Chapter 5


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Chapter 5

  1. 1. AXAPTA Chapter 5 Learn more at 157
  2. 2. 2005 Microsoft Business Solutions for CPAs HISTORY OF AXAPTA Axapta is a highly respected accounting system and ERP solution which was originally brought to the United States from Europe in IBM in 1996. Axapta was first created in 1983 by brothers Erik and Preben Damgaard in Copenhagen, Denmark. The company claims that from the start, Axapta wanted to create an international product that was integrated, scalable and flexible so that they would be able to build one CD for all markets and platforms. It was Erik Damgaard's vision to build a platform that could evolve with technology and market demands. Written completely in Java, Axapta is designed to be a complete ERP solution which includes advanced distribution, process and discrete manufacturing, built-in CRM capabilities, and outstanding customization. The product grew steadily throughout Europe and in 1996, IBM brought Axapta to the United States market. It is important to note that IBM”s motivation behind teaming up with a successful software application is primarily for marketing leverage. Most people won’t attend a seminar on hardware, databases, or infra-structure and IBM has a long standing history of using various software applications to attract prospects. For example, IBM teamed up with Business Management Series in 1988, Platinum Software in 1990, Lotus Notes in 1994, Axapta in 1996, and ACCPAC in 1999. This is a marketing strategy that works well for IBM, but the point is that IBM’s primary focus was never on Axapta. After the IBM/Axapta relationship played out in 2000, Axapta (Damgaard Software) merged with their long-time Danish rival Navision Software. (Both products were developed in Denmark and both products maintained US operations in Atlanta, Georgia. As a result, the management of both companies frequently sat next to one another in First Class when traveling between Denmark and Atlanta. This merger literally emerged on Delta airplanes). In 2001 the company made many enhancements including: 1. Re-branded “Navision Financials” as “Navision Attain” and “Damgaard Axapta” as “Navision Axapta”; 2. Integrated the e-commerce applications, Commerce Gateway, Commerce Portal into both products; 3. Introduced User Portal, browser-based access to both products; 4. Introduced supply chain collaboration functionality, manufacturing and distribution capabilities, and new financial management functionality; 5. Received the Designed for Microsoft XP logo. In 2002 Microsoft acquired Navision Axapta and Navision Attain for $1.4 billion – the largest acquisition ever made by Microsoft. (This was a very high acquisition price considering that ACCPAC International was acquired the following year by Best Software for just $120 million; even though ACCPAC had more products and far more customers (41,000 to 1.2 million) than did Navision.) Now under Microsoft’s control, the Axapta product’s strength and future outlook has never looked stronger. 158 Copyright - July, 2005 – Accounting Software Advisor, LLC
  3. 3. AXAPTA’S POWER Microsoft Axapta has developed a reputation for being extremely powerful with a deep set of features. For example, when I select all of the inventory and manufacturing features in the Accounting Library tool which profiles the top 150 accounting software products in the United States, Axapta is rated higher than many other respected manufacturing /distribution products, edging out Epicor (by a margin of 79% to 70%), ACCPAC (by a margin of 79% to 78% & 75%); Made2Manage (by a margin of 79% to 66%), and JD Edwards World (by a margin of 79% to 72%). Partial results of this test are shown in the screen below. By today’s standards, Axapta has a wealth of features and customization capabilities. To give you an idea of how sophisticated the system is, you need only look at the extensive capabilities of each module. For example, the warehouse module allows you to set up multiple warehouses, the number of aisles in each warehouse; areas for primary storage, buffer storage, and picking locations; the number of shelves on each isle; the height, depth, and width of each self, outbound and inbound docks, etc. Axapta also asks the user to define all forklifts including the forklift's function such as whether it is equipped to move pallets, pipes or other materials. Users can even Learn more at 159
