Online accounting review: KashFlow

Launched in 2005, KashFlow is one of the more established online accounts services available in the UK. It is a couple of years since I last reviewed it and I was frankly blown away by the depth and breadth of the current version. At only £15.99 + VAT per month – which is guaranteed NEVER to increase in future once you sign up – it represents outstanding value and has to be on the shortlist for any SME looking to go online.

Getting started

  • Initial setup is quick and easy, and no credit card is required to create a free 60-day trial account.
  • Your user credentials comprise a user name, password and “memorable word”, from which you have to enter three randomly selected letters each time you log on. Unlike other services, your business has only one login which must be shared between users, so you cannot give restricted access to some users.
  • Initial data can be imported from a CSV file or Sage 50, and customer and supplier details (only) can be imported from QuickBooks.
  • The program opens with a good looking Overview screen with charts of bank and sales movements, quick links to commonly used areas and a useful RSS feed of recent changes and additions to KashFlow.
  • KashFlow doesn't handle full multi-currency accounting, but you can invoice in foreign currency and use automatic currency conversion with constantly updated exchange rates and automatic posting of currency gains and losses.

Data entry

  • Bank postings are straightforward. Non-ledger transactions, whether balance sheet or P&L, are posted from the same screen; you simply specify whether it's a receipt or a payment.
  • KashFlow does not support automatic bank feeds or bank data import from standard electronic bank statements.
  • KashFlow has adopted a plain English approach, so if you want to post a purchase invoice you need to go to the menu option entitled Add New Receipt. You then have an unpaid “receipt”, which seems contradictory! I am not convinced that this makes the software any easier for the lay person to understand.
  • There is good integration with PayPal and most merchant account providers, so users can take card payments for sales from within KashFlow.
  • If you use quotes or estimates these can be used as the entry point for all orders, and can be converted into invoices later.

Reporting

  • The bank reconciliation routine was recently improved in response to the strength of feeling expressed in the AccountingWEB.co.uk KashFlow discussion group. I didn't see the previous version, but the current bank reconciliation looks robust and easy to use. There's a facility to “Lock Transactions” to prevent editing of a reconciled period, although this can be turned off again by the user so is of limited value but it's better than nothing.
  • The reports list runs to some 47 reports, including all the normal examples once would expect. There are reports at Job level (which you can re-name as departments, projects, etc) but nothing for budgets as there is no facility to set budgets within KashFlow.
  • The reports list clearly reflects user requests, and includes a few specialist items such as a Princes Trust “Business Progress Summary” and a CSV export file for Digita users.
  • All reports support full drill-down to transaction level.
  • VAT reporting covers all options, including Flat Rate Scheme and EC Sales Lists.
  • A fixed asset register and CIS reporting are also included.

Extras

  • There are integration options with a range of third-party providers, including PayPal and card processors, FreshBooks (time recording, expenses and invoicing), ViaPost (who will print and post invoices for you) and MailChimp (email marketing).
  • For accountants wishing to promote KashFlow to their clients the company offers a separate service called OrbitAccounts. This enables a firm to control, view, manage and monitor its KashFlow clients. From Orbit a firm can restrict access to some areas of KashFlow – such as the chart of accounts and transaction locks – and can customise certain aspects, such as the Overview screen.
  • A separate desktop application, RapidFire , can be bought by Orbit subscribers to enable them to enter KashFlow data offline and for batch entry of sales and purchase invoices, making data entry much faster for larger businesses.
  • While your data is regularly backed up “in the cloud”, as you would expect with an online service, KashFlow is unusual in offering users the ability to set up an automatic email backup of all data on a weekly or monthly basis in a CSV format that can be imported into Sage 50 (or viewed in Excel), which will reassure potential users that they are not locked in to the service once they commit to it.

Conclusion

Continued...

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Comments
DuaneJAckson's picture

Some Clarifications

DuaneJAckson | | Permalink

 Hi Nigel,

Thanks for the comprehensive review. I do genuinely beleive the KashFlow product has significantly more depth to it than any of it's competitors. This is sometimes not apparent as "easy-to-use" is confused with "simple".

There are a couple of points I'd like to clarify:

VAT Rate
I'm assuming you're using an old/pre-existing account? Anyone creating an account as from the second the rate changed would have defaulted to 20%. For existing accounts, messages were displayed in-app for users to opt-in to have their rates also autoamtcially update at the stroke of midnight.

Bank Locking
If the account is managed by an Orbit Accountant then they can remove the option for the client to unlock transactions (As well as giving the accountant a whole host of other "control" aspects over the account)

Multi-User Permissions
This is by far our biggest limiting factor for  attracting bigger companies. We're working in this right now - watch this space.

