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Cougar Mountain 2006 Business Partner Conference


Hi All,

As most of you know I spent last week at an Accounting software Seminar. It was hosted by Cougar Mountain. A lot of it was specific to that company, but a good deal was generic.

On the sales tax front. We seem to be on the bleeding edge, but everyone is catching up fast. One of the distributors there spent a great deal of money fighting sales from Iowa into Illinois and mentioned he was even threatened with arrest when he was at a meeting with Illinois tax people in that state. Another from the state of Washington said that retail sales were covered by sales tax but wholesale sales were covered by a business use tax. There is also in the Midwest a 10 state sales tax consortium being set up. Tying sales tax to the shipping address was listed as a wave of the future. All in all, I think we can expect to see major improvements in tax software over the next year or two as the demand seems to be there.

Cougar went over itís development methodology. They broke it down into several concepts. The first of these was the traditional or silo development method. This is described as a group of developers working independently on separate projects. They then discussed the MSF team module and finished up with the Microsoft Process module which seems to be MSís latest idea.

The process method emphasis is communication within the team. It starts with visionerring, goes to project specs, followed by scoping, coding and completion. One interesting point is that any changes to the original specs are resisted as possibly causing runaway problems. A lot of talk was made about resources allocation. The model seems a good idea that reduces problems. Other issues discussed were layaways, payments out of AR and restocking fees.

We also had a talk by Tim Berry, regarding business planning. The points he made that I thought were most interesting are:

Plans must be measurable - A business plan that does not have measurable results is worthless.
During meetings regardless of length most of the work gets done in the last 15 minutes.
Just being profitable doesnít mean you are OK.

He also commented on the differences between Tax accounting - backward and detail vs Business Plans forward and summary.

Another area of discussion was inventory. Again I have the impression we are not alone - but then I never thought we were. One comment was that inventory adjustments can hid sales problems. There was a good deal of discussion on bill of materials. Another concept brought up was the idea of coupons for things people have never bought.

We also had a presentation by a company called Applianz. They have a product out that allows desktop applications to run on the internet. It also, handles printing from the internet regardless of printer type. They admitted exceptions particularly regarding receipt printers. The first interesting thing about this is that it would improve remote access to both the horses head and SBT. The second is that they are almost ready to release a backup service. Even as set up now it would seem that one of their boxes would allow us to set up a remote internet site that could be turned on quickly with little data loss in case of a catastrophe. Price for a 10 user system is $6,000 for a 40 user system $16,000. This is the system that Cougar uses for itís on line demoís of itís desk top applications.

There was a day about SQL as well. Cougarís Denali product which is out in POS is moving into general accounting. It is a great deal cheaper then Sage/ACCPAC/SBT PRO. Robert and Chris are probably aware of this but the comment was made that you should always move pages to the beginning before shrinking a database. This can apparently save a lot of spaces. The description of Enterprise manager was relatively simplistic. I think we all know it better then what was discussed. - Nice feeling though. DTS services was also discussed and I did get a bit out of that. One significant comment about it was that in SQL 2005 it is gone it is replaced by Integration services in Visual Studio 2005.

Security was a common discussion. Most there didnít like the idea of an accounting system on the web. To much possibility for data theft. One area I hadnít though of was theft of the customer list. I donít believe we have any protections against this. There was general agreement that Quickbooks is the least secure ďaccounting systemĒ around. Another concept Iíd not thought about was that when looking for questionable transactions always check accounts that should have little activity and have lots.

Well if anyone has any questions feel free to ask me.

Bill Couture