After targeting Epicor ERP version 9 and 10 for the first release of FastClose Nick Gomersall, CEO of FastClose, was pleasantly surprised about the flexibility and functionality of the Financial Software. In this Q&A with Adam Walters, Nick discusses Epicor, JD Edwards, Workday, and the value of FastClose.

Hi Nick, good to speak with you. Can you tell me, what did you know about Epicor as an ERP solution?

“We knew Epicor was a good ERP solution especially as they had fully re-engineered version 10 – more speed, the removal of the Progress layer, etc. – but what surprised us was its enterprise functionality in the Finance area. Even more surprising was the lack of customer adoption and knowledge of its capabilities.” 

Gomersall, a veteran of the ERP industry, has worked on Oracle EBS, JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, and latterly Workday.

Tell us about the Workday solution.

“Workday has a unique chart of accounts that tags transactions automatically which, in turn, can be rolled up in many ways. It boasts more than 60 dimensions to measure the business. 

In my view, 60 might be taking things a bit too far, but you certainly could do 12. Epicor’s chart of accounts can cater for 20, way more than JD Edwards and other leading ERP systems.” 

Why do you think 12 is a good number?

“Well, let’s look at what a finance director and the management team need to analyse:  

  1. Company
  2.  Division
  3.  Region
  4.  Cost Centre
  5.  Warehouse
  6.  Main Account Code
  7.  Sub Account Code
  8.  Project 
  9.  Product 
  10.  Employee 
  11. Vendor  
  12. Customer 

JD Edwards has a clever way of grouping some of the above into category codes. For example, the Cost Centre belongs to a Region, Division, and Company, so they flag these and take them out of the account coding block – something that Epicor could do with – but it falls flat when you want to post multiple combinations to the segments lower down. 

Coming back to Workday, the really clever thing is that when a transaction is posted, it automatically gets tagged. There is no human intervention, and you get all this great analysis free of charge! 

Epicor, however, can do this too, through posting rules and what they call GL control codes. 

When a supplier invoice is posted, the vendor code can be captured automatically. The same is true for customers and employees. 

Epicor’s chart of accounts allows you to set a balancing level which means if the first five segments need to balance, then you must have a balance journal for the Debits and Credits for all the five segments. Other segments are, in effect, further analysis of these key postings and don’t have to have an equal and opposite posting.”  

What does this mean for FastClose?

“We were really excited when we discovered this multi-dimensional capability as FastClose is a real-time multi-dimensional enquiry and reporting solution which can analyse unlimited dimensions without the traditional problem of data redundancy that you get with business intelligence systems. 

However, the real disappointment was the lack of knowledge that the Epicor customer base had on how the posting rules and GL control codes work. 

Add to this the issue that the business partner community focuses on manufacturing and distribution. So, to get started on this, you need a core GL system in place first. So they just install the GL with the minimum segments.” 

Meaning? 

“Company, Cost Centre, and Account code, and then the focus, goes to MRP and Distribution leaving the poor old accounts department with hundreds of spreadsheets and extraction programs with a few Access databases to analyse the data that could have come directly from the GL!” 

Yes, that doesn’t seem great.

“Well you might think that’s bad, but it gets worse. Supporting a multitude of different charts of accounts and accounting standards is tough. Epicor has multiple books which is great for GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) and IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) as you can add the books together which FastClose does easily. 

Then you can have a different chart of accounts for each book with the capability of mapping. So, things like the ‘plan comptable’ in France and Belgium, and statutory consolidation, can be performed.” 

Presumably, spreadsheets take the burden currently?

“The number of spreadsheets being used is amazing! Especially as budgets rarely get loaded into Epicor. This is such a shame as Epicor version 10.1 now has multiple budgets and forecasts plus statistical accounts that can allocate fixed overheads to product and customer. This gives true product profitability by customer, something we did well at JD Edwards when activity-based costing was all the rage.” 

So what does FastClose do differently?

“FastClose has powerful hierarchy capability, like what you find in complex BI tools and runs real-time against the data without the need for a data warehouse or separate data marts. When an ERP system has been well designed, and there are lots of modules, the data warehouse should be the ERP database.  

You can normally tell a poorly-designed ERP system when you are forced to build cubes everywhere to connect different data together. JD Edwards and Epicor have a great data model whereas Oracle EBS comes with several BI tools to throw at it. 

