UNIT4 CODA Touts Financial App on IBM i
October 5, 2010 Alex Woodie
Among ISVs, few put as much emphasis on independence as UNIT4 CODA. The CODA group, which was bought by the Dutch firm UNIT4 two years ago, has more than 30 years of experience developing what it considers the industry’s best stand-alone financial software package, and delivering it on the most popular server platforms of the day. Recently, the company’s financial software was certified on the latest release of IBM i, which it has supported from the very beginning.
UNIT4 CODA, although fiercely independent, has one thing in common with another IBM i ISV Infor: they both rail against “Big ERP” and the dangers of adopting “monolithic” enterprise resource planning packages that don’t fit the needs of its customers and restrict their ability to adapt.
The big difference, of course, is that Infor (ironically) is one of the biggest software vendors on the planet, with dozens of ERP products, tens of thousands of ERP customers, and billions in revenues from ERP software sales. UNIT4 CODA, on the other hand, isn’t even in the ERP business, and has but a single product, called CODA Financials. The software’s functions include: general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, project accounting, billing, budgeting and forecasting, spend management, and reporting and business intelligence features.
The single-product philosophy and laser-like focus on accounting software has been with the company since it was founded in the U.K. in 1979, says Steve Pugh, CEO of UNIT4 CODA, which is based in Manchester, New Hampshire.
“We started as a best of class financial package on the HP3000,” Pugh says. “When we looked to expand the company, rather than expand the product set, we decided to stick with what we’re good at, which is best of breed financials, and write for the next hot platform, which in those days  was the VAX.”
In 1988, CODA adapted the product to run on the next big thing: the AS/400. In the late 1990s, the British firm moved to support the popular client-server platforms of the day. Today, the company supports more than 3,500 customers around the world. Those organizations run on more than 20 combinations of operating systems and databases. UNIT4–a $500million outfit that develops an ERP package for Windows–bought CODA in 2008, but lets Pugh run it as a separate entity.
UNIT4 is happy to let CODA differentiate itself on the market, which often means disparaging the Big ERP way of doing business.
Just Accounting, Thanks
“We believe that we offer much deeper and more sophisticated functionality” than the accounting modules found in ERP suites, Pugh says.
For starters, the whole product set is based on a single relational database, which simplifies account reconciliation. “You may hear people talking about AR, AP, and GL in the accounting world. And typically they’re separate modules, and then you get this waterfall of data at the end of the month or accounting period,” Pugh says. “CODA doesn’t do that. CODA brings a relational database model to accounting. It’s like one big database of figures.”
Other strong points, according to Pugh, are the product’s support for multiple currencies, its capability to support multiple companies within a single implementation, and its flexible coding structure. “In a lot of products, you build the coding system for the business that you have now. If that business changes, you’ve got to, in effect, do a re-implementation,” he says. With CODA Financials, “when your business changes, you’re not straight-jacketed by the coding system you brought in.”
Pugh admits that there are “purpose-built” ERP products on the market that target a particular industry. “But they don’t always fit the businesses that are in that space. They might do 60 percent of it,” he says. “We find we’re attractive to people who are building their own operational systems, because that’s important to them. But last thing they want to do is build a back-office accounting engine.”
Supporting IBM i
Last week, UNIT4 CODA announced that the CODA Financial package is now available for IBM i 7.1. Less than 10 percent of the company’s customers run on AS/400, iSeries, System i, and IBM i-based Power Systems hardware. But since they tend to be larger companies, the deals with IBM i shops account for about 30 percent of the group’s revenues, according to Pugh.
“We wanted to get ourselves certified to run on 7.1 as quickly as we possibly could,” Pugh says. “We’re making a statement that we’re very much committed to that platform.
CODA Financials is a good fit for IBM i shops “because they tend to like best of class software,” Pugh says. “They tend to have different systems that suit them fine, and they’re less inclined to do the monolithic ERP thing, which obviously suits us, because we aren’t in the ERP market.”
One of the advantages of the CODA Financial software is that it runs natively on the IBM i platform, Pugh says. Although it’s written in Java, the software takes advantage of as many of the operating systems’ unique hooks as possible, he says. The company uses the latest “IBM Technology for Java” JVMs and IBM Java tools, ensuring that it runs as secure and as fast as possible under IBM i 7.1.
In terms of integration, most IBM i shops use the less sophisticated method of calling the product’s routines. More sophisticated IBM i shops can use Java and XML-based Web Services to create a slick integration between CODA Financials and their core operational or ERP systems.
CODA Financials version 11.3 is currently shipping. Implementations start at about $50,000. For more information, see the CODA webpage on the UNIT4 website at www.unit4.com/products/coda.