None of us have SaaS businesses, sorry. | AccountingWEB

None of us have SaaS businesses, sorry.

 As Sage put out their results yesterday, their CEO said

“Well, many of the people who've launched SaaS products in the last four/five years and that industry analysts get very excited about, even though most of them have got less than 5,000 customers, is that what those solutions are is actually desktop solutions online. Very few of them, if any, have taken advantage of being a pure SaaS play. And what we've done is wait. We've listened to our customers, and we've looked at what the advantages of SaaS can bring to them.”

I’m sure that like me you had to read that more than once to believe he actually said that. That’s a direct lift from the transcript Sage have sent out.

This was a prepared statement from him, not an off the cuff remark. Didn’t anyone there sanity check it? None of the analysts present on the conference call picked him up on it because they don’t understand SaaS yet, hence this ZDNet post from my dear, dear friend Mr Howlett.

The level of ignorance is truly astounding. Forget KashFlow for now(which is pure SaaS), just look at Xero (being a publicly listed company they’re much more open to scrutiny than us at KashFlow). How can anyone that has any clue what they’re talking about say it isn’t a pure SaaS play?

No wonder he’s leaving.


Yeah right

Accountsportal | | Permalink

Maybe he is confused because the SaaS products are getting so good that they actually look like desktop applications?

I especially loved the part about "And what we've done is wait." Short and/or selective memory?

ther are still a number of problems with cloud systems and the v

carnmores | | Permalink

such as

speed of connection

availability of service

constant tweaking if software


i mention this as i have been up north in sageland and the speed of internet access was desperately variable

also Duane thanks for your free months offer i didnt have time to look and as it comes in basic and other versions its very difficult to tell if it does what i want it to do , ie does it have job and class accounting as QB


i am not a luddite i am totally pro all this i just think that you guys verge on overkill and dont know when to stand still and when to press forward

DuaneJAckson's picture


DuaneJAckson | | Permalink

KashFlow only comes in one flavour, there's not different versions. Feel free to drop an email to [email protected] with any questions as it wouldn't be fair to turn this into a sales pitch

- speed of connection
- availability of service

I agree on those fronts. Our solution to this goes into beta in a couple of weeks so watch this space

- constant tweaking if software

I've heard that one before. "what if they remove my favourtie report?" etc. Never yet seen anyone point at a hard real-life example of this ever happening. I see it as constant improving of the software, and the majority of my (and other SaaS vendors) agree.



carnmores | | Permalink

ok thanks , will do

challisc's picture

Real life example of a lost report

challisc | | Permalink

Duane asked us for a real life example of a lost report. I've seen this happen when the cloud vendor changed the underlying report format from one line per record to two lines. The impact was a large suite of similar data extracts were screwed up. There was no warning before the change went live. As these extracts were converted to daily activity reports on which the business relied, there had to be a mad unplanned scramble to cope with the change.

In this case it was financial reports from an e-commerce trading system rather than a pure accounting system. But it does highlight the need for all cloud application authors to be especially careful about the quality of updates - more so perhaps than for on-premise software where users can wait to hear feedback before upgrading.

Otherwise cloud users will be alienated, with obvious consequences.

dahowlett's picture

It's always going to happen

dahowlett | | Permalink

@challisc: these kinds of thing are always likely to happen. The main point though is that the data itself wasn't lost. Many of these systems rely on meta data so if that goes pear shaped then sure, you're going to have problems. The good news is that because something like this impacts everyone, your picture of a "mad scramble" shows just how agile saas/cloud players have to be. I'd call that an advantage.

Just a reminder ...

JC | | Permalink

One really doesn't have to look very hard to see Sage abject failure with it's foray in SaaS

Interestingly enough the following has been removed, which probably accounts for their amnesia:

Basically the message has to be:
Stick to marketing guys because you certainly can't make the grade as a software company

challisc's picture

To clarify

challisc | | Permalink

"Mad unplanned scramble" by the user adminstrator, not by the cloud provider who was not prepared to correct the problem. No advantage at all!


Cloud Solution

dtooke | | Permalink

It seems that Sage don't see the point of a Cloud solution that is the same as a desktop solution...

