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The Future of Sage BusinessVision (BV)

Separate fact from fiction, and understand your options

Sage BusinessVision (BV) is fading, sadly. It has not yet been discontinued, most recently confirmed by Sage in September, 2015. However, it is being downplayed by Sage and is not being well-maintained.

There have been rumours floating around, and if you haven't been getting calls or e-mails yet (including from Sage itself) urging you to discard BusinessVision and replace it, you soon will.

So what do you need to know about all this, and what should you do? What's the future of BV? Stay calm, and read on.

Summary - What You need To Know First:

  • There is NO urgent need to replace BusinessVision right today - despite what Sage might tell you
  • Sage thinks and hopes you'll switch to another Sage product, namely Sage 300 Online, and they'll tell you your only viable option is another Sage product
  • We think that, at this moment, Sage don't actually have an appropriate replacement for BusinessVision
  • There actually IS a really great replacement option: Add BVEssentials to work alongside BusinessVision now, and plan the simple migration to Spire Software when you're ready
  • BVEssentials / Spire is the way to keep all your data and all the functionality you love, but move forward with more modern software, real support and continued development of new and useful features

And Now for the Longer Version

If you are a Sage BusinessVision user, by now you've probably have been hearing that Sage have decreased their investment in BusinessVision, and you've seen no major new features or capabilities in several years, despite steady increases in Sage Business Care charges each year. For the BusinessVision 2015 release in October 2014, there are only a very small number of tiny changes, all of which are minor bug fixes or small report changes.

You may even have heard from certain unscrupulous resellers of competing applications that BusinessVision has already been killed, but that part is simply not true, and they know it.

What we do know, though, is that BusinessVision does not allow a login date after December 31, 2020. According to Sage, this is "the result of an architectural decision that was made many years ago" (that is, when BusinessVision was patched to be Y2K-compliant). As of October, 2014, Sage has no plans to fix it, but have agreed to look at what it will take to fix.

Update: As of September, 2015, Sage have told Partners that "we'll probably fix it [the 2020 limitation], but only if we have enough users left to bother" - but they won't commit to when they'll do it, or even that will do it for sure.

So, we have to proceed on the assumption that there appears to be no case where BusinessVision will be a useable solution after 2020. That seems far away now, but six years will actually pass pretty quickly. This is not grounds for panic, but rather for planning and preparation.

That said, you and other BusinessVision users are justifiably concerned about what all this means for your businesses.

Well, the time has come to face facts. While Sage insists (as of September 2015) that they will no longer use the term "end of life" regarding BusinessVision, and that they are "committed to BusinessVision", it is clear that they also do not intend to invest in its future in any meaningful way. Any future updates will continue to be very limited in scope, and they will continue to try very hard to convince BusinessVision users to switch to other Sage products. They no longer even include BusinessVision on the Sage Canada website.

Therefore, it is definitely time for BusinessVision users to start considering their options.

What Sage are doing on this is something new: Since October, 2014, any Sage Business Care (annual maintenance) plan renewals were upgraded to the Gold package for the same price as the existing Bronze package. This upgrade adds free phone support from Sage and a few other benefits.

Key among these other benefits is that they will be adding in a subscription to Sage 300 Online (see more on this below) for the same number of users you have in BusinessVision.

The idea is to get BusinessVision users to migrate to Sage 300 Online, and pay the same annual fees as they're paying now. In other words, they're positioning Sage 300 as the future evolution for BusinessVision users, unless you want to pay additional fees and move to Sage 300 installed on-premises (on your own network).

Despite what Sage thinks, and despite what they and some of their resellers will try to tell you, though, it's not at all clear that Sage 300 (Online or on-premises) is in fact a suitable replacement for BusinessVision at all - certainly not for all users. However, they think the uncertainty will lead you to move to a bigger, more-expensive solution from them instead, just because they're Sage and you'll think they're the only game in town. They're not.

The good news: There is a simple, cost-effective way forward that lets you keep all the things you like about BusinessVision and move ahead to the future at the same time.

What will Sage tell you to do?

