An Expert on Both Intacct and Microsoft Great Plains (Dynamics GP) Compares the Two Products
The video shows a presentation of the differences between Intacct's cloud-based financial software and Microsoft's traditional on-premise Dynamics GP (Great Plains) solution. The audio you'll hear is Mark Gervase interviewing Linda Antonelli, who is an expert on Intacct as well as having 20+ years experience selling and implementing Dynamics GP.
What follows is a transcript of the interview:
Mark Gervase: Hi everyone. I want to thank you for your time today and really appreciate your evaluating Intacct for your financial management solutions to replace Microsoft Dynamics GP (Great Plains). For those Dynamics GP (Great Plains) customers that are new to Intacct, this best-in-cloud financial management and accounting software provides your organization with increased efficiency and faster insights to drive better performance and continued growth. I'm Mark Gervase, senior product marketing manager with Intacct. I'm here at Intacct's headquarters in San Jose. I've been in Silicon Valley for over a decade and have focused on cloud technologies for the last few years. I'm also a former CPA, so I know cloud. I know accounting. But enough about me. I'm joined today by Lindy Antonelli, of Armanino, LLP, where she is a partner for consulting services and Lindy is joining us from their office in Chicago. Lindy, wanna tell us a little more about yourself?
Antonelli: Thank you. I'm a CPA as well and started in public accounting. I have been a partner at Armanino for about six months. Prior to that I had a business for twenty years implementing Dynamics GP (Great Plains) so I have about twenty plus years experience in the Great Plains world and about the last two and a half years implementing Intacct. And I have just seen so much success with our clients and with the Intacct solution that I actually sold my business - my GP practice of over five hundred implementations - about a year ago, and then merged up with Armanino to cover and handle our national cloud accounting solutions.
Gervase: So we have clearly found the expert - somebody who really knows Intacct, somebody who really knows Dynamics GP (Great Plains). So with that I think we can get right into it. So, Lindy, I want to start off talking about the features and functions that finance professionals would use on a daily basis. So tell us about some of these product categories, the main features where Intacct and Dynamics GP (Great Plains) are truly different.
Antonelli: I think the first area is in the core structure and architecture of Intacct which has a true multi-entity configuration with a consolidations module that's world-class. We have something in Intacct, called dimension tagging, which again is built into the modern architecture of the system. Custom fields can be created within Intacct without any third parties or extra modules and then of course dashboards, analytics and reporting are some of the hallmarks of the Intacct solution.
Gervase: Great I think those categories give us a few places to start. Going back to multi-entity and consolidations can we talk a little bit about what that process is like if you've got multiple entities or what it's like when you try and consolidate those entities?
Antonelli: Sure. In a Dynamics GP (Great Plains) world, if you need to add another entity, you have to re-implement the system for the new entity. Basically it's a new configuration. In the Intacct world, we have something called multi-entity shared. And the shared concept means that at the highest level we can create and configure the entity and how the entity should look and behave. And as we add new entities, they can take on that model. That means, for instance, a shared chart of accounts, a shared customer, potentially, and vendors, and then a pool of currency if you're using multi-currency as well.
Gervase: So the setup certainly sounds easier in Intacct and what about when it's month-end or quarter-end and it's time to hit that consolidation button, so to speak?
Antonelli: Oh sure, well hands-down the Intacct consolidation module is a world-class solution. It's the best solution that I've seen out there and in the mid market. The GP solution - I call the concept of consolidation in GP really more of a combination. You can create, as I said, multiple entities and reimplement the system multiple times to track those companies, if you will, but there is no concept of eliminating entries automatically or consolidation books or the other foreign exchange tracking within multiple entities. With GP, it's cumbersome, it's expensive and if you want to automate it, you have to go with a third party like a million dollar like a Hyperion solution. With Intacct, it's just built into the consolidation module. We can do all that literally after the set up with a click of a button at the end of the month.
Gervase: Oh great. That helps clear it up. Now you had mentioned Hyperion - third parties. Now when it comes to multiple entities is there some special custom implementation work - custom programming you might need if you do have to change your reporting structure, you enter a new business agreement, that sort of thing? How does that work with the multi-entity world?
Antonelli: In GP, you have to reimplement, you have to be configure stuff. Even at the core of GP is this account framework so if you add another entity that has a different account framework, you may have to reimplement the GP system overall to make it fit or even have to have a whole new instance of GP with a different account framework. Again, this could be meaning multiple servers or a whole reimplementation. It could be very, very costly and expensive. With the Intacct multi-entity shared, it's simple subscribing to another entity and that's it.
