If you want accounting software that runs on IBM i servers rather than directly on client PCs, there are still plenty of options.
If there's one area of application software that typifies the divide between running business software on a bunch of networked PCs as opposed to on a centralized server (although possibly with PC clients), it's probably accounting. QuickBooks and similar PC-based apps are commonplace at small businesses worldwide, and the conversation about moving enterprise financial tracking away from a server environment probably takes place at one company or another somewhere on a daily basis.
Particularly with so many Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings prevalent today, the idea that any organization can trade in its traditional accounting apps for something shiny, new, browser-faced, and slick that someone else will manage for you can be appealing. However, some advantages to using server-based accounting apps can sometimes get lost in the glare and glitter of thinking about taking a totally new approach to tracking financial data.
SaaS Accounting: Why Not?
"The number-one concern for businesses considering SaaS is often security," points out Rusty Gadberry, president at Arkansas Data Services (ADS). "If sensitive company data and business processes are to be entrusted to a third-party service provider, then issues such as identity and access management—particularly from mobile devices—need to be addressed. And if your company uses multiple cloud services, be aware that deprovisioning an ex-employee can become a security headache."
"Ease of integration with source applications is probably the biggest advantage," opines Rex Smith, FPS product manager at Tegratecs Development Corporation. "First off, this is the ease with which accounting transactions can be received from other applications. Another part of the integration advantage is the ability to drill down into production application details and to more easily run local or custom inquiry software functions, without requiring a fully enabled service-oriented architecture (SOA). It can be challenging for the smaller private companies to justify SOA largely because it is difficult for them to figure out how to divide their truly integrated applications into components that are flexible yet efficient. Last but not least is the comfort of control."
ADS' Gadberry agrees that integration is important. "If it's not possible to handle the relevant APIs and data structures in-house, then the data may have to be keyed into the SaaS application," he points out. However, he also emphasizes compliance, performance, and data mobility as considerations. "When business data resides in a service provider's datacenter, ensuring that relevant government data-protection regulations are complied with can be a problem. A browser-based application hosted in a remote datacenter and accessed via an Internet connection is likely to cause worries about performance when compared to software running on a local machine or over the company LAN. And what happens to company data and its business processes if the SaaS service provider goes under—or if the company needs to change to another SaaS vendor for some other reason?"
Advantages of Server-based over PC-based Software
When comparing server-based accounting apps to PC-based ones, Smith and Gadberry both note advantages for the former.
"[For our software,] the PC is used mostly in presentation and houses very little business logic or shared data," Smith notes. "Advantages then include a reduction in program and data duplication and minimized synchronization (or islands of automation) issues. [Also,] IBM i server-based accounting applications are in better shape than many of the small but growing businesses running custom software on PCs, because many of those folks are stuck working very hard to retrofit single-user systems and database interactions into multi-user systems. That problem isn’t going to be solved neatly and is particularly difficult when you add the Internet interactions."
ADS' Gadberry emphasizes avoiding integration and backup hassles as advantages. "Businesses that want to connect hosted software with existing on-premise apps face the problem of software integration with PC-based accounting applications. In most cases, limited integration is achieved via an export from the server-based accounting software, then importing to the PC-based accounting application." As for backups, "most businesses don't do a good job of making backups of their data when it resides on a PC because it is a hassle to do. This puts the company's accounting data in peril in the event the PC hosting the accounting application fails."
"It's good to mention the high-quality reconciliation, cross-referencing, vendor accountability, and cost-center tracking capabilities found in server-based accounting software. Perhaps a word of caution is in order," Smith adds. "It makes sense to retain these capabilities while in the process of automating new Internet or cloud-based (or otherwise isolated) accounting activities. Otherwise, it can be easy to end up with lump-sum amounts and categories in place that take a lot more time to resolve or analyze than before."
A Peek at the Future of Accounting Apps
Gadberry and Smith both agree that one of the big challenges facing accounting software is forecasting technological changes that may affect the genre. "If the vendor supplying the server-based accounting app hasn't modernized the application...the consumer will start looking for another solution [such as one] that provides dashboards, [the ability to attach] documents to invoices in AP, and financial report generators," predicts Gadberry.
"[There has been a] barrage of new requirements for expanding the server-based accounting applications to include interaction with customers using the browser over the Internet," Smith observes. "This often appears quite a bit more challenging than it actually is...most of these applications don’t need to be browser-enabled or replaced by something that runs in a browser. The accounting-related applications that work on the browser should be new in flow, layout, and capability and [intended] for new non-internal users, but yet interact with the database (and applications) already in place. So really what you want to do to solve these new challenges is to develop new self-service mini-application functions that run browser-based HTML5 clients and that are integrated with and complementary to existing server-based systems and databases."
"I can see many server-based accounting and cash-management apps making the mistake of assuming that because things are running smoothly today, that they need not look to the horizon towards implementation of new features or components that can work in conjunction with and improve their own results. I think the risk for hasty replacement of these applications is increasing. One reason is that it is increasingly less difficult for a new company leader to make the case that the application is outdated and that a new application is needed, even though this call to action is essentially unjustified when it is based primarily on appearance and presentation," Smith concludes.
Accounting Applications for IBM i Servers
Listed below are accounting software applications that run on IBM i servers. Each product listing includes a brief description and a hot link to the vendor's product page. Because our focus is on licensed software for use on in-house servers, these listings don't include SaaS or browser-based solutions, of which there are many, unless the solution is also available for licensed, in-house use.
