Posts Tagged ‘ Sage Training ’

Sage Training

Sage Instant Accounts 2013

Sage Instant Accounts 2013

My main business, and the one I enjoy the most, has always been helping people to get the most out of their Sage Accounts and Payroll software through my one-to-one bespoke Sage training. I find it very rewarding to pass on my years of knowledge on how to be a great bookkeeper, and how to manage your own company’s accounts.

However, I have always struggled to be able to provide course documentation for my Sage courses, as the sessions are always very bespoke and customer led.  My trainees always have to make their own notes, as each training session is so unique that preparing course material to leave with them would be impossible.

Although there is no substitute for one-to-one Sage training and hand holding, I know that some of my customers would benefit from a Sage manual to refer to when the training is over, as often there is a gap between being trained and actually being able to use the software.  A step-by-step guide to remind you of those less commonly used areas would really be useful.

So I am very pleased to be able to offer training manuals, in partnership with Softext, for Sage Instant Accounts, Sage 50 and Sage Payroll, which I can leave with the client once the training is completed.  The prices of these manuals are very reasonable, and they are well written and easy to understand, even for beginners.

Contact us for a full price list of the manuals we have available.

Understanding Sage Transaction Numbers

In Sage 50 and Sage Instant Accounts, every time you update an invoice, make or receive and payment, make a journal entry or do anything which impacts the nominal ledger, Sage creates new transaction records, and numbers them sequentially starting from 1.  This is called the Audit Trail and can be viewed by clicking Company >Financials.

The Sage Financials Window

Historically these transaction numbers were not static.  If you decided to clear your audit trail after the year end, Sage would delete any transactions which had been completely finished with (see my post on Spring Cleaning your Accounts Software for more information).  The system would then create new opening balances and rebuild the audit trail starting with 1, and all the transactions would be renumbered.

The problem is that many companies, when doing their bookkeeping ,would use this transaction number as a unique ID to identify invoices or journals – which meant that tracing historical data after clearing the audit trail could prove difficult.

Why does my Sage Audit Trail have Missing Transaction Numbers?

Sage Support used to get calls about these numbers changing quite regularly, so they have now changed the system so that once a transaction is entered and allocated a number, it will always keep this number.  This means that if you have done a Clear Audit Trail you will now have missing transaction numbers which represent those transactions from previous years which have met the criteria to be cleared down.

This change, however, was not well publicised, so now Sage users query why there are missing transaction numbers!

For more advice and tips on using Sage 50 and Sage Instant accounts then take a look at the posts tagged with ‘Sage Tips

Logging Back into Sage after a problem

Sage User name already in use

I have had the same enquiry twice this week from customers.  Something has happened on their computer which has meant they had to exit Sage using Task Manager rather than closing the program fully, then on trying to log back in, they have had a ‘User name already in use’ message which threatens data problems.

This can be quite worrying if you do not expect the message: after all, data checks and corruption are the biggest source of worry for many Sage 50 and Sage Instant account users, especially those who have ever had to send their data off for repair.

When you log out of Sage normally, your name is taken off the current list of logged-in users, which can be seen in the User List in the View Menu. This is the case even in single-user systems where you don’t type a user name in to log in, and the Sage Manager Password is hidden from view: the default username is always Manager with no password unless you have changed the system yourself.

Sage User List

If your computer stops responding and you have to close Sage using the Task Manager, or if you have a power cut and your machine suddenly turns off, your name remains on this list.  In this case, you are faced with the user already in use message when you try to go back into Sage. You should click the Close Session button and you will then be logged in to Sage as usual.  If you know you were logged into Sage on that machine and there is a reason why you had to exit suddenly then you should not get data problems.  I would recommend, though, that you always do a data check in Sage after any such occurrence, just in case there is an underlying data issue causing your problems.

The warning is there to stop a second user in a multi-user environment from trying to log in with the same name that is being used on another machine.  If you do this, the first user will be kicked off the system, and if they are in a data entry screen they will lose whatever is in the current window.  If you try to log on to a second machine and get the warning, and there is a risk of logging someone out on another machine  then you should click Cancel and log in with an alternative username.

For more hints and tips about Good Housekeeping in Sage, and advice about the  Sage Manager Password  then see my previous blog posts.  And don’t panic when you have had a problem and need to log back into Sage: just follow the simple instructions above and you will be back doing your bookkeeping in no time at all.