Diamond Discovery offers the same functionality on a hosted solution at a per seat per mont price as it does for a traditional licence purchase.

It also offers a system tailor made for Accountants to allow them to access their customers data over the internet, and enables them to manage who has what access rights to what functionality - eg allow an end user to raise Sales and purchase invoices, take and make payments, and do a bank rec, but NOT to create  journals - any permutation on that sort of theme. for information or contact [email protected] tel 0844 74 00 724


cverrier's picture

Unsupported use...

cverrier | | Permalink

@challisc.  Sounds like your example was a case where the SaaS application was being used in a non-standard way - scraping data from one of the supplied reports?  That's always going to be risky. I also assume there was no SLA in place to ensure that business critical changes didn't take place without warning?

Ideally, the best approach is to use any API or developer interfaces offered by the provider (i.e. supported techy tools for extracting data from the application).  These usually won't change when the screens and report layouts are altered.

Agreed that a SaaS customer doesn't have quite the same control over when to apply updates, but I think the benefits of actually getting updates quickly and painlessly must be worth it.


cverrier's picture

Old business models fighting new business models...

cverrier | | Permalink

My old boss (Craig Winkler - ex of MYOB, now a big Xero investor) once used the example of steam-shovel manufacturers' behaviour in the face of diesel & hydraulics.   They derided the new machines as a toy and a flash in the pan, right up to the point their businesses collapsed.

(He was actually using the example as he tried to re-focus MYOB on Software+Services and away from it's traditional Software + recurring licence fee model - that still hasn't happened and he's moved on - Oh well)

You can also see Sage's issues reflected in Microsoft's reluctance to damage it's on-premise software revenues with new mould-breaking offerings.  Microsoft, of course, is big enough to learn those expensive lessons and survive to fight another day - helped a lot, I suspect by Ray Ozzie, bringing a very different approach to Bill Gates' old job.


challisc's picture

Not "unsupported"

challisc | | Permalink

@cverrier. Thanks. You asked a couple of questions:

 (1) My example was not a screen scrape, but a standard end-user output option for the report

 (2) SLAs were the provider’s standard terms, which for many cloud services are effectively non-negotiable.

 You’re right that the benefits of actually getting updates quickly and painlessly are worth it - provided the updates are indeed painless. That’s what cloud providers need to ensure, be it for reports or any other functionality.

 In essence cloud applications are packaged software, very similar to on-premise software. In any new software release it’s all too easy to inadvertently drop a specific function, or introduce a bug. New functions may require a change in user procedures.

Good release notes in advance are therefore an important heads-up. But providers can only guess how their application is actually being used. How about an option for users to pre-test a new release using a copy of the user’s own data (with a mechanism for the provider to handle any problems reported)? Impractical or essential?

 Diesel & hydraulics is a good analogy. Diesel’s practical and cost advantages would not have made it successful unless it had also proved to be safe and reliable.


challisc's picture

Impractical or essential?

challisc | | Permalink

Silence. I had hoped someone would have a view!

In the on-premise world I appreciate that many people don’t test a new release before they make it live, although pre-testing is more common in larger installations.

I’ve also heard an FD of a multi-million pound international business say that it wasn’t necessary to pre-test a completely new implementation as it was packaged software - until I explained that bug-free software is rare (if ever), no-one else will be using his combination of set-up parameters, and user procedures around the software would need to be determined for his business. The same is true for significant enhancements. In principle cloud applications are no different.

Dennis Howlett rightly commented about the lost report format that “these kinds of thing are always likely to happen”. It’s all too common for reports and other outputs to be taken for granted, until they bite you in the rear. Here’s another example. When I was in industry, the only time I had people at my door complaining was when a software upgrade introduced a bug into the automated payments. Cheques had to be written by hand, and the delays meant suppliers were soon putting the company on stop.

The advantage of cloud applications is that a hot fix can be made live more quickly, though it will often wait until the next scheduled release. But imagine the simultaneous impact of a problem across a user-base!