To provide some at-a-glance summary information about the available products, the products descriptions listed below use the following function abbreviations: Accounts Payable (AP), Accounts Receivable (AR), Check Printing (CP), Check Reconciliation (CR), Fixed Assets (FA), Financial Performance (FP), General Ledger (GL), Human Resources (HR), Inventory Control (IC), Order Entry (OE), Order Management (OM), Project Accounting (PA), Payroll (PR), Purchase Orders (PO), and Sales Analysis (SA). This information is compiled from existing online product descriptions and products may be capable of additional functions that aren't mentioned here.
Accounting Software for i5/OS
EZ PayManager/400 handles secure payment processing for enterprises using IBM i servers. It offers secure, fully automated payment delivery for printed and electronic payments. Features include automatic fax and email payment notification, individual check customization, text and graphics substitution, a visual check-template designer, and full audit logs.
Designed primarily for supply chain management, American Software Enterprise is designed for the IBM i and includes extensive functions for AR, AP, and GL, as well as logistics, planning, and manufacturing.
Arkansas Data Services
Financial Accounting Software offers numerous features to support its basic capabilities of AP, CR, GL, and PR. The software includes APIs that let it interact with other IBM i software applications and also supports budgeting and financial-reporting actions. The application is also available on a SaaS basis.
Compu-Tech has developed IBM i-native accounting software with various functional modules. Core features include AP, AR, CP, CR, and GL, as well as budgeting, user-defined subsidiary ledgers, cash receipts, and shipping. An optional payroll module is also available.
GammaSoft Executive Series is a suite of accounting applications that provides AP, AR, GL, HR, IC, and PR functions. Other capacities include bank reconciliation, purchasing, customer relationship management, and maintenance scheduling.
Global Software's iSuite Financials provide AP, AR, FA, GL, OM, PA, and PO functions, as well as cash management, and project and lease accounting.
HarrisData ERP application deliver a modular set of integrated functions that includes accounting, sales, purchasing, inventory and manufacturing.
Infor Enterprise Financial Management includes AP, AR, FA, GL, and IC functions, as well as purchasing and reporting capabilities for Sarbanes-Oxley and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) requirements.
Infor Infinium FMS is a solution for handling accounting functions in large enterprises and is specifically designed for the IBM i. It provides the entire range of accounting and financial software functions, includes extensive financial analysis and business reporting options, and is regularly upgraded to meet the latest financial and business regulatory requirements.
Infor Lawson Financial Management offers AP, AR, FA, and GL as basic functions but is also capable of handling project activity and accounting, grant management, cash and treasury management, expense management, projections and budgeting, and enterprise performance-management analysis.
Kobelt Development Inc. (KDI)
CIS features AP, AR, FA, GL, IC, and OM functions, as well as incident tracking, content and membership management, order entry, and a runtime function that lets users customize and control access to application menus.
CIS-LAMP is a version of CIS with a browser interface.
Mosaic Data Solutions
Mosaic21 provides AP, AR, GL, HR, and PR functions. Additional features include automatic data conversion for selected third-party applications, the ability to handle up to 999 bank accounts, and externally described files that facilitate the use of SQL, query, and report-writer tools.
New Generation Software (NGS)
NGS Concert Series facilitates AP, AR, GL, HR, and PR functions. In addition, it offers multicurrency and not-for-profit organization support, a Microsoft Excel plug-in and facilitated access for Windows users, and online data-entry validation.
JD Edwards World Financial Management, designed for the IBM i, provides AP, AR, FA, and GL functions. It also includes features for multicurrency support, purchase-card management, planning and budgeting, and project management.
Professional Support Group Pty. Ltd.
Integra is a job-costing application that contains full accounting functions for any type of business, including AP, AR, GL, IC, and PR. Additional features include job and project costing, estimating, subcontractor accounting, purchasing, and asset control.
Tegratecs Development Corporation
Financial Portrait offers AP, AR, and GL basic functions. Additional features include support for up to 15 accounting periods, custom report writers, multiple subledgers within each application, and drill-down inquiries.
Unit4 Financials is an accounting and financial-management application that provides AP, AR, FA, GL, as well as budgeting, project-accounting, and spending-management functions. It helps enterprises streamline, automate, and improve business visibility of its financial processes. The product is available either for in-house licensing or as a Software as a Service subscription plan.
Accounting Software for IBM i Servers Running AIX or Linux
Legler Systems Company
Online Business Accounting is designed for AIX and Windows. Its standard accounting features consist of AP, AR, CR, FA, GL, IM, OE, and PO. Other functions include a database control system and a mailing-list system.
MasterTools is accounting software for AIX and Windows that also handles supply-chain management, manufacturing, and project-management activities. Accounting functions include sales-tax management, time and attendance, and cash management, as well as AP, AR, FA, GL, and HR.
OSAS is a customizable accounting and business-management system that runs under AIX, Linux, Windows, and other operating systems. Users can modify its open-sourced code at will, and its basic functions include AP, AR, CR, FA, GL, IC, PO, and PR. It also provides enterprise resource planning capabilities.
Sentinel Hill Software
S5 runs on Linux, UNIX, and Windows and supports DB2, Oracle, SQL, and Sybase file systems. Its major capacities include AP, AR, FA, GL, IM, OM, and PO, as well as order processing, project-time billing, and class-registration invoicing.