  4. 4. 2005 Microsoft Business Solutions for CPAs schedule blocking causes where it is known in advance that a particular aisle will be blocked temporarily for various reasons such as restocking. All of these factors are then used by Axapta to recommend where products should be stored, what order items should be picked, when items should be picked, etc. It is very impressive, not to mention complex. Presented below is a brief summary of those features which make Axapta one of the top products in the world today. 1. Very Fast - Axapta is an extremely fast product. In October 2001, a test conducted by Compaq and Oracle showed that Axapta set new records for transaction processing. In this test, more than 315,000 sales orders were processed in just one hour by 3,600 simultaneous users. Wow. 2. Low Cost - Even though Axapta has the power and functionality of a Tier 1 ERP product, it is priced very reasonably. A typical 10-user implementation of Axapta will generally price out at $80,000 to $120,000 for the software, and approximately $150,000 for a 50-user implementation. The typical consulting fees for Axapta are usually 1.5 to 1 - or one and half times the cost of the software. This is a great price considering Axapta is equivalent to or more powerful than other Tier 1 ERP systems which typically cost millions of dollars. 3. Customization - Axapta is highly customizable – perhaps more so than any other product. Axapta provides a unique feature in which newly created customized fields are assigned to a category. With this assignment, the newly created fields then show up throughout the Axapta product on the appropriate user screens. For example, in both Navision and Axapta the user can add new data fields. However in Navision, the user must then visit each data input screen (user form) to insert and position the new field. However Axapta has no such requirement for editing data input screens. Simply add the field to the tables and it shows up everywhere. As an example, assume that a newly created field keeps track of the name of the customer's boat (useful for boat marinas). In Axapta, that new field automatically appears everywhere with no additional customization effort. That's really cool. 4. Multiple Databases - Axapta can be deployed on either the Microsoft SQL Sever or Oracle databases. This translates to high-end scalability. 5. World-Wide Features - Each implementation of Axapta includes all features from around the world. If for some reason you wanted to enable the Spanish version of the order entry module or Euro multi-currency capabilities in Axapta, you need only type in the correct registration key. The Spanish version is already loaded on all Axapta installations and ready to go. 6. All-in-One Product - 100% of the Axapta product has been developed in house and written with the Axapta tools. Many other products have been pieced together when the vendors purchase third party add on products. For example, the MAS 500 product line acquired and integrated the Heitech manufacturing add-on module as it's manufacturing solution. Epicor contains similar integrations. This does not mean that Axapta's method is necessarily better, but I think that it is easy to see how this approach could result in a more consistent look and feel and tighter integration. 7. High Reseller Standards – Historically, and under Navision’s control, Axapta resellers were held to high standards, which included extensive training and testing requirements. For example, in order to become an Axapta reseller, you first had to have five people attend 160 Copyright - July, 2005 – Accounting Software Advisor, LLC
  5. 5. extensive training and they each must have passed a fairly tough test. Three of these people were trained in the Axapta product, while the other two were trained in customizing Axapta. By contrast, most other accounting vendors make little or no requirements of their reseller channel. To some accounting software companies, their reseller test amounts to seeing whether or not the reseller’s check will clear. I believe that Navision's requirements resulted in much higher caliber resellers, which translates to higher customer satisfaction even today. 8. Foreign Language and Foreign Currency – Axapta is a widely deployed product around the world. Because Axapta is deployed in so many countries, the product has developed excellent multi-currency and foreign language capabilities. By contrast, many accounting software products developed in the United States either do not include foreign currency and foreign language capabilities, or they add them later as an after-thought. 9. Built-in Remote Access - With most high-end accounting software systems, remote solutions such as Citrix or Terminal Services are required to provide remote access. This is not the case with Axapta because it has it's own built-in remote capabilities which is included in the price of the product. 