Another jewel that we found was the inbuilt hierarchy that Epicor provided in the account code segment; but as you might have guessed, it does not get used that often, and in the rush to get the manufacturing software up and running they get filled in with simple codes like assets, liabilities, and income and expenditure. It’s the bare minimum and forces yet more spreadsheets to be produced.” 

What are your broad thoughts about Epicor and FastClose?

“Epicor is right up there with the big boys; the database is really well-designed.  

Because FastClose connects directly to the database, we had to learn all the key tables to make the correct joins to give users the key information the accounts department needs to close the month end. It was during this process that we could see just how well this database has been designed.  

It’s a true multi-company, multi-currency bit of kit, and with multi-books it can do management and statutory consolidation; especially using FastClose which can do the monthly currency translation and consolidation of the Trial Balance.”  

Final thoughts on Epicor?

“There is a lack of focus on the finance side from the business partner community, which is such as shame. 

Epicor is far more than a SME vendor. It’s a major player, and a great market for them would be in the administrative ERP market as Epicor have HR and project accounting too. 

Watch out Oracle, you have serious competition!” 

Thank You, Nick

Thank you. 

 

Accounting Intelligence Provider FastClose partners with Home Furnishing Retailer Julian Charles to Deliver Real-Time Epicor-Based Management Information

 

FastClose, a specialist accounting intelligence software company,based in the UK, is pleased to announce its tie-up with Epicor ERP customer Rectella – the bedding, curtains, and home furnishings specialist better known as Julian Charles.

Currently running Epicor ERP 9, Rectella was one of the first customers to take FastClose on trial and, in turn, helped FastClose develop their offering by supplying real-world, functionality-led feedback on their month- and year-end requirements.

Diane Lealand, Financial Accountant, explained, “Finance teams don’t have the time to learn complex tools. Nor do they want consultants to come in and build reports that only they know how to modify. That’s why you see most management accountants living in Excel and building mission-critical spreadsheets to run the business. Everyone knows Excel, and there is no learning curve.

“However, Excel has its limitations in terms of data accuracy and control. Spreadsheets are built by people,and if they leave, their knowledge of macros, structure and logic leaves with them.

“We need an easy-to-use tool that will help us close the month-end and produce business information providing 100% accuracy. FastClose hit the mark.

“The product has come on in leaps and bounds since we first installed it, and we are rolling it out throughout the finance team.

“The key thing is to get Epicor set up right as FastClose takes advantage of our two dynamic segments: Customers and Employees. We can quickly see profitby Customer, and Employee Expenseanalysis, plus we can now build powerful hierarchies across all the business dimensions, something you only get in complex and expensive BI tools.

“We are also exploring using FastClose to leverage Epicor’s multi-book feature for example by holding accounting period data in one book, and weekly trading information in another, as well as using a third book to manage the eliminations for statutory accounts with FastClose simply consolidating these through its calculation engine.”

Julian Charles is one of the UK’s leading home furnishing companies and has grown, in its 70-yearhistory, to boast more than 180 stores and concessions and a class-leading online business, www.juliancharles.co.uk

Andrew Davis, Rectella’s Commercial Finance Director, offered more about Epicor and FastClose.

“Epicor is a very powerful accounting system but seldom gets used to its full potential.  With the arrival of tools like FastClose, businesses can take advantage of the many dynamic segments, multi-company currency, and multi-book features that exist within the Epicor product.

“Previously, you were advised to install the bare minimum in the GL and then try to get at the data through SSRS, BPM’s, and dashboards, which is much harder than if everything resides automatically in the GL. By comparison, something like dynamic segments are really great, as they give you automatic analysis of your GL transactions.

“Add to this all the additional books which can map from source transactions and repost into different calendars and charts of accounts, if needed, and it is clear that Epicor is a very powerful accounting solution.

“We want to take advantage of more dynamic segments as FastClose is a multi-dimensional enquiry and reporting tool. It can roll up all the transactions and balance them in many different dimensions, or a combination of them. This is something that you need if you are trying to build a P&L and requires, for example, a specific combination of account codes, cost centres, and customers in a hierarchy node.

