SunSystems, as Systems Union's financial software package is generically known, is marketed as a number of modules that can be purchased individually.

They are grouped into SunAccounts, which comprises
Ledger Accounting
Asset Register
Corporate Allocations

and SunBusiness
Sales Order Processing
Purchase Order Processing
Inventory Control

Sun pioneered the use of an integrated Chart of Accounts, there are no separate Sub-Ledgers. Instead, each individual Debtor and Creditor is, typically, allocated an account number in a discrete range in the Chart of Accounts. The account numbers are usually structured in such a way that they can be extracted easily for reporting purposes.

When launched SunSystems proved an instant hit and expanded to the point where it has 20,000 users in 187 countries.

More recently it has been unable to stay ahead of the pack, as competitors have adopted its ideas and Sun's own offerings have suffered from delays.

However, Sun's purchase, in May 2000, by (who promptly renamed themselves Systems Union) appears to have given the company a new impetus and resulted in Version 5 of the software finally becoming available.

There are currently two versions of Sun on the market - Versions 4 and 5.

Version 4 has been on the market for some years, in it analysis is performed by the use of up to 10 user defined "T" Codes ("M" Codes in Sun Business), which can be attached to each transaction.

The long awaited Version 5, originally "launched" in October 1998, but only available from 2002 contains a number of changes. It still has 10 analysis codes (they have dropped T and M) per transaction, but these are augmented by a further 10 Static Analysis codes, that can be attached to each analysable entity (e.g. customer). The most obvious change is in the user interface, which is now of the Windows Explorer type. A very useful addition is the ability to have more than one session open at a time (so no more having to abandon the entry of a document, in order to set up a new account code).

Some of the most major changes occur behind the scenes. Although the table containing the transactional data for Ledger Accounting, remains unchanged, most of the other tables have changed (and their number increased).

Both versions of Sun come with a number of pre-defined reports and functional, but fairly basic, reportwriting tools. In order to get the best of its analytical capabilities you need to invest in a specialist package. The Vision suite of products is the reportwriter normally sold with Sun and Version 5 can additionally use Actuate for web-based reporting. Equally more general packages, such as Crystal Reports or Cognos can be used, although Sun's data table structure makes reporting upon it far from easy.

Even before the release of Version 5 Sun has proven itself to be extremely popular and scalable, as is evident from the existing client base. We, certainly, have found it to be an excellent solution for most small to medium sized business' financial requirements, if properly installed and maintained.

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Attwood Business Consultancy Ltd