10. Questionnaires - Axapta's CRM solution includes a wizard that makes it relatively easy to create questionnaires that may be scheduled days, weeks, months or years in advance. At the appointed time, Axapta sends the questionnaires out to the designated recipients, and upon return, Axapta automatically computes the results and compiles a detailed report showing the number of questionnaires sent, number of responses, and analysis of responses including standard deviation. This type of tool is great for gathering business intelligence on your existing customers, missed customers, employees, or other targeted groups. AXAPTA’S UNDERLYING TECHNOLOGY Programming Language - The Axapta kernel is developed in C++ and the object oriented nature of this language is carried on through the application that is written using the Axapta development tools and source code written in X++ (which is a Java-derivate with embedded SQL-support). According to Navision, X++ uses object-oriented programming principles such as encapsulation, inheritance, classes, objects, methods, and properties. The language has Java-like syntax, and incorporates SQL data manipulation statements. The development environment in Axapta is called MorphX. The architecture behind the Axapta product was built on the concept that it could evolve with technology and market demands, and have one CD with one integrated solution. The initial release of Axapta was in 1998, followed by the release of version 2.0 in 1999. This version introduced the Axapta Object Server that made the product a true 3-tier offering and a COM interface to Microsoft products. In 2000 Axapta 2.1 introduced the first Web-Applications for Axapta. The current release of Axapta is version 2.5 that was released in 2001. It introduced new modules in the application, more web applications and the Commerce Gateway that provides an XML interface to Microsoft Biztalk server. Database - Axapta runs on either the Microsoft SQL Server or the Oracle database. Source Code - Axapta's MorphX development environment is available to everyone. All resellers are trained in the MorphX language and in customizing Axapta. Learn more at 161
  6. 6. 2005 Microsoft Business Solutions for CPAs AXAPTA’S MODULES Axapta offers the full breadth and functionality equivalent to other high-end products. A complete listing of Axapta’s modules is provided below: 1. Financial Management - Comprehensive accounting, financial reporting, and analysis. 2. Business Analysis - Create, view, and understand multidimensional reports. 3. Object Server - Technology that minimizes bandwidth requirements and offers and secure client deployment. 4. Tools – Axapta’s tools allow you to tailor almost every aspect of Axapta, including user screens, reports, statements, tables, and fields. 5. Commerce Gateway - Supply chain solution. 6. Enterprise Portal Framework - Make your workflow smoother by allowing employees, customers, vendors, and other business partners to interact directly with your ERP system. 7. HR Balanced Score Card - Monitors business performance based on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). 8. HR Business Process Management - Develop and manage business processes by identifying and monitoring actions. 9. Human Resource Management I - Helps you gather and structure employee information. 10. Human Resource Management II - Automate recruitment processes and employee absence analysis. 11. Human Resource Management III - Develop resources to meet your strategic goals. 12. Logistics - Streamline purchasing, production, customer demand, inventory, and other key areas of your business. 13. Master Planning – Produces product forecasts to project long-term needs for materials and capacity. 14. Product Builder – Web based product configurator allows you to configure complex products. 162 Copyright - July, 2005 – Accounting Software Advisor, LLC
  7. 7. 15. Production - Production I: Handles the material flow from suppliers, through production, to customers. Lets you plan and execute routes, operations, and rough capacity planning. Includes operation management and detailed production scheduling. 16. Shop Floor Control - Manage Personnel and Production - Register tasks, time, and material via bar codes. Create definitions of non-productive time. Obtain an overview of who is doing what, when, and how. 17. Trade - Automate Sales and Purchasing - Exchange sales and purchasing information electronically (in combination with the Commerce Gateway module). System automatically calculates tax and checks inventory and customer credit information. Picking and receiving documentation automatically generated. Automatic tracking of back orders. Automatic unit conversions. 18. Warehouse Management - Manage warehouses according to your individual needs. Optimize your Warehouse Layout to Increase Efficiency. Divide your warehouse into zones to accommodate different storage needs. Specify warehouse locations on five levels: warehouse, aisle, rack, shelf, and bin. The system helps you find the optimal storage location. 19. Project - Project I: Enter time, materials, and supplies consumption, and manage projects and financial follow-up for shorter-term time and material projects and internal projects. Project II: Advanced financial management for longer-term time and material projects, internal projects, and fixed-price projects. 