Terminology
You would be amazed how few SMEs comment on this (ie, the use of the word "Receipt" instead of "Purchase Invoice"). You'd be less amazed at how many accountants DO comment on it. We'll soon have a multi-language option with two four variants of English: Plain English, Accountants English, and their US equivalents.

I'd love for one of my colleagues to demonstrate Orbit to you at some point. It's so so so much more than just a control panel for accountant + discounted licensing. Once you see what it can do you'll see it's worthy of a review on just Orbit.

The Future
You're spot on in your closing comments. The market is getting very competitive and we will have to work hard to maintain our lead. The competition isn't going to come from the likes of Sage and Quickbooks though, their online offerings are a joke. The real competition are the other SaaS vendors you mention. We've got some very exciting plans on the product front and have just arranged access to more than enough capital to execute them, as Mr Howlett picked up. I'll be writing my own blog post on this front soon after a much needed holiday. 

Thanks again for the review. I know there are dozens of accounting apps out there now, so you'd have been forgiven for spending your time on those rather than re-visiting KashFlow.

abelljms's picture

Weaknesses

abelljms | | Permalink

 

 

Weaknesses
● i'd say bank rec routine should be at top of the list closely followed.......

by the lack of accounting-trained support staff. they would spend loads less time on the phone if they understood the question 1st time etc...

 

i don't have a problem supporting my clients, but we need an effective conduit to get support, and email tennis is not even vaguely acceptable - it goes strongly against whole reason for support.

After all it could even be done in early evenings up to say 7pm, by a duty person sitting in the pub using their notebook pc and voip phone, or even on skype as one of my clients does all his worldwide support etc........

Some analysis is needed of what it is support spend their time doing now, and working out how to deploy more effectively without increasing overheads. etc.....

 

anyway i'm in trouble now.

 

 

abelljms's picture

rock on

abelljms | | Permalink

 

 

"We'll soon have a multi-language option with two variants of English: Muppets English,  vs. Accountants English"

 

yes please, but your staff need to know the lingo.  

e.g. no one ever ever ever has called a purchase invoice a purchase receipt, it is sooooooo confusing.

 

 

 

Quick File - Free Bookkeeping Service

boggey79 | | Permalink

 Kashflow is a great tool and cloud based accounting systems are undoubtedly the way forward.

You may also want to take a look at Quick File. This is a free bookkeeping and accounts management system. It has a vast range of features matching many of those on Kashflow. It also has some great additional extras like hosting your own branded client area with full online payment integration. You can file your VAT returns electronically and even include the EC Sales list in the electronic feed.

Quick File also has a great bank tagging feature allowing you to save heaps of time reconciling your accounts! I won't go over all the features here but be sure to take a look!

ChrisBurr's picture

Needs more for the larger SME.

ChrisBurr | | Permalink

Having looked at a number of SAAS accounting options I'd say Kashflow is fine for the small one man band type of client.  That is obviously what it was aimed at initially and it does the job well.

However for the more larger (but not that much larger) SME' type businesses they would benefit from more complexity. I would say the key things Kashfklow needs to add are:

1. Multi-user;

2. Multicompany/Departmentalisation - ie profit and costscentres;

3. Job Costing

Kashflow seems to have used the same field for both job costing and department concepts which means you can do one or the other but not both!  This is a shame as I think by adding multi-user and  being able to do both job costing and departmentalisation would open up considerably more scope for Kashflow to appeal to a greater number of businesses ( many of which are not that much bigger but need this extra bit of sophistication).  As an accountant who wants to provide worthwhile support to help clients manage and grow thier businesses, I often see a clear need for clients to produce regular and better analysis/management reports to help them run their businesses.  The ability to produce good analysis of profit by business area, job, client, are key to this.  For such clients, at the moment I think Xero looks a better option. (Happy for Kashflow to proove me wrong if they think it can be done but I can't see how).   I would really like to see Kashflow develop more sophistication in this area as its probably the only thing stops me recommending them to larger (but not that much larger!)SME clients.

The reference to purchase 'receipts' is a little confusing. I really can't see what is so complicated about terms like 'sales invoice', 'purchase invoice' and then their respective '(sales) receipts' and '(purchase) payments'.  You could not have four clearer mutually exclusive terms to describe the concepts, its clear even for a non accountants!  This is an example of kashflow trying to make something simpler/easier but actually making it more confusing in the process.

abelljms's picture

bank again

abelljms | | Permalink

 

 

 

 

"The bank reconciliation routine was recently improved in response to the strength of feeling expressed in the AccountingWEB.co.uk KashFlow discussion group. I didn't see the previous version, but the current bank reconciliation looks robust and easy to use..."

