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.