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Alternatives to Xero?

Xero was great 5 years ago but are there now better cloud alternatives for small practices?

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I think Xero continues to be great for small businesses who don't get anywhere near the limits of its capabilities. But despite upgrades to the partner tools I find Xero increasingly frustrating on a number of levels. First, account management seems non-existent. Functionality gets left where it started and the developers seem intent on not revisiting design and fixing the holes they left, or making things better. Take the bank rec screen, and budget reporting. The feature request section is an unmanageable mess. And there is still a jarring mix of old and new screen designs. Maybe it has got too global, so are there better UK solutions now out there? Perhaps with integrated final accounts and tax?

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By Manchester_man
13th Dec 2017 04:04

I really don't think there are, no.

I agree that the feature request system is a waste of the web space it occupies, and I agree that Xero does have its flaws, such as the way it handles credit notes - this is something which raised hundreds of feature requests which have all been ignored.

However, as somebody who initially refused to promote one specific software brand, preferring instead to choose a cloud offering which suited the client's needs and budget, I have had a few years practice using a variety of cloud software, and I am left with no doubt that Xero is the winner. QuickBooks Online for example is like a punishment!

I must state, in the interests of fairness, that although I've used most of the main (and most of the free) cloud packages, I haven't yet tried Clearbooks, despite having heard positive feedback on it. I recall that our very own Paul Scholes speaks highly of it?

I will trial it at some point.

I spoke quite harshly about Xero a couple of years ago on here, but having inflicted some of the alternative offerings upon myself, I now take back everything.

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Replying to Manchester_man:
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By andy.partridge
13th Dec 2017 11:44

Seriously, I would avoid Clearbooks.

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Replying to andy.partridge:
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By PracticePartner
13th Dec 2017 12:49

Why?

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Replying to PracticePartner:
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By andy.partridge
13th Dec 2017 16:56

It provides a unique 'solution' for a problem that shouldn't exist. For example, for dividends you set up the shareholder as a supplier. It won't allow a dividend transaction if the data shows insufficient reserves. Fine in a professional environment but where an unqualified bookkeeper might be using the system as a glorified cash book it presents unnecessary problems.

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Replying to andy.partridge:
Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
13th Dec 2017 18:41

Andy - Where have you been?

CB released its dividend tool about 2 years ago, you set up shareholders and manage their shareholdings, declare dividends which are then split between shareholder creditors accounts and produce dividend vouchers, minutes and an annual certificate for each shareholder for their personal tax returns.

It also has a basic stab at telling you what the available profits are but doesn't stop you recording the dividend.

Would that suit you better?

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Replying to Paul Scholes:
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By andy.partridge
13th Dec 2017 22:18

Paul, at least we are agreed that what Clearbooks must have thought were great ideas have not worked. My clients experience is unchanged, but I will tell them your good news.

It's a competitive world. When there are obvious flaws in a system my interest in it is not sustained. Like others I am sure, I move on and make time to look at competitors. There are plenty of them. I have no burning desire to keep revisiting Clearbooks to see if they have improved. They lost me and it is unlikely I will return.

Tell me if I am wrong, but don't you have a vested interest in promoting Clearbooks? Something you often omit from your posts.

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Replying to andy.partridge:
Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
14th Dec 2017 10:36

Andy - with regard to dividends, in the old days I processed them through CB for my clients, even when it warned that profits may be insufficient so we are not agreed.

Come on, are you really hanging your "seriously, I would avoid Clearbooks" hat on the fact you didn't like the way it did dividends?

As I said in another post on here, I find flaws in every system I use, CB included, but, if the system suits the client and the flaws are not fundamental, I'll go with it.

For example, many accountants and bookkeepers see FreeAgent as seriously flawed because it is missing several areas of sophistication found in most other systems but for four of my clients it has been a near perfect solution for over five years.

Don't take this personally, I'm not expecting you to return to give CB another go, I like the support tea too much, my issue is over your bland statement indicating that a system should be avoided based on your way out of date and probably sketchy knowledge.

As I found with Xero, which I hardly touched for a year, cloud products never stand still and comparing them is only of value over very short periods.

As for my involvement with CB, I stopped noting my connecting with it in my posts when I stopped my connection with it 9 months ago, hope that settles your doubt over my integrity.

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Replying to Manchester_man:
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By PracticePartner
13th Dec 2017 11:44

Clearbooks seemed to tick a lot of boxes, it is UK focused, but seems to have dropped of the radar lately. Is it getting good traction, anyone here using it successfully or otherwise?

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Replying to PracticePartner:
Man of Kent
By Kent accountant
13th Dec 2017 13:06

It's [***]

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Replying to Kent accountant:
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By PracticePartner
13th Dec 2017 15:53

How is it {****]? Poor functionality, design, performance, support, customer service? They seemed to be going all out to woo accountants a couple of years ago having got some VC investment.

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Replying to PracticePartner:
Man of Kent
By Kent accountant
16th Dec 2017 12:48

Functionality, ease of use, design, customer support (poor knowledge and response).

If you were to move from Xero to CB that would be a massive backwards step.

The business doesn't have any momentum - the founder, his sister (and Paul Scholes) have left the business - sales have stagnated - take a look at the (full) accounts submitted at Companies House.

If any of the mainstream (small business) cloud software providers (Xero, QB, FreeAgent, Kashflow, CB, SageOne) were to fold/stop trading/disappear a la Liquid Accounts (anyone remember them?) then my money is on ClearBooks.

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Replying to Kent accountant:
Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
18th Dec 2017 11:37

Kent accountant wrote:

Functionality, ease of use, design, customer support (poor knowledge and response).

If you were to move from Xero to CB that would be a massive backwards step.