With so many practical and cost benefits to cloud computing, it’s a pity to take these sort of risks. How about giving users an option to pre-test a new release, as a form of beta-testing, even if many users wouldn’t bother? Impractical or essential? What are the views of users and providers?

mkcdavies's picture

You just need to ask

mkcdavies | | Permalink

@challisc - I have a comment.  But first I will make the observation that this strand seems to have gone off the original topic in an all too familiar direction.  Whenever someone starts a conversation thread that relates to cloud computing, it almost always turns into a discussion where the nay-sayers give voice to their lack of belief and the proponents of SaaS vainly try to convince them.

Challisc, your point is well made and, as with any other software both online and locally installed, if you want to minimise risk then you must make sure that you understand the quality of service provided by the software vendor.  Of course bugs happen, all of the time, but vendors follow widely varying processes when putting new functionality or bug fixes live.  Some will do internal testing and more-or-less throw it into the live environment, relying on their ability to respond quickly to any issues, others will have multiple environments which ensure that all changes go through full quality assurance, including giving a small number of users access to the functionality before it is let loose in the full production environment.  Ask the vendor before making a decision on software.  There are certainly online providers who follow a very rigorous and complete process.  (I know because I work for one.)

Going back to my observation, this particualr thread went wrong when @carnmores commented with "ther are still a number of problems with cloud systems and the vendors just ignore them".  Quite why this was relevant to the topic of the post I don't know.

There are many tens of thousands, probably several hundred of thousand, companies using online accounting in the UK alone.  My view is:  If the problems hypothesised by the naysayers were common we'd be hearing a lot more about them.  The reality is that the vast majority are happy to pay their monthly subscription, in other words they're giving some kind of approval to the service they're receiving every month.  Maybe only a minority of them have given deep thought to the potential risk factors, but for those who care to look into it there are definitely solutions in the cloud that offer a very robust service.

david_terrar's picture

Duane's spot on, but shame we get diverted by the nay sayers as

david_terrar | | Permalink

Mark D is right to comment how any Cloud thread on this discussion board always get subverted from the point.  It's a shame, and it drives away the casual readers we need to get engaged in this topic.

@carnmores - there are other threads where you can see speed of connection, availability and continuous upgrading issue being debated at length.  If you seriously think those issues are being ignored by vendors, then it's quite clear you've never been in the software business.  

@challisc - you throw out one example of a report that changed, without any names or evidence to back it up.  I just don't see that's constructive.  SaaS vendors are much more savvy when it comes to these things than an on-premise vendor.  With on premise, you've already paid your licence.  With SaaS the on-going subscription (which is much more than any ongoing maintenance) is at risk, so vendors take greater care on replacing or removing functionality.  Two other things.  Traditional software generally has a big new release every year or 18 months and it is installed on an environment that the vendor has no control of.  SaaS goes on short release cycles, from weekly to quarterly, depending on the vendor, and they are in total control of the operating environment.  Less code added to a an environment you can control means easier and usually more comprehensive testing and so better quality code - it's one of the business reasons behind the vendor's move to SaaS.  The other thing, - you say "providers can only guess how their application is actually being used " - for traditional software that is absolutely correct, but for SaaS software, completely wrong.  The SaaS provider can monitor and benchmark and see EXACTLY how the software is being used day to day, because they're running the system.  It's one of the significant advantages of being a SaaS provider, and the way you get to know what the user base really needs in terms of improvements. 

Back to Duane's point, I completely agree.  This was a prepared statement, which makes it even worse for Paul Walker.  The incompetence of someone in such a prominent position in the largest accounting software provider in the country is just astounding.  Sage clearly don't know this stuff themselves, so they should be hiring people who do, or maybe targeting an acquisition of one of the existing good players. and
David Terrar

challisc's picture

Caution not NaySay

challisc | | Permalink

Thanks Mark and David.

Having run a business highly dependent on a cloud application, I’m positive but cautious about cloud computing. It’s good to hear some positives about the release testing process, at least by the better vendors, to avoid the sorts of problems experienced with on-premise.

Yes vendors can see what’s happening directly on their system. But this presumably becomes more difficult as the system becomes more sophisticated. And they can’t see what’s going on around it, as per my data extract example.