Sage will tell you (probably energetically so) that if you use BusinessVision or were thinking of using it, your only choices are the few options that they offer:

  • Sage One - an online (hosted, browser-based) entry-level system for a modest monthly fee
  • Sage 50 Accounting (formerly Simply Accounting) - the current version of the very old Simply Accounting product from the mid-1980's
  • Sage 300 - the current incarnation of what was once called ACCPAC; the traditional in-house software purchase version, which is still available after all these years
  • Sage 300 Online - the webified, hosted version of Sage 300

None of these options is going to be the right one for the vast majority of BusinessVision users. (Want to know why? Look below for the section "why use...")

OK, so What SHOULD you do, then?

The great news is that there are three better paths available for existing BusinessVision users as well as companies that were considering BusinessVision for the first time.

Option 1. Stay where you are:

There may actually be no reason to change. If you go this way, get everything current on BusinessVision, stay there, but stop paying for Sage Business Care (annual maintenance).

  • BusinessVision runs fine on all the latest operating systems (up to Windows 8.1 and Server 2012) and with all the current versions of Microsoft Office and other applications
  • If it works for you today and your needs don't change, it may work for you right up until December 31, 2020 (see comments above on the built-in 2021 login limitation)
  • The only thing you lose by not renewing with Sage is the ability to get Payroll Updates, and there are other ways to accomplish Payroll (third-party application or payroll service)
Option 2. Start the move to BVEssentials / Spire:

BVEssentials is a third-party application that integrates closely with your BusinessVision data and adds a wide range of additional functionality, all while keeping a workflow that's familiar to BusinessVision users.

Here's what that means today and going forward:

  • Today, BVEssentials adds functionality beyond what you're used to in BusinessVision modules; it replaces some modules entirely (notably, Order Entry)
  • It's fast, flexible, easy, more robust (goodbye partial postings!) than BusinessVision and much more versatile
  • It has been working well for over 1,000 companies and has been in use for over 10 years
  • Very active development - new functionality is being released every single month
  • Most recently, they have added complete versions of AR, AP, GL and Payroll that can replace those same modules in BusinessVision

Now, BVEssentials has evolved to its next generation, called Spire.

  • Spire is a complete, standalone replacement for BusinessVision
  • It has all the functionality of BusinessVision and more, with far greater ease-of-use, a modern database, and enthusiastic support and ongoing development
  • Companies that purchased BVEssentials before July 2015 will get their licenses upgraded to Spire at no extra cost.
  • Companies purchasing Spire now can install it now, or add BVEssentials to BusinessVision for the moment, and upgrade to Spire when they're ready
  • Very important note: Spire will retain ALL your BusinessVision history

In summary, Spire is designed to be easier, faster and more robust than BusinessVision; it's more flexible, more capable and far, far better-maintained. It does everything BusinessVision does and a LOT more.

Option 3. Look elsewhere

Start looking into other third-party accounting / business management solutions from Sage or other vendors. Certainly, there's lots of good software out there, at various price points.

However, you can assume that to get something better than BusinessVision, you'll likely pay a lot more, and the odds of migrating all your historical data are slim to none.

Your most secure way forward to the future is to move to Spire, or add BVEssentials now and seamlessly move to Spire when you're ready.

Why use BVEssentials / Spire over one of the Sage products?

We've explained above why the BVEssentials / Spire path makes a lot of sense for a lot of users. But what about the Sage options they'll be pitching?

  • Sage One is very, very limited. No inventory, and if you don't need that, there are other, better options available at the same cost or less (some even free). Even Sage won't really talk this option up
  • Sage 50 (formerly Simply Accounting) is a lower-end option than BusinessVision. It's come a long way since its days as Bedford Accounting in the early 1990's, and it's a decent product given its low price point. However, it just does not scale, and it's missing a lot of features that BusinessVision users need every day
  • Sage 300 is really expensive compared to BusinessVision, a lot more complex, and huge overkill for most BusinessVision users. It's also Batch-based - which means it's NOT real-time. Transactions are accumulated in batches, which must be manually posted. At the end of each day, you need to run Day-End Processing. At month-end, you need to manually run Month-End Processing. Until you do, your books are not actually up-to-date.