Gervase: Great. Concise, simple explanation. I appreciate that. Switching gears here, one of the things you mentioned - the main categories talked about were dimensions. I think on the surface people may not get what that means. Can you talk a little bit about what dimensions are, what they do, how that impacts your GL?
Antonelli: Oh absolutely. I think that dimension tagging is really the hallmark of the Inacct solution. At core of its modern architecture is its dimension tracking. I like it explain to clients that if you think about a GL account number in an Dynamics GP (Great Plains) or in any other on-premise solution, virtually any other solution out there - enterprise or midmarket - and if you think about your hands stretching outward like an accordion. As you want to do different tracking in your GL, you have to typically add segments, meaning add a bunch of zeros in your account number with dashes or dots or whatever, so the account number can grow very long and become cumbersome, you know you have to have a very, very what I call long chart of accounts. And with the Intacct solution, the dimensions are separate. They are their own concept, and when a transaction originates in the sub ledger, you can actually tag that transaction with certain information. So for instance if it's an AR invoice, the customers automatically tag the date, the transaction amount. Then you enter in your GL member, you can enter in different dimensions against that. So for instance maybe an employee ID who would be the sales rep, maybe this invoice goes to a project so you can tag it with the project ID or the class ID, so you can use these dimensions to tag transactions in the sub ledger. They automatically roll into the natural account in the general ledger. But the dimensions are saved at the general ledger. So you can actually drill down from the general ledger to get to this, what I call a P&L by dimension. So think of it as a sales invoice with line items on it, you can actually slice and dice your data by line item, by item type of that item category. It's very, very flexible. It gives you full visibility into P&L data by this dimension concept.
Gervase: I think you touched on a number of interesting points there with the natural GL account, the cost of really clean GL being able to drill down into these dimensions and get into reporting which brings up some some customization issues. I think that when it comes to your business, every business is unique and an individual might want to tag things and use different types of dimensions and what can be done with regard to custom fields, custom views - some of the things you'll need to customize your accounting?
Antonelli: Well in Intacct any person, even an end-user if they have the right security can make custom fields up in about five minutes. They're very simple and very easy to set up and you can, through either the financial report writer or the custom report writer, you can take those custom fields and use them as sorting options or add them to a report to really be able to slice and dice the data based on these custom fields. Using the Dynamics GP (Great Plains) solution we, as former implementors of GP for many years, made a living off of for instance using the modifier to add custom fields because it was very hard to do so. The client couldn't do it so we had to do it, and then all the custom fields need to be added to the reports and then if you have an upgrade, the custom field may or may not upgrade with you totally in the GP world. It's doable, but it's expensive and clunky. In Intacct, it's just all built right in and the custom fields upgrade with the system every time there's an upgrade.
Gervase: Okay great. I think that leads nicely into my next question - we talked about multiple entities and consolidation using dimensions for tagging, being able to use custom fields, custom views. I think what that sets up nicely as as the fourth category mentioned, is the difference between Intacct and GP - analytics for reporting. Talk a little bit about why Intacct is different from Dynamics GP (Great Plains) went when it comes to that type of thing - reporting.
Antonelli: Well, absolutely the core thing you log into when you go into Intacct on the browser is you can set your dashboard to be your sort of homepage, and that dashboard is a living, breathing, vital part of the system. You could store reports there, you can put views out there, you can put charts and graphs. You can put things like cash balances right on your dashboard and you can with a single click able to drill down into that data. You can then drill down further into the detail. You can then drill down further by dimension and actually view the dimensional tagging and information about that so that's one area of ease of visibility - data visibility. The other is we can create KPIs and store analytics, we can actually report on statistical accounts and track data at the customer 's wishes to create this sort of sales analytics dashboard for them.
Gervase: OK you did touch on a great point there and that is statistical accounts. I think that one of the things I understand that is a big difference between Intacct and Dynamics GP (Great Plains) has to do with reporting and what the management reporter module can do in GP with respect to financial reporting versus things like operational reporting and getting into KPIs. Anything you can add there?
