The 1998 FA Shootout Results

PC's Specifications and Vendors' Details

Feature Table

Survey Methodology

The Best Budget PC

The FA shootout (1998) was our third shootout of financial accounting packages. The earlier ones having been conducted in 1992 and 1995. The 1998 shootout had nine contenders. The number of contenders would have been higher had we not decided to exclude pure DOS-based packages. The shootout brought out some surprising facts.

Trends in the FA market

FA packages now have a commodity core

In earlier years, it was possible to dismiss packages on grounds such as the lack of availability of cost centers, or multiple location inventory, or inability to match bills with payments. It’s no longer possible to do so. Most FA features are now commodities, and nearly all the packages have a common core. Packages now differentiate themselves on the basis of even more sophisticated features. Unfortunately, many of these esoteric features might not have universal applicability. For example, Tally allows you to create virtual trees of budgets. This is a wonderful feature for organizations that use budgets as a primary tool for control, but might not be essential for other organizations. A similar case can be made for the cost-center-trees allowed by packages such as Tally or E-X. The bottom line is that users should now read all the fine print before deciding on a package.

GUI integration remains poor

Windows integration was an Achilles’ heel for most of the products reviewed. Only two of nine packages managed to do really well on this score: E-X and Wings on Windows. E-X has managed the transition to Win 95 beautifully and manages to leverage the Win 95 interface completely. Wings on Windows is also well integrated but suffers from a scroll-bar problem. The big disappointment here was Tally. Tally virtually ignores the Win 95 design guidelines and sticks to its dated Gateway to Tally interface.

Most vendors cite backward compatibility as a stumbling block to revamping interfaces. Providing continuity to existing users is important, but one should balance this with the expectations of potential new users.

Support is as important as ever

The average FA package now has features that run into hundreds. While computer literacy levels amongst users have gone up considerably, we feel that the average user is going to need some handholding to get the most out of his FA package. This is particularly true for features such as report writers or document designers. We fully expect support costs to overtake acquisition costs.

The ratings

Table I and II contain the overall scores for each package. Table I lists the functional scores for each package. Functional scores were allocated for each of the four areas: general ledger, sales/purchase accounting, accounts receivable/payable and inventory management. Scores range from 1 to 4 for each functional area. A score of 4 indicates that the package has superb features and is more likely to meet all your requirements in this area. A score of 3 indicates good features for that particular area but the package might not be able to do everything you want. A score of 2 indicates a high probability that you’ll not be satisfied with the features provided, while a score of 1 indicates minimal features.

Functional scores (Table I)

FA package General ledger Sales/purchase Inventory AR/AP Total
WinCA 3 4 3 3 13
AccountsPlus 2 2 2 2 8
EX-NG 4 3 2 4 13
Digital FA Gold 3 4 3 3 13
Account 3 3 3 3 12
Tally 4 4 4 4 16
Birdy 2000 3 4 4 3 14
Wings on Windows 3 3 3 3 12
ERPSoft LE 1 2 2 1 6
Note: Scores range from 1 to 4 in each area. A higher score is indicative of better features in that area.
The scores are an indicator of the capabilities of the package in a particular area. The scores are not an absolute index of the capabilities of the package. Many packages contain novel implementations that are impossible to factor into a scoring mechanism. Such features are not reflected in the scores but are covered in the write up on each package. We recommend that you use the scores to get a feel for the strengths and weaknesses of the package, read the review for the finer details and then make up your mind.

Table II gives the overall rating of the package. It lists the total score for the four functional areas along with two other scores—overall coverage and Windows integration. The overall coverage score is an indicator of how many possible computerization areas are addressed by the package. A score of 4 indicates that the package can computerize a large number of areas in your organization while a score of 1indicates that the package compu-terizes very little aside from conventional book keeping. Note that this score may be at variance with the score obtained in Table I, a package may address a lot of areas but not do any of them very well. The Windows integration score reflects the capability of the designers to leverage the Win 95 environment.

And the winner is...

None. There is no overall winner this year. Packages that top in the features league have poor Windows integration and vice versa. We do, however, have a set of qualified winners.

Overall scores (Table II)

FA package Functional total Overall coverage Windows integration Price (Rs)
WinCA 13 4 2 15,000
AccountsPlus 8 2 2 1,950
EX-NG 13 3 4 11,950
Digital FA Gold 13 3 3 6,750
Account 21 12 3 3 7,950
Tally 16 4 2 18,000
Birdy 2000 14 4 1 70,000*
Wings on Windows 12 3 4 17,980+
ERPSoft LE 6 2 2 2,970

* LAN version       + Rs 27,975 with Advanced Power Pack LAN version       + Rs 27,975 with Advanced Power Pack

The best features award goes to: Tally

Tally remains the package if your criterion for buying is hard hitting features. Chances are that if the feature you desire can be found in a packaged solution, then it’ll be present in Tally. The only disadvantage of Tally is that it retains its DOS lineage, making virtually no use of the Win 95 environment.

The best value-for-money award goes to: Digital FA Gold

Digital FA Gold is for you if you want a decent set of features at a low price. This package offers the best features-price trade off in the market coupled with a good interface. The features in this package should be more than adequate for many small-medium enterprises.

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