    It also suffers from the same aging platform issues as BusinessVision has. Sage will offer some compelling price points to try to get BusinessVision users to move to it, but don't forget: implementation will be complex and expensive, and annual maintenance charges will eventually be based on the list price of the software, so your annual costs would go way up, as would your total cost of ownership (TCO)

  • Sage 300 Online is the option Sage is positioning as the future for BusinessVision users. However, it has multiple weaknesses that make it difficult to see it as a choice for the kinds of businesses that rely on BusinessVision now, including:
    • it's hosted - which means you need to ask:
      • Who owns the data?
      • What happens the day you don't want to pay any more?
      • What happens the day they decide in 5 or 10 years that they don't want to offer it any more?
      • What happens the day your Internet connection is down?
      • How well is it secured?
      • What happens if there's a breach?
      • Where is the data (clue: it's in the US...), and what does this mean for your privacy and that of your customers?
      • As of this writing, Sage they they're 'thinking' about encrypting backups (not live data - there is no plan to do that); they're 'thinking' of developing tools to let you extract the data (YOUR data) from their system if you want to leave or they discontinue it. Even then, the best you'll get is a bunch of unrelated Excel sheets that you can't access like an accounting system.
    • It's a brand new offering - i.e., nowhere near tried & true, and yet it is decidedly NOT a modern application:
      • It is based on the exact same codebase as Sage 300 on-premise (which is itself the re-branded Sage ACCPAC)
      • It was not written as a web app, but rather a "web-i-fying' wrapper was created to allow the existing application to be made to look like a web app
      • As of this writing, much of that codebase is still programmed and maintained using Visual Basic 6, which Microsoft discontinued support for in 2008. They say they have been upgrading some of the code to newer technologies, but only incrementally. Sage can't tell us when or if the entire app will ever be rewritten with modern tools
    • It's overkill for the vast majority of BusinessVision users, yet lacks some basic functionality that has long been in BusinessVision
    • Batch-based workflow - Like the on-premises version, everything in Sage 300 Online is batch-based, which means it's NOT real-time. Transactions are accumulated in batches, which must be manually posted. At the end of each day, you need to run Day-End Processing. At month-end, you need to manually run Month-End Processing. Until you do, your books are not actually up-to-date
    • Multiple companies - if you want to run 2 or more companies (many BusinessVision users do), you must pay another incremental subscription price for each user of each company. As of now, they're 'thinking' about reviewing that
    • Credibility - Sage do not have a great track record of creating web-based anything that's easy to use or efficient. Have you ever tried to navigate their customer portal? Their main website? At last check, Sage 300 Online ONLY runs on Internet Explorer, and only certain versions. They're 'thinking' about adding the ability to use other browsers
    • Historical data - as of October, 2014, Sage said they were working on data migration tools from BusinessVision to Sage 300, and had made some progress. However, they still could not (or would not) say how much of your BusinessVision data they would be able or prepared to convert
    • Price - Sage have been offering Sage 300 Online at around the same price as your BusinessVision annual fees, but only for a set period. After that, the regular price starts at $69 per user, per month, per company data set - forever. For a typical BusinessVision client with two active companies, that's $69 x 10 users x 2 companies x 12 months = $16,560 per year, every year.
NONE of these Sage options transfers all your years of BusinessVision data.

No comprehensive conversion tool is currently available. Apparently a third-party company was in the process of developing one that they planned to offer on a service basis; expected price point was reported to approach $10,000 per company data set just for the conversion. However, since Sage is now working on a conversion tool of their own, this is all now an open question. Quality, completeness of conversions and cost will be anyone's guess until it's out and available for testing

Has Sage really served your interests so far?

Sage has not demonstrated loyalty to the users who have made their business possible, nor to the Business Partners like us who have been in the field keeping our clients happy for all these years. Why would anyone assume that they'll be more loyal to you in the future?