(Pity this is off-topic for the original post, but here’s where the question was asked.)

david_terrar's picture

Cheers Chris (and where is Sage PR, marketing, communications?)

david_terrar | | Permalink

@challisc - positive but cautious about Cloud sounds like a great position.  We need more of that attitude to spread across the AccountingWEB readership.  To answer you, the SaaS providers can monitor and benchmark with the more complex processes too, and data extract or good integration through comprehensive APIs with web services are key areas.  That whole aspect is becoming more and more important as we need to link SaaS applications to provide a more complete solution,  It's history repeating itself with best of breed versus application suites, only for SaaS rather than on premise - but that's definitely a whole new discussion thread we could start elsewhere. 

And I wish someone from Sage PR, marketing, or corporate communications would bother to spend some time and explain/defend Paul Walker's position here… but I guess that's unlikely. and
David Terrar

dahowlett's picture


dahowlett | | Permalink

@dt: How can you defend the indefensible? Given Paul is a self confessed non product person, he'd have a hard time with that one.

david_terrar's picture

being polite, but let's call a spade a....

david_terrar | | Permalink

@dahowlett - Of course you are correct.  His statement can't be interpreted or spun any other way, so "defend" was too polite a word.  I still think it's very poor that they (Sage) don't bother to send anyone to join the conversation.  It's another indication of how their culture is so far removed from where the online market is now. and

David Terrar

Richard Messik's picture


Richard Messik | | Permalink


As Dennis quite rightly says - they can't defend the position. However the fact that they have made no attempt to Spin the issue  shows the total contempt and disintererst they have for the sector. To them it is is irrelevant so why spend any further time on it.

DuaneJAckson's picture


DuaneJAckson | | Permalink

 To be fair to Sage, this thread is in a "private" discussion group so they may not be aware of it. They're certainly aware of the issue/reaction though.

Perhaps their PR people will be more vocal next week once the city press pick up on it.

oh come on guys

carnmores | | Permalink

if they feel its not a current issue in terms of market share, then they are probably right - you can knock em on many things but not all i should know i have been trying for a while. They have time money and customer base on their side dont forget that - you never know they may try to buy you , dont worry any comments you mske against them wont matter a damn in the long term.

Duane is your old 'solution provider' going vack into government?

almost all the commenst on this thread are from interested parties - such a huge level of interest - dont big your self up too much guys!!

yes david T that was mainly tho not soley directed at you - i am a customer customer is king wise up

John Stokdyk's picture

Just so you all know...

John Stokdyk | | Permalink

There is an article (KashFlow the bogeyman for Sage) that picks up on this thread in the open pages of IT Zone, so Sage will be very aware of the discussion.

We have not heard from the company yet. Previously, I put some questions forward to UK MD Paul Stobart about the potential threat posed by SaaS providers and the perception that Sage lacked the agility and technical capability to counteract them. Since Stobart's professional background is in brand management, I specifically asked about the impact these factors (and difficulties with annual desktop upgrades) might have on the Sage brand.

As Dennis Howlett predicted, Sage did not respond to my questions.


DuaneJAckson's picture

The "old solution"

DuaneJAckson | | Permalink

[email protected], I'm not quite sure what the rules are on what I'm allowed to say in (semi)public prior to Downing St announcing anything. So I'll let the Evening Standard do it for me

There will be some very positive changes to H&S legislation for office-based businesses if he gets his way.

I spoke to him a little while ago and mentioned you're reference to him as the "old solution", he was amused : )

You'd be surprised how tech-savvy he is considering his age.


ddruker's picture

For those who think Intuit doesn't get it

ddruker | | Permalink

I saw this referenced in the public article John linked to.

I attended a cloud computing exec summit this week that featured the head of corporate strategy and development for Intuit talking for an hour about Intuit and cloud computing.  The session was facilitated by the lead cloud computing investment banker from Goldman Sachs - who's premise was that people don't realize how much Intuit is truly doing in cloud computing.

The highlights - Intuit now has greater than $1 billion of SaaS revenues.  They see cloud computing as a strategic from many perspectives - it helps protect them from piracy in their consumer businesses and it makes it far more easy for them to sell add-on products and services in the B2B businesses.  It helps their overall margins too.

Their consumer tax prep business is now mostly SaaS, they just acquired to have a cloud-based personal finance business, they acquired paycycle for cloud-based payroll, they have a large base of clients in Quickbooks on-line and they are doing very visible platform as a service work in partnership with Microsoft.

