sentence from your customers good, bad or neutral) where there are few variables. This ‘opinion mining’ may not always be present in communications with customers with an increasing level of email communication being done with very limited amounts of verbose.

Non AI statistical methods are more than sufficient at stating where a business currently is (KPIs % increases, ratios etc.) but are unable to explain why the current situation has arisen or forecast the future.

AI has promising potential to explain both why and predict the future but current AI technology (and this is likely to be the case for at least the next 5 years) requires a lot of processing power (that even the explosion of cloud computing can’t help bring down to the real-time realm that BI requires) and a lot of data. This processing power coupled with the disparate data (paper based), will be a real obstacle.

AI may start to have application in larger companies with sophisticated systems that produce and store large quantities of data for AI to sift through but SMEs don’t. Their systems are usually limited and only tell a small part of the story, a lot still keep important records in paper form (outside AI’s reach), they rarely have specific workflow tools so their accounts system is the biggest source of SME data which will contain a wealth of information about who bought what product and when but without more (non-transactional) data about the purchase, few insights can be gleaned that standard statistical models cannot already predict.

An example for an SME, is that AI isn’t going to predict that sales from a customer will dip next month because the sales rep is off sick or that the contract to supply is due for renewal (held outside any system) and that the contract terms change, alter or the customer terminates their supply agreement.

I firmly believe that AI in its simplest form, can be used to assist SMEs in certain areas, however these are generally the more task based approaches, which would replace a human repetitive task.

In summary, whilst the next industrial revolution is upon us, the number of net job roles to be destroyed will take time. I think in 5 years time, SMEs will start to see the benefits, and it will be those leaner, fitter businesses with more technology accepting minds who will embrace it first and reap the rewards. The masses of “typical SMEs” will be slow to adopt and this will protect jobs for the next decade.

(screenshot from the Cascade.bi platform for Sage 50)

About Cascade.bi

Cascade is a convenient, easy to use platform which connects directly to Sage 50. It brings to life the data held within a business system, enhances decision making which ultimately leads to improved results.

Cascade.bi is available for £45/month (unlimited users) and can be paid by monthly or annual direct debit. For a free 14 day no obligation trial, sign up here.

About the author

Mark Donaldson is the founder of Cascade.bi, which provides SMEs with an out of the box solution for Business Intelligence. As a Chartered Accountant, Consultant FD and Advisor, he understand the day to day challenges which SMEs face both embracing technology and adopting it.

Original version first published in nor(DEV): Magazine – September 2017

Sage 50 – using the inactive flag

Sage 50 has the ability to hide those accounts and records which are old and inactive. In this article we will give a few hints and tips on the impact this has on Cascade.bi and a quick ‘how to’.

With the Sage 50 integration for Cascade.bi, your dashboards will use the flag set in Sage and automatically filter out the names of those customers, products and suppliers who have the inactive flag set.

To set the inactive flag manually, you need to go into each customer, supplier or product and tick the box marked in yellow above.

Cascade.bi dashboards will automatically update on the next data synchronisation and will filter out those customers, products and suppliers from the lists held in the Cascade platform.

If you have many records which you need to set as inactive, we would recommend exporting the customer records, manipulating an excel import and mark the records as inactive. Re-import the details to Sage 50 and Cascade will update. Your business analytics tool will be updated to reflect this change quickly and effortlessly.

Please note that only records which have a zero balance, no recurring entries setup or is set as a default setting can be flagged as inactive.

The above routine is for Sage 2015 (v21) and above.

 


Contact us for a free no obligation trial:

Cascade.bi packages start from just £45 month, no set up fee, no installation cost or training required. For a free 14 day trial, sign up at www.cascade.bi or contact us on: info@cascade.bi or call 03330 112882

Top 10 hints for Sage 50

Using the Cascade dashboard with Sage 50
Sage 50 integrates with Cascade.bi

We all recognise that data is valuable but it is only as good as the quality of the data. Garbage in, garbage out – for that reason, see below my hints and tips for quick wins with your Sage 50 data.

1. Mark old products, customers and suppliers as inactive

To both stop posting transactions to these areas, mark as inactive and you can stop them being displayed on reports, exports and Cascade.bi dashboards.

2. Ensure contact information /postcodes are complete

This will help with analysing segmental information, enabling the quick filtering of data to spot trends early and take action.

3. Use Web analysis fields to categorise products

If you sell products, setting up analysis fields allows you to report separately on these categories, for example if you sell spanners and sockets, you might want to group the products into the following categories:

  • analysis 1 – spanners or sockets
  • analysis 2 – size of spanner and sockets e.g 13mm
  • analysis 3 – brand name

Doing the above would allow you to just analyse the size of both spanners and sockets combined, also get the split between spanners and sockets and also quickly identify which brand – all valuable in understanding your product mix, sales patterns and trends.

4. Use Customer and Supplier analysis fields

Much the same as analysing products if you use the 3 analysis categories which are available for customers and suppliers you can quickly and easily report on specific segments. For example if you categorise your customers by sales rep, you can report and crucially compare sales by sales rep, at the click of a button, either on paper reporting direct with sage 50 or graphically using Cascade.

Customers could be categorised into:

  • analysis 1  – Sales manager
  • analysis 2 – Type of customer e.g trade, wholesale, direct, cash
  • analysis 3 – Payment method e.g cash, bacs, direct debit, invoice

Suppliers could be categorised into: 

  • analysis 1 – Supplier resident country e.g
    UK, EU, RoW
  • analysis 2 – Department responsible for the purchase e.g logistics, factory, sales, admin
  • analysis 3 – Type of customer e.g trade, wholesale, direct

The above are just examples, it’s important to identify the categories which are important to your business, they are all different but we suggest you make use of all 3 for each area – maximising your ability to slice and dice your data!

5. Review and define departments:

Analyse profit & loss by department or person easily (using cascade) or more difficult within sage, often requiring a custom report to be written.

 

 

6. Ensure the correct stock status on products

Identifying if you wish to use stock in Sage could help reduce your database size, speed up the backup routine and avoid having to manually set all stock items to ensure you do not run negative. Many businesses do not use the stock feature on sage, but set quantity to 999999 but this is unnecessary – simply mark them as non-stock in the product record.

7. Set up product categories

Setting up categories at product level allows you to quickly identify trends in sales and profit. Using Cascade.bi this becomes far faster and visual too.

Similar to the analysis fields mentioned above, you are able to categorise the products into one category.

Where the analysis fields give you 3 separate factors to categorise, this gives you the option to add a product to a single category. We would recommend grouping products e.g into tool equipment, using the spanners example above.

8. Set up appropriate product details

By putting accurate descriptions, units of sale, supplier and cost information, not only will your invoices be accurate, but the reporting impact will be massive. Imagine being able to quickly analyse profit by product, supplier spend, sales by product and category. Getting the data accurate will enhance the value of your data.

9. Frequent bank reconciliations

Whilst we don’t think cash is king (see here), we do recognise the importance of ensuring your cash position is reconciled frequently and at least each week. This depends on the size of the business and the size of the finance function. Ensuring the bank is reconciled means the core data is up to date and reporting accuracy will be improved.

10. Regularly review the quality of information

Over time, the cleanliness of your data becomes less accurate and requires review. We suggest you set time each quarter / 6 months to review and update. Always try and stand back and consider if the information you are receiving is working best for you and don’t be afraid to change or seek advice from your advisor.


Contact us for a free no obligation trial:

Cascade.bi packages start from just £45 month, no set up fee, no installation cost or training required. For a free 14 day trial, sign up at www.cascade.bi or contact us on: info@cascade.bi or call 03330 112882