20. Marketing Automation - Target Specific Audiences. Use prospect information to segment your target audience into meaningful profiles. Add and remove targets to meet your exact requirements. Import address lists. 21. Questionnaires - Design online surveys, such as customer or employee satisfaction, in a matter of minutes, without any technical experience. Search for survey participants in system by criteria for example, job title. Make surveys and results available via intranet or public web site. 22. Sales Management - Manage and Monitor Individuals, Teams, and the Entire Organization. Define sales targets for individuals, teams, and company. Track progress of activities, including pending sales quotes. Generate forecasts. 23. Sales Force Automation - Streamline Contact Management. One centralized place provides a quick status of customers, prospects, vendors, and partners. Make calls directly with a click of a button. System automatically detects incoming phone number and finds the contact card. Transaction log gives you an overview of who has been in contact with a prospect or customer and what has been done. Supports mail merge files and group e-mails. 24. Telemarketing - Manage Telemarketing Campaigns. Generate call lists by selecting fields, such as sales district, revenue, relation types, segment, and past sales behavior. Distribute call lists to salespeople and telemarketing staff who have already been in Learn more at 163
  8. 8. 2005 Microsoft Business Solutions for CPAs contact with target. Attach questionnaires and telemarketing scripts to call lists. Use call logs to check status of calls and create reports and future lists. 25. Sales & Marketing - Access relevant sales information. Access instant cost-benefit analyses of revenue for executed campaigns. Give your entire organization access to contact information. Make forecasts based on anticipated sales. SELECTED KEY FEATURES FOR AXAPTA Key Features Description Manufacturing MRPII-compliant supply and demand planning Finite and infinite capacity and materials planning Job scheduling and sequencing Resource management Shop floor management Work order management with job costing Product configuration Graphical bill of materials designer with version control Distribution Multi-site warehouse management Inventory management with dimensions Order handling with trade agreements Order promising Item and lot number reservation and tracking Supply Chain Demand forecasting Management Intercompany trade Procurement management Partner self-service web sites Performance monitoring Electronic information exchange Project Management Project types and hierarchies Project finance and invoicing Consultant self-service web sites Financial Management Financial management with dimensions Intercompany accounting and consolidation Complete audit trail Customer Relationship Sales force and marketing automation Management Telemarketing and questionnaires Sales management Customer self-service web sites Computer telephone integration Document management 164 Copyright - July, 2005 – Accounting Software Advisor, LLC
  9. 9. Human Resource Organizational charts and employee registration Management Skills mapping and recruitment Employee self-service web sites Business process management Business Analysis Designer for multidimensional data cubes Integration with Microsoft Analysis Services Analysis views through embedded Pivot Tables Balanced scorecard with key performance indicators Global Solution Supports local legal and accounting requirements Multiple languages Multiple currencies Local sales and support Technology One integrated and Web-enabled business logic Three-tier, scalable system architecture Customizable code with integrated development environment Conforms to all relevant technology standards and interfaces Learn more at 165
  10. 10. 2005 Microsoft Business Solutions for CPAs AXAPTA PRODUCT TOUR The following pages are designed to walk you through some of the look and feel and functionality of Axapta using a few representative screens. ANALYTICS Axapta has advanced features that position it at the high end of the mid-market. Few other products can display OLAP integration and advanced graphical capabilities within the application. Shown below is a customer revenue pivot table created for one Axapta customer. The pivot table can be used for internal analysis or exported to Excel for further refinement. 166 Copyright - July, 2005 – Accounting Software Advisor, LLC
  11. 11. QUESTIONNAIRES If the customer is king, what better way to know how you are doing than to survey your customers? Axapta has a built-in questionnaire generator which can be used to create questionnaires for conducting telephone interviews or to publish surveys on the web. The questionnaires can also be used to conduct employee reviews, gather product testing results, or for internal surveys. Shown below is a sample questionnaire created to measure employee satisfaction. Survey results are captured in Axapta and can be analyzed graphically. Learn more at 167