They expect that they will disintermediate the retail channel and they think their SaaS offerings will help drive more and more revenue from their 50 million customers, by cross selling and upselling.  They also think that SaaS will help them with their accounting partnerships, which they feel are a crown jewel.

He also indicated SaaS is key to their global expansion strategy.

I'm not sure many of the folks who contribute to these threads think of Intuit as a $1 billion SaaS company - I'd say they very much do get it, and they are aggressively transforming their business.

Just blogged an expanded version of this as well.

good article constructive

carnmores | | Permalink

yes the US CANADAmodel is well advanced and have been following closely

to do however seem to treating UK as a back water and there is  an annoying absence of relevant info

their spin dept is simply not up to scratch - do they have anybody who knows about the UK market

i agree that there is a big diff between US and  UK , and  basically that is the need to use foreign curencies and the VAT model - bith of which have been big misses for Intuit

note to UK office i am her if you need some advice and you do by the way

daveforbes's picture


daveforbes | | Permalink

Sage tend not to write much software themselves but acquire established companies. Perhaps the cloud marketplace is still too fragmented for them to do this yet and they are waiting for a bit of consolidation.

I think the experience with sagelive confirms this as a sensible approach.

I noticed too that had gone. I registered last Friday and am just deciding what to point it at.


david_terrar's picture

Intuit does get it, customer is King, and Sage ignoring us

david_terrar | | Permalink

@ddruker - I don't think anyone here has ever said Intuit doesn't get it.  I'm frankly amazed they've not brought QuickBooks Online to the UK.  If they did, they would do really well.  I hope whoever is in charge of their global marketing (and ignores the UK for SaaS stuff) stays in place for a long time.

@carnmores - I vehemently believe that the customer is King, but I'm also a big advocate for Cloud (which is why I'm heavily involved in two of the UK's SaaS/Cloud vendor groups).  I always get depressed by the regular detractors, and so can't help but chime in to support the concept.  My comment about your comment about vendors ignoring the 3 issues you raised obviously got to you… sorry for that.  How about us having a direct conversation rather than arguing here.  Please contact me so we can have a proper conversation.

@Richard - you're right - a waste of time thinking Sage will bother to respond here or on the related main article - hey ho!

@John - many thanks for commenting and highlighting Sage seem to be ignoring the issue, Ostrich style as Richard said. and
David Terrar

connect2field's picture

Sage can sort this out by acquisition?

connect2field | | Permalink

I'm a big believer in SaaS and it amazes me that so many of the traditional large software companies have failed in deliverying a Saas application. Sage isnt the only company that has failed at doing this.... What would have been smart  for many of these companies 3-4 years ago when SaaS started to heat up was to start a subsidery company that delivered a Saas product. Companies like Sage would have been able to attact smart people to join a small team and provide all the funding. That way they could have continueed their normal business and all would have been ok if infact SaaS wasn't just a'craze' that was going to die.

Well considering they didn't do this..... Then now i would say there only clever opportunity would be to sort this problem out by acquistion?

But then again Duane would you sell out? I guess most people would exit if the $$ are right.... It's going to cost them a lot now that they have missed the boat by so far.

On a seperate point how on earth has no one from Sage picked this up? Yes it's private but all they need to be doing is watching Duanes Twitter and they would have picked this up. Ohh does Sage know what Twitter is? ;)


Steve Orenstein

daveforbes's picture

Defending the indefensible

daveforbes | | Permalink

There is a lot of "impure" SaaS out there - a lot of people do use citrix gotomypc etc, but possibly he was referring not to that but to the fact that current online software is not so different from desktop software. If there were an on premisis version of KashFlow how radically different would this be from the online one ?

I can join a wine club and pay a subscription and get 12 bottles of wine delivered each month to my door, or drive over to Calais and make a large annual purchase. Different delivery medium, different pricing plan, but not really that radically different - certainly not as different as popping into a wine bar for a single glass of wine.

For software to truly work as a service requires the separation of the data from the program which requires open data - open in both in terms of format and access. I am still hoping for the day when using the same data I can choose for example KashFlow, a colleague use Xero and use Sage online 50 on my laptop. After 30 years of waiting this has becoming the reality with office products - will it be an equally long wait for accounting systems ?

