In common with many software companies, Coda has, in recent years, had a rather turbulent history. It was purchased in February 1998 for $86.6 million by Baan, the ERP company, who were looking to expand their range of services. Baan, then experienced difficult times financially and, looking to concentrate on its core competencies, resold Coda to Science Systems (of whom more later) for $50milllion

At the heart of Coda-Financials (the General Ledger package that is the raison d'etre of Coda) is an extremely flexible, almost completely user-defined, Chart of Accounts. In this, each Account Number is made up of a number of Element Levels (of which there can be eight). These Levels can each be up to 72 characters in length (but the total for levels also cannot exceed 72 (plus 7 delimiters)), and can represent anything, including different things on the same Level. Each Element can be used, unless otherwise specified, with any other Element on another Level.

As an example the Account Numbers used when allocating a purchase invoice could be as follows:

Element Level
Net Value
Cost of Sales
Revenue stream
Gross Value
Accounts Payable
Input VAT
VAT Rate

It can be seen that the Account Number can contain a different number of Levels, depending on the type of transaction and that a Level can contain more than one type of analysis. In fact virtually the only restriction is that, obviously, you are unable to define the analysis so that more than one type is necessary on each Level. i.e. in the above example, if you wanted to analyse Payables by Location, they would have to defined at different Levels.

As can be seen, this type of system is enormously flexible, but this, one of Coda's main selling points, can also cause problems, as it can require such a radical rethinking process that it is easy to get it wrong and, at the very least, you must ensure that any implementation is not rushed at the expense of testing.

With Coda's main selling points being its flexibility and potential for analysis (as well as its excellent functionality and scalability), they have traditionally concentrated purely on providing a General Ledger package, with no prewritten reports, only a basic set of reportwriters (Browse Balances & Browse Details) and no Purchase and Sales Order Processing.

In order to extract the information in anything but a basic way, you must also buy a specialist report writing package such as Cognos or Crystal Reports. In fact Coda have a partnership agreement with the former and, if you buy Cognos packages, the Catalogue (an easy to use data structure) comes with it.

Coda similarly had a very close relationship with Science Systems, who provided Cadenza (a Sales and Purchase Order Processing package) and RAMS (a basic Data Warehousing package which sits between EPOS and Inventory systems and the General Ledger). Since Science Systems purchased Coda, these have been rebranded Coda-Procurement and Code-Retail.

Coda also has an ultra-thin client version of its software, for use over an internet connection, with only a minimal number of programme files held locally. It can therefore lay claim to providing a complete financial solution for, typically, medium to large size firms, but the time and resource needed for adequate preparation must not be underestimated.

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Attwood Business Consultancy Ltd