Spire logo medium2

What is Spire?

We've mentioned Spire above, but maybe you've never even heard of it. What is it, and why should you care?

Spire is nothing less than the future for BusinessVision users.

Spire software was initially developed as BVEssentials. In its earliest form, it was a BusinessVision add-on to handle more flexible order management. From there, it expanded functionality - slowly at first, then much more quickly since about 2011, once it started to become clear that Sage was no longer putting any significant development resources into BusinessVision.

Over the course of 2013 and 2014, BVEssentials has become very close to a full-on BusinessVision replacement, but still relies on certain functions being done within BusinessVision.

By early 2015, BVEssentials branched off to a new brand, Spire, as a fully-functional BusinessVision replacement.

Spire retains the same user interface as BVEssentials — so your BVEssentials users will have virtually no learning curve — but will contain all your data. No more need for the legacy BusinessVision data — all your data will be moved to a modern and robust database (PostgreSQL) and will get other major under-the-hood improvements as well.

Spire will literally handle all the functions from BusinessVision. Most of them are easier to use in Spire than they were in BusinessVision. But wait, there's more ... Spire has loads of functionality that goes miles past BusinessVision.

Importantly, Spire is the next generation of real software built for real businesses. It is not designed to be all things to all people, but it completely fills that niche of businesses with needs beyond a Simply Accounting level, and not anywhere near the Sage 300 / ACCPAC level (or budget).

Spire is being very actively developed. It's so active that they routinely issue multiple updates in a month, and these updates can be managed quite easily. They routinely add features and functions based on requests from even a single user of the system. Their quality control of this development is excellent.

Spire LISTENS, both to end users and to their reseller partners. I have personally seen an off-hand suggestion to the folks at Spire filter into their development cycle within a matter of weeks. They listen, they say "yes, that sounds like a feature our users can use, and it would be simple - let's do it!". I have also seen bugs reported and fixed in under a week.

Spire is determined to completely replace BusinessVision over the next few years. Since Sage is no longer actively developing BusinessVision, it will go by the wayside eventually. Something needs to replace it, because it has always filled an important market niche, but that niche becomes unfilled with its retirement. Spire can fill that niche.

How do I migrate from BusinessVision to Spire?

First, start by embracing BVEssentials now - you can buy Spire licenses but install BVEssentials alongside BusinessVision until you're ready for Spire. With BVEssentials, you can start enjoying all the benefits of easier use, expanded functionality, and no need to renew your Sage Business Care (annual maintenance plan). Once you're ready to move up to Spire, your licenses are already in place, so there's no extra license cost.

You can migrate to Spire all at once, or over time, by migrating some functions to BVEssentials now, then more over time as users are ready. For example, many companies are migrating order entry / order management to BVEssentials initially, and then moving AR, AP, and GL there as they get more comfortable. That way, once you're ready to move to Spire, you can flip the switch and have very little incremental change.

And remember: with BVEssentials / Spire, you get to keep ALL of your historical BusinessVision data.

If you would like to look at your options to move forward with Spire to ultimately replace BusinessVision, please give me a call. We can discuss your current situation, your current pain points, and some options for a smooth transition away from BusinessVision at a pace that makes sense for you. Maybe that means you'll be off BusinessVision in a year, or maybe it means 5 years. It totally depends on what's best for your company.

Spire is the future of BusinessVision. The folks at Sage may not like that much, but their efforts to keep the users of BusinessVision in the Sage family (ultimately at a much higher price point) are simply not in the best interests of the vast majority of those users.

Move to the next generation of software in three easy steps:

1. Keep BusinessVision, and add BVEssentials now, and of course, stop paying Sage.

2. Get more and more of your accounting functions off BusinessVision and into BVEssentials over time, with the goal of maximizing BVEssentials by the end of this year.

3. Once you are ready to make the leap, upgrade from BusinessVision and BVEssentials to Spire.

By this time next year, you could be
set for the next 10 years or more.

It's that simple.

Spire logo medium2

Charles Pezzack
Kirby, Pezzack And Associates Inc.

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