Payroll Year End – Be Prepared

Now Christmas and the New Year are out of the way, we can start thinking about 2012 and being ready for the end of the payroll tax year, as time never ceases to march on.

Sage 50 Payroll 2012/13 is due for release in February, and I will be getting up to date with my training and accreditation so I can share the new features and help you out with a seamless upgrade.

In the meantime, how can you make sure you are all ready for running your payroll year end after 6th April 2012?

Firstly – you will want to make sure you have the appropriate P60 stationery, as although the software will submit your P14s electronically, your employees will still need a P60 showing a summary of their pay and tax for the 2011/2012 tax year.  You can get these printed from your regular stationery supplier, or order Sage stationery through Silicon Bullet.  Remember, the designs change each year so those left over from last year cannot be used. To see details of the designs take a look at the Sage website – but remember to call me for alternative pricing, as we can often offer a discount.

P60 2011/2012 Tax Year - Suitable for E-mail

If you get prior permission from your employees, P60s can be sent electronically via email, in secure password-protected portable document format (PDF).  This was introduced for tax year 2010-11 onwards and could not be done for previous years.  Any substitute P60s are required to carry the text ‘this is a printed copy of an eP60′ within the main body of the form – for more details see Specifications for employer substitute forms P14/P60 by the HMRC.

Secondly – have a read of this Top tips for Payroll Year End free download from Sage. This download gives you hints and tips about your obligations as an employer and tips for preparing for the year end with the relevant dates for submitting forms and payments.

Payroll Year End in Sage 50

Thirdly – if you feel you don’t have the time or experience to manage your year end alone, then why not book some refresher training, or allow us to ‘hold your hand’ while you process your year end? April is always a busy month at Silicon Bullet, so getting an early date in our diary for training is always a good idea.

Hopefully with the links and information I have passed on here you can be fully prepared for your payroll year end, and don’t forget to keep an eye on my posts once I have trained in the 2012 version so I can share all the new features with you.

Argh – my Sage has Errors – what shall I do?

There is nothing quite like that sinking feeling you get when you run a Sage Data check and find there are Errors in your Sage Data – we have had two enquiries this month.  We go months with no one having any problems at all – then all of  a sudden getting two at once seems very odd – or maybe Sage Errors are just like buses.

If you are a Sage 50 or Sage Instant user and don’t actually know what I am talking about – then you need to learn some Sage housekeeping basics.

But what can you do if your Sage 50 or Sage Instant Accounts data has errors?

First things first – don’t panic.

First of all – take a backup of your data, so that if anything goes wrong with your attempts to fix the data you can always get back to how your accounts look today.  I would change the name of the file to include ‘with errors’ in the name, so as to easily identify it.

If you have a version of Sage older than Sage 50 2012 you can use the Fix button on the File Maintenance report to attempt to fix the data.  This often fixes the problem by Sage rebuilding your data again from scratch using your original transactions.  If you ‘Fix’ the data and no errors show up when the data check is run again then you can carry on as usual.  I would make sure, though, that bank balances are correct and would check balances on all or a random selection of customer and supplier accounts, just to make sure everything is OK.

In Sage 50 2012 you are faced with the new Recovery Tools option.  Next to Recovery Tools is a link called  “How to fix errors & warnings in your Sage data” which takes you to the My Data area on the My Sage website. Here you will find information on  how to avoid corruption, a list of non-fixable errors, and Sage’s Data Repair Service. There are also links to help articles about data repair and updating your software .  To access this help, you will need to have a login to the Sage website set up; if you don’t have Sage Cover then you will not have access to some of these areas and links, in which case your local Sage Reseller will be able to help you out.

Sage Recovery Tools

If you click on the Recovery Tools option you will first be prompted to take a backup before you can do anything else. The following screen then gives you 8 options of tools which could fix your data.  You do get guidance on which area the error is in so it should be fairly obvious which tool is required.

If your attempts to fix your data fail, and you still have errors listed, then you can go back to your last clean backup (one with no errors) and restore the data.  You will then need to re-key any data that you had entered since that date.   There are more tricks which are too detailed to go into here.

If you do not have a clean backup, or the time taken to re-key data is just not practical, then we do offer an alternative to the Sage Data Repair Services through a business partner who was a developer at Sage for many years.  The service offered is cheaper than Sage and in the two recent cases we have dealt with the data has been fixed out of hours for us and returned to the client for the next morning, meaning any disruption could be kept to a minimum.