“BI tools can take a fair amount of time to implement effectively, but FastClose comes preconfigured against the Epicor 9 and 10 databases,so you get the benefitas soon as you install it. We are moving from ERP 9 to 10 and FastClose can connect to both databases at the same time and run reports side-by-side that will help us reconcile our data during the upgrade. There are no ETL tools to worry about or tables to join; it’s all been done by FastClose upfront. We are now planning to expand our use of Epicor thanks to FastClose and look forward to the additional features that are on FastClose’s roadmap as well.

Andrew also had some words of wisdom regarding Excel.

“Although we recognise the issues with ‘building spreadsheets for everything’,FastClose knows that Excel will always be needed in some form. The software has export to Excel capability and a full plugin that allows users to change dimensions on the fly to provide real-time information in Excel, giving us the best of both worlds!” 

 

New Accounting Software Company FastClose Sells Operational Reporting System to Epicor User Luceco Plc 

 

FastClose, an Accounting Intelligence startup based in the UK, is pleased to announce that Luceco – a multinational manufacturer and distributor of lighting and electrical products – has become customer number one for the specialist reporting company. Offering a reporting product that draws data from a company’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, FastClose is the go-to system for month and end of year Operational Reporting, Reconciliation, Consolidation and Audit (ORCA) tasks.

 

Richard Gardner, CTO of Luceco, needed a new reporting tool and learned about FastClose during a presentation to the UK Epicor user group. Subsequently, he invited FastClose to put their software through its paces, explaining, in particular, how "Luceco is a rapidly growing company, and we were looking for a tool that would help the accounts department ease the pressure at month end."

 

"We have hundreds of spreadsheets and all of them have been hand-crafted and potentially prone to errors."

 

"We did consider a BI tool but the complexity of BI and the ease of use were considerations as the accounts team don't have the time to implement and learn complex tools."

 

Highlighting how FastClose installs rapidly, Gardner explained that: "FastClose comes configured against our Epicor database and there are a number of preconfigured templates that get you up and running straight away. The product installs in around an hour and in its simplest form you only need to use three buttons to get benefit from it."

 

"You simply open a new report, choose a template, then you have a number of selections that you can choose from rather like a BI tool when you select dimensions from a cube."

 

FastClose’s accountant-led software offers a number of additional benefits:

 

  • Unlimited dimensions to select from; FastClose runs directly from an Epicor database and does not suffer from data redundancy like BI.

 

  • Other segments in the GL, or other modules, can be brought in, then sorted and selected upon.

 

  • Column data can be added or removed to create a consolidated P&L or cost centre report.

 

  • The ‘drill around’ feature derives from consolidation so quick drill down to detailed balances, then the journals, and then to the other transactions that are stored in the subledgers, can be carried out.

 

On this drill around feature, Gardner added: "There are advanced options that enable users to build their own drills so over time we will build the drills we need to go across modules." Furthermore, "An added benefit is the Excel plugin as we know we never completely remove the need for Excel. When you save a report in FastClose, it is then available to Excel users. All the filters are still there, and it's real time so you can just keep hitting the run button for up-to-date numbers. If you want pretty reports, you can link to other worksheets in Excel which will automatically update from the FastClose worksheet."

 

Regarding the tie-up between FastClose and Luceco, FastClose CEO Nick Gomersall was quick to point out: "We were really lucky to have found Luceco as a test partner as we have got some great help on the database and suggestions for the product. Currently, we have built GL, AP, AR, Projects, SOP and Purchasing modules but plan to add more over time."

 

Within Luceco, the Finance Controller – Jana Overall – offered further praise for FastClose.

 

"We had a number of issues reconciling intercompany accounts and drop shipments but with FastClose we were able to do this easily. We need some additional tables for the shipments and FastClose just brought this into the product so that we can now select and sort on the additional data. It has saved us no end of time, and we are working on getting the full P&L and Balance Sheets plus the consolidation across companies live."

 

Overall added: "We are also using AP and AR where the Excel plugin is of great help; we can just send out spreadsheets to the controllers with all the key information they need, linked directly to the live database. They just hit the refresh button to get an up-to-date picture of what is going on."

 

Reflecting on the tie-up between FastClose and Luceco, Richard Gardner concluded, "The product is going to get better over time as they have a road map that will add significantly to the product as well as adding new modules. We have found FastClose to be very responsive to our needs and look forward to rolling out FastClose throughout Europe and China in all departments."

Hierarchies

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Import and Export of Templates

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