Wednesday, 18 March 2015 11:21

Farm software draws all the threads together – developer

Written by 
CRS Software’s Brian Eccles. CRS Software’s Brian Eccles.

Farmers with multiple farms can now see the consolidated financial position of all those farms together using a new reporting system from CRS Software, Masterton.

 The new web reporting system was developed after farmers with multiple farms told the company they needed the capability to bring all this information together, says managing director Brian Eccles.

“Many farmers have trading entities and trusts that own the land. They often are moving money between the two accounts and both are important for running the farm,” Eccles told Rural News.

“All those people now must look through both lots of information separately. The bank is very interested in seeing that together, as is the farmer.”

Eccles says CRS’s focus for farm financial management is on what farmers need, not what accountants need. He says even accountants have limited ability to consolidate this information across multiple entities. Now, for farmers’ benefit, Cashmanager RURAL is a forerunner.

“People have been saying for years that there is a need to bring all this information together,” Eccles says.

He spoke recently to a South Waikato farmer with 12 dairy farms around New Zealand who has been trying to manually consolidate all this information on a regular basis. When shown the new CRS software system for consolidated reporting, “his eyes just popped out, he was delighted, it solved a real problem for him,” says Eccles. “He spent hours every month doing this; I said just press the button and it’s done. It’s going to make it so much easier for him.”

CRS was set up 30 years ago in Masterton by “visionary” Ian Campbell and now has 40 people working only on farm financial management software for farmers.  Eccles’ background was in farming; in 1989 he was Wairarapa Farmer of the Year.

 “It is all we do because normal accounting software doesn’t work well for farms,” he says. “Whether it is a dairy farm or a sheep and beef farm, the way their finances operate is quite different.”

Eccles says he has a good idea what farmers want and need. Having no background himself in either software or accounting “has been good because it has kept my focus about what farmers want and not what accountants want, and they are very different.

“I love working with farmers and understanding what they need – anything we can do to help them. This little company in Masterton with 40 people – last year about $10 billion of farm income went through [our company’s] software. It is helping many farmers and we know if they’re using Cashmanager RURAL it helps their profitability considerably. How much we’re influencing New Zealand agriculture is anybody’s guess, but it’s quite significant.”

Their market share is “very high” and their main ‘competitor’ is the farmer who does nothing. “He leaves it entirely to accountants to tidy up [for clients] at the end of the year…. We’ve got a strong share of the total number of farmers and particularly the farmers who are using some sort of management.”

CRS’s focus is on software that keeps looking ahead. “Farming, of course, is challenging because it keeps changing and so does the price. So there is a lot of uncertainty.

“The more you can plan, and because plans have to change, the more you can manage uncertainty, the better. A number of our clients understand that and keep planning and keep updating their plans as they need to.

“They say ‘right, I’m going to put on fertiliser then, buy feed then and that will give me so much milk production.’… They get this model in their head and then they can try different scenarios to see if they can get a better result. That’s the type of thing we want to help them with.

“It does all their GST and gets them ready for the accountant at the end of the year, and it does some good reports, so it does all the accounting stuff easily but there’s strong emphasis on looking forward.”

In 2009 CMR was an early user of the ‘cloud’ – it hadn’t even been given that name then - and 55% of clients now use the on-line solution. “We will continue to innovate and do exciting things,” says Eccles.

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