So, if you have errors in your data, don’t panic, but do something about it to remove them.  For further advice on steps to take, have a look at the Leyburn Solutions Website.

You never stop learning

It never ceases to amaze me that, despite having used Sage 50 for almost 16 years, I never stop learning.

I was taking a look at another blog written by a Sage Reseller, Sue Newman, www.suenewman.co.uk/blog.  And thought I would take a little flick through the hints and tips posts, never expecting to learn something new.

Now, I have always known about the ability in the settings menu to change the program date, so for example if you are belatedly doing a lot of year end journals, you can change the date to save having to keep retyping it. I had never found this much use, though, in my own bookkeeping work.

The tip which gave me a lightbulb moment is that if you have changed the date, you then need to only type the day in the date field and Sage will fill the rest in using the details from the current program date. This makes data entry so much quicker.

I was so pleased with this new useful tip that I plan to share it at all future training sessions. So at my next training I told them my wonderful new discovery – having already wowed them with instructions about Excel Integrated Reporting – and they said “oh yes, we know all about that!”

I was a little deflated, but I know that plenty of the people I train still type the date in full so I am sure I will be able to share the tip with other training clients.

Did you know about this shortcut already? Please let me know via the comments below.

Good Housekeeping in Sage Accounts

Do you practise good housekeeping with your Sage 50 Accounts Data, or your Sage Instant Accounts?  We have had two cases in the last week of clients with errors in their Sage data which had to be sent away to be fixed, but with good housekeeping this cost could have been avoided.

So – what is ‘good housekeeping’ in Sage?  What should you be doing on a day-to-day basis to help prevent errors, or give you the ability to return to ‘clean data’?

File -> Maintenance

Sage recommend that you check your data regularly, always before taking a backup, and after restoring your data too.  I would also add that data should be checked when data has been imported also.  You check your data by going to File -> Maintenance then clicking the Check Data button.

Sage then runs through your data, checking for input errors, internal inconsistencies, missing data and invalid nominal account types, and presents you with the  File Maintenance Problem Report. The report contains 3 pages – Errors, Warnings and Comments.

File Maintenance Problems Report

  • Errors show data problems.
  • Warnings indicate serious problems which should be attended to but are not as serious as errors.
  • Comments are the least serious, and often refer to inconsistencies which probably exist just because of a perfectly valid way that you are using the data – e.g. negative budgets or negative balances on the sales or purchase ledger.
I would always recommend that you seek help from your local Sage Reseller, or from Sage Support  if you have Errors or Warnings – and you should NEVER carry on using data with Errors, but immediately seek assistance. See my post Argh – my Sage has Errors – what shall I do?

The File Maintenance Problem Report will look different in Sage 50 2012 compared to older versions.  In 2012 you have Recovery Tools and in earlier versions there is a Fix button.  I will go into more detail on what you should do if you have Errors in a later post.

If you always do a data check before running a backup, and back up when you have done any data entry, then when you find errors which can’t be fixed using the Recovery Tools or Fix button you will always have the option of restoring your last known clean data and then re-keying your recent transactions.  The problems arise if you back up without checking data first, so all your backups may well also contain the error.  This is the point at which your data needs to be sent away to be fixed.

So 3 simple rules for Good Housekeeping in Sage Accounts:

  • Check your data
  • Back up your data
  • Stop for Errors

If you follow these rules you should find you never need to send your data away to be fixed.  And sod’s law states that if you do practise good housekeeping then your data will never corrupt!

Experimenting with Sage 50

If you use Sage 50, and have used it for a while, you probably have used it the same way for years.  Even if you have upgraded through to the latest version, currently Sage 50 2012 (Version 18) there are probably lots of buttons which you don’t even notice, or things that you would like to learn about but just don’t have the time.

That is where the Silicon Bullet refresher training comes in; Alison can come out to your site and show you what all the new bells and whistles do in your Sage 50, and help you apply the new functionality to your business.

But what if you just want play around in Sage yourself and learn how the new features work?

Select File > Open > Demo Data

Every Sage installation of Sage 50 and Sage Instant has a demonstration company built in, and you can play around with this with no fear of messing up your real company data. It comes with data in the form of the fictitious company “Stationery & Computer Mart UK” and allows you to try most of the functionality you would have in the main program.  Some things are not allowed, such as Transaction Email, Backup and Restore so you can’t run this as a full 2nd company.