Antonelli: The Management Reporter is very, very robust, but it really is a financial reporting tool. It's not an operational tool. It can't do the analytics. So with GP there are out-of-the-box reports, but really, over the twenty years of implementing GP, most of our clients went to Crystal reports or SQL reporting services to get reports out so you know you're your adding costs and those tend to be programming tools so you need to have knowledge and expertise enough in those areas, and those other systems. In Intacct with the financial report writer and then the custom report writer, we can actually build those reports, we can show our clients how to do it. They end up building them themselves, and found they're pretty easy end-user tools. And during the course of implementation, your reports can be built out in Intacct much easier, much less costly and really right from the same tool that you're using all the time - you don't have to go to a third-party.
Gervase: That is kind of a common thread I'm picking up on when it comes to features that are out-of-the-box with Intacct that are inherent in the system versus things you can do with the Microsoft Dynamics GP (Great Plains) solution, but will require some custom work, programming, some implementation. So I think that's a good place to draw the line between understanding what it takes to to get done what you really need to get done with your business from a reporting and analysis standpoint.
Antonelli: Absolutely and I think all that equates to time to implement and cost to implement as well as the overall concept of the cloud with the low IT cost or no IT cost really with the cloud solution versus an on-premise like a GP.
Gervase: Perfect transition. That is one of the things I wanted to cover. I want to move our discussion to the topic of the cloud. I know that many organizations that use on-premises accounting systems like Dynamics GP (Great Plains) are considering moving to the cloud - considering Intacct. I know that the cloud has eliminated the need for a lot of our customers to install, maintain and upgrade applications, reducing their dependence on IT and really freeing up the finance organization to focus solely on the business. So how does this reduction in total cost of ownership on the technology side provide a boost on the business side.
Antonelli: Well, it's a couple things. Intacct has got a really easy look and feel to it. It's easier user adoption. It's not intimidating to login and and get to that sort of data visibility, very, very quickly. You know, with the concept of the cloud solution, you just need a browser and the Internet and a device. You don't necessarily need to be tied to your desktop or your certain laptop with a certain installed configuration on it. So it does free you up to work remotely or to allow other stakeholders such as your outside CPA or board members to be able to login and get visibility into that data. I mean it's all about access to the data, the visibility, the speed with which you can provide data to your key stakeholders, and Intacct really reduces that added IT stress and it also reduces the overall month-end closing process so you can get the data out there quicker.
Gervase: Is there anything customers should think about carefully before moving off of Dynamics GP (Great Plains)? Is there anything they may be giving up?
Antonelli: Sure. Intacct and cloud solutions are not for every single business out there and the first thing is if you are a manufacturer or a really heavy distributor and you have a ton of inventory needs, maybe you need an MRP and an ERP. Intacct isn't quite built out for that. We do have third-party answers to that will we can actually interface some other MRP-type solutions into Intacct, but typically I would look into that further, even before considering Intacct if you're in those industries. And then the other area that we've seen, not as often, but several companies recently I've worked with have had a requirement to have payroll in-house either for certain board purposes or what have you, but Intacct has this best-in-class approach. So for instance, the payroll is an outsourced solution and then the general ledger entry is brought over. In GP there is a payroll in HR system that you can now purchase. So it's certain functionality like that that you really need to dig deeper into when you are researching either moving off GP, or if you're researching GP versus Intacct.
Gervase: Given these compelling reasons to move the cloud and to move to Intacct, we ask our Dynamics GP (Great Plains) customers: Why wait? I think there are many reasons to switch to Intacct now and here are my top five. The first is improving productivity. You can connect Intacct to your other systems, you can move faster, driving the productivity and efficiency gains that help you grow revenue and at the same time, control costs. Number two is focused on business growth. The cloud levels the playing field for SMBs. It can help you compete in today's quickly changing business environment by spending less time and money on IT and more time focused on your most important priority: growing your business. The third reason to switch to the cloud and Intacct is to leverage new technology to adopt to modern working styles. All of us see and read about how mobility is important, working from home - whether you're for or against that. And just the global nature of work now that's going to require 24/7 access. The cloud can really deliver a solution there. The fourth reason is to accommodate growth. If you are undergoing a global expansion, a new acquisition, entering into a joint venture, starting business. Intacct is an instantly scalable solution that can be used anywhere. And the last reason we're seeing companies move to the cloud and to Intacct is industry validation. The functional richness of our solution has resulted in Intacct being recognized as preferred provider of financial applications by the AICPA. It's not just us who are touting the benefits of Intacct, but the AICPA and has recognized Intacct as their preferred provider of financial apps and they conducted a very thorough evaluation of different solutions before selecting Intacct as best in class so take the AICPA 's word for it. Thanks again so much for your time.
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