  12. 12. 2005 Microsoft Business Solutions for CPAs AXAPTA LOOK & FEEL The Axapta order entry screen shown above can be toggled between a simple and advanced view. As you might expect, the simple view is less complicated while the Advanced view provides access to more fields and functionality. This is a great feature and we wish more products featured similar toggles. The standard screen font and font size is fairly readable, but can be modified by the user if desired. Any fields that are not needed can be removed from view with a single mouse click. The hide command will remove the field and instantly adjust the remaining fields on the form. The bottom right hand border displays the current company name, user ID and system date. The data fields and field labels are snapped to a gridline which makes it easy for the eye to follow. The VCR buttons are nice, especially since they include fast forward buttons that allow the user to jump through the data a page of records at a time. Menu options and user buttons do contain keyboard shortcuts which allow you to navigate Axapta without a mouse. Column widths in the data table can be resized with the mouse. Notice also the separate accounts for customer account and invoice account which allows the user to search for transactions based on either customer number or invoice number. This use of dual search fields is common throughout Axapta. To balance our review, a few negatives about the Axapta product are that the icons at the top of the screen are a little small - it is sometimes difficult to read them or click them. The screen is fairly clean and uncluttered, but the product could use colors better to wake it up a little bit. 168 Copyright - July, 2005 – Accounting Software Advisor, LLC
  13. 13. MANUFACTURING The heart and soul of Axapta resides in its manufacturing and inventory features. Axapta focused on manufacturing when it began its entry into the United States market and as a result has features rivaling those of the Tier 1 products. MASTER SCHEDULING Master scheduling helps you calculate what needs to be purchased and produced to fill a sales order: to deliver the amount ordered on the date scheduled, and to generate transfers between warehouses if needed. The task can be completed in many different ways, for example you can build inventories at different item levels to meet rush orders, or you can operate without inventories, where a customer order generates purchase and production orders. The principle adopted depends entirely on conditions in the company. It is often the case, however, that some items or item groups are controlled by inventory to ensure a high service level and short delivery times, whereas others are only produced or purchased when the item is actually needed. Axapta's Master Planning module can address both situations. In order to fulfill the order below, existing inventory on hand is depleted and a planned purchase order is automatically generated for the balance. Learn more at 169
  14. 14. 2005 Microsoft Business Solutions for CPAs PLANNED ORDERS The planned order window enables you to display, edit, and create planned purchase orders, planned production orders, and planned transfer orders in a master plan. BILL OF MATERIALS The Bill of Materials designer uses a graphical interface to combine components into a BOM. The options and symbols available are displayed below: This Bill of Materials for a painted cover is being modified to include an additional item. Once the item is selected from the bottom right pane, it is dragged to the BOM pane, and the routing is adjusted to reflect the change. 170 Copyright - July, 2005 – Accounting Software Advisor, LLC
  15. 15. Inquiry screens throughout the manufacturing process provide information on orders and status as well as costing and target dates. The screen below shows the status of production orders as well as the status of each operation in that order. Information is available in Axapta both via inquiries and graphical tools. The graphic below illustrates net requirements for an item over time. Learn more at 171
  16. 16. 2005 Microsoft Business Solutions for CPAs INVENTORY Axapta has more than 90 fields in the inventory item table to support the needs of manufacturers. Here is a partial list of these fields: 172 Copyright - July, 2005 – Accounting Software Advisor, LLC
  17. 17. CUSTOMIZABLE HELP TEXT The help files can be easily edited and customized by the user. In the screen below, I have inserted custom procedures in the area enclosed by horizontal lines. Images can also be inserted into these files using simple, intuitive commands. Learn more at 173