Maybe that is what Sage are waiting for !

david_terrar's picture

Separate SaaS subsidiaries, Desktop style UI and open data

david_terrar | | Permalink

@Steve - spot on.  I'm amazed that traditional SW companies don't start a separate subsidiary for SaaS and recognize they will have compete with themselves and their legacy product.  SAP should have done that with BusinessByDesign.  The culture and approach for SaaS is so different, it is incredibly difficult for it to coexist within an on-premise software business.  Here in the UK CODA did it right by separating out FinancialForce.  Another major player, Microsoft, has been talking about and working on having proper SaaS versions of their "GP" business software for many years, but it still hasn't happened even with all the resources they've got.  NetSuite is doing well, and who owns 60%? - Larry Ellison of Oracle (so he decided to do it personally rather than inside his company).

@daveforbes - I think talking about how the user experience of SaaS software (using the tools and tricks to do clever stuff in the browser) can be made to look similar to desktop apps is important for usability but misses the  point.  SaaS applications are all about working differently (for both the customer and the vendor).

You say "For software to truly work as a service requires the separation of the data from the program which requires open data".  I don't agree.  Software can work truly and well as a service without open data.  Open data is a different topic.  Good SaaS products have open APIs and make it easy for you to extract your data in a sensible, usable format, or exchange data with other web services or legacy systems.  Things like XBRL provide some standards, and are going to be hugely important in the next year or two to any accounting solution provider.  XML technology helps make data exchange much easier in technical terms, but I don't see us getting to true open data standards any time soon. and
David Terrar

DuaneJAckson's picture

Subsidiaries, Selling, and Separation

DuaneJAckson | | Permalink

[email protected] I suggested exactly that about a year ago (a Sage  SaaS subsidary) here. I found out shortly afterwards that the Sage board considered the same solution about a year or so before I posted and wanted to do it but it was blocked by Walker.

As for the would I sell question. Anyone that says "no" to that question is a liar. Of course I would if the money and deal structure was right, but the "right" money for me right now would be way beyond anything Sage or anyone else could justify. A few years ago it may have been a different matter but right now I'm enjoying what we're doing too much. We'll be competing with Sage in other (non accounting) markets soon too.

I think that if Sage do acquire a SaaS player, it wont be us. There are smaller companies that could be swallowed for a lower price and cause less indigestion!

@dave, an on-premise version of KashFlow would be a very different animal. Think about your integration with us. How practical would that have been if we didn't have the API for you to plug in to? A big part of what makes SaaS SaaS is the ecosystem. Not to mention the constant improvements to the software that are deployed without users having to get involved.

I do agree with what you're saying about separating data and UI, and I love the office products analogy. But that's at least 5-10 years away.

For Sage proprietry is the name of the game for customer retenti

JC | | Permalink


On-line & desktop may look the same -but just to slightly complicate matters with IIS6/7 installed on a local pc one can run any on-line solution locally anyway (assuming db exists etc) and with data separation local apps can target on-line db's

In the case of Sage, not quite sure how one can equate a 30 year old? product that uses proprietry data storage with all it's evident problems and was not designed for an on-line (or even network) environment against new software which has been build from the ground up to factor in all these issues

Alternatively, instead of either going to Calais or your local wine club and buying boxes of wine why not have it available directly via a special tap in the kitchen & pay for what you use - this is the radical difference between boxes & on-line

What you are asking for is either a universal Db structure or 'tagged' data; unforunately storing any volume of 'tagged' data as such, would probably have major inherent problems with size, speed etc. However, it would be possible if each vendor had a API/Web service which retrieved the data and 'tagged' it on the fly according to a universal standard. In this case the only hurdle would be vendor 'buy in' - which is another matter

This would give the best of all worlds - Vendors could maintain proprietry areas of data and yet expose standard templates (tagged) for others to use. To all intents and purposes the data could then be used by any application subscribing to the standards. But realistically do we really think that Sage et al are going to adopt this approach when they currently make it difficult for customers to move away with proprietry products

Also 'open data' and 'data separation' are two entirely different subjects

@david terrar / @Steve

Surely we have already discussed SaaS/desktop parallel running within the same organisation (Sage) here

The problem with two threads on almost the same topic is that the discussion becomes fragmented

DuaneJAckson's picture


DuaneJAckson | | Permalink

"There is an article (KashFlow the bogeyman for Sage) that picks up on this thread in the open pages of IT Zone, so Sage will be very aware of the discussion."