To access the demonstration data, from the menu bar select File>Open>Demo Data, then if prompted to log in use the default user name of MANAGER with no password.  You return to your own company data by going to File>Open>Open Company Data at any time, and switch freely between the two. You can experiment in this demonstration company with no danger of influencing your real accounts.

There is also a practice mode which can be accessed in a similar way by choosing Open Practice Data – this is a completely clean installation of the software with no  customers or suppliers showing, so you can see how things work starting from a blank page.  It can be a good place to gain confidence in navigating round the software if you are new to Sage.  Again, data cannot be moved over to your real company and nothing you do here will affect your real data . Each time you open the practice data, you get the choice of continuing with the previous practice session or starting again with a blank sheet.

An Index Search within Sage Accounts Help

Remember, when you are learning new features, Sage has comprehensive in-built help files which you can access by pressing F1 from anywhere in the program;  support for the page you are in will then appear in a separate Help window.  By using the Index or Search functions within Help you can look up how to do anything you are unsure of.

If you need to put a manual together – for example for a new starter, then relevant help pages can be printed out  in order to reference later as your own bespoke manual.

So, with these tools you can start to make your Sage 50 Accounts or Sage Instant software really work for you by making use of all the excellent features which appear as standard in the software.

If you have found this blog useful and would like to read other hints and tips for Sage users, follow this link for more Sage articles.

Customising your view in Sage

Are there columns in Sage which you always tab over and skip when you are entering data in your Sage 50 or Instant Accounts package?  Fields like extra reference, department code and project are not used by many companies and yet they appear on many of the data entry screens. Then I have an excellent tip for you.

Right click on the column headings.

When I was taking my annual Sage Accreditation course a couple of years ago the trainer did something I had never noticed before – he right clicked on the column titles in the Batch Supplier Invoices data entry screen, and a little list came up with ticks showing which columns should appear.  You can then tick or untick so only columns you actually use appear in the data entry screen.

This was something that had been available in Sage for a while, but had never been listed as a new feature  - apparently the feature had been available for a while but appeared with no fanfare – and yet it is something I demonstrate when I am training both experienced and novice users and a feature that is very popular.  It makes entering the data much less confusing for novice users with fewer columns to fill in and much speedier too.

Right click on the customer list title bar.

Also if you follow the same trick in other parts of the program, you can customise the columns you see in the Customer List, Invoice List, Order List and on many other screens too.  If one of the default columns shown such as credit limit is not relevant to your use of Sage then you can remove it from the display and add far more useful columns – the Average Time to Pay column available in Sage 50 can be quite an eye opener!  Just look at my screen shot to see all the column options you have in the customer list screen.

So why not customise your Sage windows to make you data entry easier, or your screen displays more relevant to your business.  Remember also another quick tip: once you have the information in the screen just the way you want it you can use the print list button at the bottom of the screen to send it to print, or in the main menus you can choose File-> Office Integration ->Contents to Microsoft Excel to dump the screen view in Excel.

How sharing your expertise for free can pay dividends

I had a call this week out of the blue from someone who needed Sage training.  As part of our monitoring of new leads we always ask people how they came to hear about us, as I do quite a lot of networking and social media marketing and it is good to monitor how effective these are at bringing in new business.  This person had done a Google search, and postings I had made on a forum had come up high in the results list so they followed the link in order to contact me at Silicon Bullet.

This seems to be the most common source of our enquiries these days. An IT services provider I met networking also said they had a problem with their Sage instant accounts and Googled “changing your financial year”, and again my advice post came up quite high on the list, even several months after the advice had been given.

The particular forum I contribute to mostly is UK Business Forums where I have been a member since 2009.  I mostly hang out in the Accounting and Finance area, ready to give advice if anyone has a problem with Sage software.  I  have been able to ask for advice too when I have been unsure about something.

So without updating my website, and worrying about search engine optimisation, my name is coming up when people do a Google search, and what is more I am proving my credentials and expertise by the advice I have given. And I can quantify the new business I have had as a direct result.

Also you become known on the forums for the advice you give, so I have also had direct enquiries from other forum users for my Sage software and services, and I have had bookkeeping enquiries passed my way also; so there are two ways I have benefited from membership.

So think about where your expertise lies – is there a forum where you could share some knowledge?  Who knows, it could pay dividends for you too.

UK Business Forum message header

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