Yesterday I talked with a potential client. One of the questions was: «What are the strengths and weaknesses of iScala?» Hard question. Not because it is difficult in itself, but because there can be no strengths or weaknesses of the system itself, strengths or weaknesses can only be in comparison with something else, with some other system. In Russia, everything is always compared to a system whose name consists of one number and one letter (I don’t want to say it out loud). It has more than a million installations and in terms of prevalence nothing can compare with it. But I am not an expert on this program, although I have some idea, and therefore I will try to speculate about the strengths and weaknesses of iScala based on my own ideas about what is good and what is «not very good.» Of course, this is my personal subjective opinion.
To begin with, everyone sees the ideal system in its own way. How do you like this look (an attempt to place everything on one screen)?
Probably the perfect keyboard for this system is the following:
But seriously, this is a sample of the worst practices in the field of programming and program design. Although someone may like it very much :)
Now let’s talk about iScala
The biggest strength of iScala, in my opinion, is that it is a parametrically configurable system. This concept is described in some detail in my article «Path to a dead end» or «Is the ERP system written by own employee so cheap?»
In short, parametrically configurable are systems that are configurable using parameters. These parameters may be “Global” or refer to one branch and / or a separate financial year. Parameters can be independent or interdependent, when the action of one parameter can change the action of another parameter. The number of these parameters, depending on the functionality used, can be measured in hundreds or even thousands, and their configuration should be carried out by the most experienced staff and / or consultants during the implementation of the system, a simple user should not be able to do this.
In contrast to the first, programmable systems adapt to the requirements of the business not by means of the correct answer to the question-parameter, but by adding the program code
Now a little more about parametrically configurable systems:
Advantages: Versatility: Availability of support from the vendor of the software product, the ability to use the services of the Hotline support service, scalability, ease of version upgrades, little time that the “external” consultant should spend to figure out exactly how your system should work.
Disadvantages: Lack of flexibility: If you can not do «in the forehead», you have to invent workarounds. Because of the need for the system to check a large number of parameters, the speed may be lower than that of the “programmable” system.
Comment: In my opinion, the advantages of this approach are much more substantial than the minuses
What gives such an approach? It gives a very important thing: Universality. Having adjusted the system to your needs with the help of a set of parameters, you can be sure that by contacting the “Hotline” consultant by phone, he should help you. And installing a new version of a parametrically configured system does not make it necessary to completely rewrite everything that was “acquired by overwork” (of programmers).
Of course, there is always the flip side of the coin: less flexibility
Modern versions of iScala have a wide range of additional features to increase this flexibility: the integration mechanism with other systems or within iScala itself, called Epicor Service Connect, which can work with or without user participation, the ability to use the built-in VBA programming language (in rare cases when without this, there is absolutely nothing to do), the so-called «snap searches» and more.
The second important advantage of iScala is openness to the best technologies: use all the capabilities of the Microsoft SQL Server database server, including the best, in my opinion, MS SQL Server Reporting Services reporting tool. If Russian accounting programs often use their own information storage formats, and for building reports, you need to use “internal” tools, as well as to view them you must “log in” to the system, then when creating reports based on information from iScala, you can use common tools , and for viewing reports it is not necessary to be a user of the system. For example, in the company SoyuzBaltKomplekt LLC, where I worked as CIO from 2004 to 2009, iScala users were about 75 people, while reports other than these 75 users could be viewed by about 150 people, who didn’t even know what iScala is looked like. Reports can be run on a schedule and receive by e-mail.
The third advantage is the logging of changes and the inability to completely delete the entered documents and postings
In particular, if you entered the invoice to the customer (and / or sent the accounting transaction to the General Ledger), then you cannot delete it, just enter a correction invoice (or transaction). Perhaps accountants who are accustomed to “clean up” everything, so that “there are no traces left” will say that this is not an advantage, but a disadvantage, but I do not agree with that, because the ability to hide changes made often leads to abuse and / or theft.
Fourth — end-to-end information flow and distribution of duties. Information in the system moves from one person to another. One person begins to enter, for example, an employee of the sales department; another person continues to work on its basis, for example, an employee of the production department, then a third person, an employee of the purchasing department. Then — the storekeeper, taking the materials to the warehouse, then — the accountant, entering invoices for the purchased materials and transportation costs with reference to a specific purchase, etc. And again — production, sales, etc. And each of them must provide a certain degree of detail needed by those who receive the information, be it the employee standing next in the chain of its movement, or the manager, its final recipient, and the system, using the settings made, makes it so that according to the results of the work of the storekeeper, who has no idea about the accounts, the correct accounting transactions are created for the warehouse. In the latest versions of iScala, mobile applications have appeared that allow warehouse staff to use a smartphone and a camera built into it to scan the bar codes and perform actions in the system without departing from the shelf with the goods. And a manager may approve a purchase request from his smartphone directly from the car.
And iScala works in 30 languages in many countries of the world :)
Weaknesses, can you avoid them? :)
Most serious weakness is lack of a sufficient number of potential employees with knowledge of iScala. In Russia, all accountants know how to work with the program (we will not mention its name) and very few know how to work with iScala.
In addition, according to users: «such an expensive program, it is also necessary to enter data into it?!!!» :) Yes, you must enter data into iScala (with the exception of data received via the Epicor Service Connect mechanism), artificial intelligence is not built into it. And the user who makes the data must be adequate and understand what he/she is doing, and not just waving the barcode scanner «right and left.» It is desirable for a new employee to undergo internal training as part of the entry procedures.
Companies that use iScala are recommended to have their own system administrator. This is not mandatory, but highly desirable.
iScala does not know how to make coffee and sandwiches :)
In individual cases, some users may be allergic to individual components of the system due to bias and unwillingness to accept everything that looks different than it is used to :)