  18. 18. 2005 Microsoft Business Solutions for CPAs USER INTERFACE Axapta has a straight-forward interface designed to look like Windows Explorer. Sub-menu items can also be accessed from the tool bar. WIZARDS Wizards are located throughout Axapta . There is even a "Wizard Wizard" for creating additional wizards as needed. Detailed warehouse parameters including bin, aisle, dock and picking information as well as blocking causes and buffer locations can be recorded via a wizard. Once loaded with the appropriate information, the system can suggest the most efficient routes through the warehouse. 174 Copyright - July, 2005 – Accounting Software Advisor, LLC
  19. 19. Picking locations are defined below. The time invested in these setups will payoff in increased warehouse efficiency. Learn more at 175
  20. 20. 2005 Microsoft Business Solutions for CPAs The screens above illustrate how wizards help to simplify tasks in a product whose sheer number of features can sometimes be overwhelming. 176 Copyright - July, 2005 – Accounting Software Advisor, LLC
  21. 21. FINANCIAL REPORTS Axapta has standard financial reporting which can be modified to include additional row and column formats. Learn more at 177
  22. 22. 2005 Microsoft Business Solutions for CPAs CUSTOMIZATION CAPABILITIES Axapta has taken user customization to a new level with its MorphX technology. Not only can users modify reports and financial statements, and user screens, but Axapta’s menus can be customized as well as shown in the User Set Up screen below. You can customize the tabs and buttons on any form in Axapta. The MorphX technology also allows you to hide any field on any user screen, and upon doing so, the remaining fields will automatically reposition themselves to close in the gap made by the hidden field. Fields can later be returned to the form by selecting "show all". Because the tools are quick and easy to use, there is no need to hire a programmer to make these kinds of changes. All MorphX changes can be made and stored by user as well. 178 Copyright - July, 2005 – Accounting Software Advisor, LLC
  23. 23. MULTICURRENCY The Trial Balance displayed below is shown in US dollars (note the USD on the bottom right corner of the status bar.) Double clicking this currency notation will generate a list of other currencies for this company, choose one and the trial balance will be immediately be restated as shown above (in this case amounts are now reflected in British Pounds). AXAPTA EXPERIENCES OF J. CARLTON COLLINS Industry analyst and accounting system consultant J. Carlton Collins recants a story regarding his personal experiences with the Axapta product. Over the years I’ve consulted with many large companies who used expensive bloated ERP solutions costing millions of dollars. In many cases these ERP solutions simply would not work or they were far too complex. In other cases the enormous annual maintenance fees were more than the companies could comfortably handle. In many of these cases I have found that Axapta is not only a goof replacement for traditional ERP solutions, but it often a far more affordable, more user-friendly, and more powerful solution as well. In one case I worked with a $500 million manufacturer of recreational vehicles who struggled with their accounting system which was plagued with errors, bugs, and complex functionality. After seeing what Axapta could do, the company Learn more at 179
  24. 24. 2005 Microsoft Business Solutions for CPAs selected Axapta and the installation was completed in a matter of months. The results exceeded the manufacturer’s expectation in terms of features, ease of use, customization and functionality. Axapta’s Product Builder, or configurator, was the key to the solution. After seeing Axapta meet the needs of this large company, I was never again gun shy about recommending Axapta in virtually any manufacturing situation. The irony of this story is that Axapta personnel had attempted to educate me about the Axapta product line for many years during the IBM relationship. But it took many years for me to just how strong the Axapta product truly was – it took encouragement from founder Preben Damgaard to catch my attention. After my first Axapta training lesson, I became an instant believer, evangelist, and recommender of the Axapta product line. Carlton Collins shown here with Axapta co-founder, Preben Damgaard AXAPTA CONCLUSION Axapta has made an enormous splash both in the U S market and the world-wide market. Many companies are finding that Axapta can be used to cost effective replace traditional ERP solutions which cost millions of dollars. Axapta has established itself as a feature-rich solution with a great reputation for elegant screen design, fast operations, stable code, excellent customization, and a very low price point compared to its peers. Axapta gives other well-known, high-end ERP solutions in the market place (such as JD Edwards - now known as PeopleSoft II, Epicor, Oracle e-Business Suite, and SAP a good run for the money – after all, why would anyone pay more? 180 Copyright - July, 2005 – Accounting Software Advisor, LLC