@John, considering it went out on the newswire directly above a paid-for Sage white-paper insert I'm sure their marketing people will certainly be aware!

daveforbes's picture

Nice API

daveforbes | | Permalink

@duane - you could have a very similar API on a desktop version - and the problem still remains every vendor has a different API. People are tied down by their data.  Moving vendor is like moving house, definately easier if you are in rented rather than owned - but still nothing like checking in and out of a hotel.

Changing solutions mid-stream

dtooke | | Permalink

A lot depends on what sort of organisation you are. For a small company the option to swap solutions is far easier than for a larger one. Many small companies are only holding financial data, invoices and payments, larger ones may have more serious stock requirements, purchase order and  invoice approval procedures etc. Data is one of the key elements, most solutions will allow you to extract/import standing data from CSV files, often the real issue lies with historic transactional data. The problem here is that you need to post not only say an invoice and payment, but if you are a larger company you will want to see the original order, deliveries made, stock flow, returns, credits, who approved it, etc.

Data within the two systems may be held differently, and direct data transfer may not be possible.

Software manufacturers could open up their systems to allow XML links to map data - but I have yet to see any commercial software that allows this.

In the future, who knows.

In the mean time the practical choice is to select a solution that matches your current and projected requirements, and look at it as a 5-year investment, not just in technology, but in staff training, and business disruption, which is - under current conditions - a given.

The benefits of SaaS are not therefore in ease of switching, but rather in the commercial model - save investment in powerful servers, gain the security, electronic and physical, of having your servers managed securely off-site by specialist hosts with a failover to a geographically different site available, and managed backups - paid for on a per seat per month basis, rather than as a capital cost.

In the future this will undoubtedly change, but for now the practical option for 90% of UK companies is to select a solution based on functionality, on the flexibility of the software to adapt (or the willingness of the authors to adapt if requested), and and the strength of support available to you. The basics are what they always were, and seduction by a glossy front end can lead to significant problems when trying to actually run a business.

In this respect the actual solution, in practice, can have the same functionality as one where you buy licences as a capital cost. In fact this gives you the added ability to move the solution in-house from in-house to hosted if you want - you own the licences, simply move it to a hosted environment.


Dave Tooke


If only it were that easy ...

AlanBourke | | Permalink

Speaking as a developer I would say that the ability to semi-easily replicate the rich UI of desktop-based applications in the browser is only now really becoming a reality with the various RIA platforms. Add to that the fact that a lot of traditional ledger/ERP applications use legacy platforms and file formats that don't transfer online easily and I can sort of see the reason behind your Sages et al not committing in a proper way to SaaS just yet.

Paul Scholes's picture

Bookeeping is Bookeeping

Paul Scholes | | Permalink

For the vast majority of businesses the requirements that existed 20 (or even 200 years ago) hold true today, ie recording invoices & bank transactions in & out.  As an accountant with 60ish small busines clients, I have watched Sage, QuickBooks et al vanish off into bells & whistles functionality (and cluttered UIs) purely because they had saturated the basic bookeeping market years ago and needed extra stuff to justify their existance.

This is why the simplification currently forced on online providers is of such benefit to my clients.  So now, clients who have needed to take the next step from paper & spreadsheets can now do so and others who who find the bells & whistles of Sage/QBs etc too much can dump them for something cheaper and more user friendly.

For me the icing on the cake is that the market place has opened up with all the lean new entrants offering a better range, making it easier to mix & match and that the support I now give will be realtime with live data.

Meanwhile larger businesses can stick with their elephants (whether in the corner or via huge bandwidth)


cyberworldukltd's picture

i am not a luddite i am

cyberworldukltd | | Permalink

i am not a luddite i am totally pro all this i just think that you guys verge on overkill and dont know when to stand still and when to press forward



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barbarabedes665 | | Permalink

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Group: Cloud accounting and add-ons
A place for accountants to share their thoughts about web-based systems