 

really, that's news, i can't see any of this enhancement in the version online. do reviewers get same version punters use?

 

 

Free KashFlow for life

apacarada | | Permalink

We have been partners for almost two years with KashFlow and we like it so much that we offer it for free to our clients. We want all our clients doing bookkeeping in KashFlow.

Free accounting sowtware

lizzit's picture

But can I access my data ten years later???

lizzit | | Permalink

This appears to be a cloud computing programme with monthly fees.  I am against cloud computing in general for accounting purposes due to the need to access data in the far future and the possibility that I won't be able to if it isn't kept on my machine or my server.  We all want our businesses to be successful, but we all know more businesses fail in the first three years than thrive.  To sell this product to me and thus to my clients, they need to make sure the following things are in place to counteract the inherit problems cloud computing has associated with loss of data after the business closes:

1) Lifetime access to old data without paying fees.  Companies close; HMRC plods on.  Inquiries and ivnestigations can arise six years later, ten, fifteen, yeah verily nigh on twenty years if there is even the faintest whiff of criminal misconduct.  There should not be a choice the director has to make between ponying up the monthly fee to maintain access or losing access to all his historical data.

2) Portability of data.  If the director needs access ten years later, the method of access has to be guarenteed to be compatable and accessable on the old data.

3) Password and access ability after comapny closure.  They must have an option for obtaining passwords and access for companies post close.  The directors forget the access details, the links were all related to that old domain name no longer used because the company is no longer in existence, the company no longer has a snail mail address, the director's snail mail address has changed, the bank accounts are long since closed, indeed every thing is lost in the remote axis of time.  A speciality access plan must exist for those companies when they face a surprise HMRC audit post-closure.

The review does not cover these very important issues that would sell me and my clients on KashFlow. 

-- --Liz@BritishAmericanTax.com

DuaneJAckson's picture

Responses from KashFlow

DuaneJAckson | | Permalink

@abelljms
I replied to your post elsehwere on AccounitngWeb to explain why email support would be a better option than telephone. There's a more detailed explanation here. If you're an Orbit user then you're entitle to telephone support - but the comments made there are still valid.

If you've used email support and ended up with "email tennis", then please email me direct (duane@kashflow.com) with the ticket number so I can investigate as this should never be the case.

Having said that, there's still certainly lots of room for improvement on how we run support. We'll be formally announcing the hire of a COO with a track record in the accounting software industry and improving support will be one of his main responsibilities.

Yes, reviewers get teh exact same software as customers

@ChirsBurr
Thanks fore the feedback. We're working on multi-user permissions right now.
As you correctly point out, in KashFlow you can do Job Costing or Departmental Accounting, but not both. 
I can see howyour suggestion makes sense and we will implement it at some point - hwoever, it wont be in the near future due to other priorities.

On the terminology front, I can only speak from my experience of dealing with our SME customers ("my accountant tells me to keep my receipts, where do I record them?") - so we'll have to agree to disagree.

@LizzIT
Yes, you can access your data 10 years later. The system can email you a back up of your data every week, fully compatible with Excel and pre-formatted for imprting into Sage products. So assuming you have a copy of Sage 50 laying around you can access it in a very usable format, if not then the data can be read in Excel (although with a bit of fiddling, depending what you need.

With regards to point 3 and password recovery for closed companies. We've been there a few times already and have an internal process for dealing with it. For security reasosn I won't detail the process publicly, but it works.
 

Finally, @boggey76. Hire a good marketing agency if you're unsure on how to market your product without looking like a bit of a spammer.

 

Looking for a Kashflow accountant

bean79 | | Permalink

Hello,

We are an SME turning over around 250k.  We have using Kashflow to enter all our accounts since 01.05.12.  

We are trying to sort out our end of year accountants 2012/2013 but having problems reconciling different 'bank' accounts and reconciling with our actual bank account.

Our second problem is that as well as receiving payments from bank transfers and Payal which work fine we also sell on amazon.  Kashflow are very vague and change their mind regulalry on how this should be accounted for.

 

We are looking for an accontent who has experience of the above.  We need help to sort out our accounts for last year and set us on a clear path going forward

Please contact Tom Starkey 0n 01273 324183 if you would like to discuss your services.

 

Thanks

Use this Voucher to get a discount on Kashflow

liveclive | | Permalink

We saved £1500 in the first year

 

We tested several online accounts software and found Kashflow the best. We had it up a running in half day and saved £1500 a year in postage. Click below for a free 30 day trial and a LIFETIME discount with this voucher:-

 

http://kf.cm/LrG3fZ

 

Clive