The business doesn't have any momentum - the founder, his sister (and Paul Scholes) have left the business - sales have stagnated - take a look at the (full) accounts submitted at Companies House.

If any of the mainstream (small business) cloud software providers (Xero, QB, FreeAgent, Kashflow, CB, SageOne) were to fold/stop trading/disappear a la Liquid Accounts (anyone remember them?) then my money is on ClearBooks.

I am not a cheerleader for CB, in fact even when I worked with them, I was equally comfortable talking about their cons as well as their pros, but I have to take issue with you over your jaundiced comments.

Did you read the Op's question? You have made the decision to be a Xero only practice and so, by definition, you either can see no point in alternatives or have little current experience of the 30 odd alternatives out there.

In other words, in comparison to your every day use of Xero how much day to day experience have you had of CB, are you really qualified to give an opinion on this topic?

You say that customer support is poor. As we all know, very few apps can give consistently good support, they go up and down and I have found no consistent difference in quality between Xero's & CB's and, last time I checked, Xero doesn't offer phone support to users, something my clients have happily used with CB.

With regard to your comments on the comparison of companies, are you serious, have you looked at Xero's accounts with last year's loss representing 24% of its revenue, compared to CB's 1%?

And why does my finishing work with CB have any bearing on the company's fortunes or future, I wish you hadn't done that.

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Replying to Manchester_man:
Teignmouth
By Paul Scholes
13th Dec 2017 16:30

My ears were burning!

As has been indicated in every debate over many years, including this one, there is no perfect system that matches every business and, if I was starting out again, I would still do the legwork of investigating pros & cons, trialling and matching them to individual or typical client needs as well as how I want to work.

I am also not of a mind to blindly follow the system with the biggest user base and, having trained several practices have been less than impressed with firms that own Xero's coloured badges. If you think about it, with so many years of cockups and blind alleys created by the long established systems, there will be new entrants who will do it better.

I may be rare in using both Xero & Clearbooks several times a week and overall find each equally enjoyable and frustrating so I match each to the type of client who will make the most of it or avoid the the weaknesses of the other.

What I really like about Xero is that you can change historic transactions and it takes care of all the VAT for you, something that CB struggles with.

With some of my clients, Xero's bank explanation routine is far superior, but with others, because of the nature of the transactions, it falls down dramatically compared to CB.

I still find CB many times easier to train my inexperienced clients on but then Xero offers some good integrations and so it would be worth the extra time to be able to make use of them.

PS - there was a mention of Exact, it was always way over the top for any of my clients, but aren't they now winding back from the UK?

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blue sheep
By NH
13th Dec 2017 07:13

For me it depends what you mean by better?
In terms of ease of use and quality of software I rank Xero as the best, followed by Freeagent, QBO and Sage in that order.
In terms of value for money, or should I simply say price, it is the other way around, you clearly get what you pay for.

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Replying to NH:
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By PracticePartner
13th Dec 2017 11:42

SageOne is interesting in that it offers both Accounting (bookkeeping) and Final Accounts, and Personal Tax for that matter. But Accounting isn't as user friendly as Xero, although as a suite you can't knock it for value. I spend hundreds of pounds a month on Xero, and £50 a month on Sage. For me the benefits of integrated final accounts are quite compelling, although I won't pretend that Sage covers more than sole traders and simple limited companies, so I'd still need final accounts software for the other 20%.

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By kevinread
13th Dec 2017 11:35

QuickBooks Online is the winner for us.

We use the Accountant Dashboard to manage clients and the requests feature to ask for documents from clients.

The ability to use the bank reconciation for most Balance Sheet nominals is a huge advantage in QuickBooks and is very logical.

The budgeting section is only available in QuickBooks Online Plus. It's excellent and very easy to use.

It wins everytime when it comes to reporting & auditing too with full drill down and full audit trial for each transaction.

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Jeni Peacock accountsIQ
By jpeacock
13th Dec 2017 09:57

Take a look at AccountsIQ - it's highly regarded for SMEs and accounting practices, particularly if consolidation and advanced reporting are a requirement. https://accountsiq.com/

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Replying to jpeacock:
blue sheep
By NH
13th Dec 2017 10:11

Always suspicious when prices are not quoted on their website

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Replying to jpeacock:
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By PracticePartner
13th Dec 2017 11:33

It appears to be aimed at SMEs rather than accountants and their small business clients. Lots of mention of Deloitte and PwC ...

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Jeni Peacock accountsIQ
By jpeacock
13th Dec 2017 10:26

AccountsIQ is an affordable system but pricing depends on what you need, as you might not need all the modules or the complexity it allows. Many companies use the 'Light financials' version but there is also an 'Enterprise' version and the pricing/solution is very much customised to a company's specific requirements. More info here https://accountsiq.com/core-financials/

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Replying to jpeacock:
blue sheep
By NH
13th Dec 2017 10:42

It might be the best software in the world, it might be affordable, but if its competing with any of the others it needs to have clear pricing on its site, otherwise the default assumption is that it is expensive.
How much is your Light Financials version?

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Replying to NH:
Jeni Peacock accountsIQ
By jpeacock
13th Dec 2017 12:05

Thanks - we are fixing that on our web site. Pricing for Light financials is from £125 per month.

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Replying to jpeacock:
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By PracticePartner
13th Dec 2017 12:52

jpeacock wrote:

Thanks - we are fixing that on our web site. Pricing for Light financials is from £125 per month.


Is that per company? That sits well with small business cloud accounting offerings in the £10-£30 per month price range.
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Replying to jpeacock:
blue sheep
By NH
13th Dec 2017 13:21

FROM £125 a month LOL, you are kidding right?
although it explains why you are cagey about your prices!

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Replying to NH:
Jeni Peacock accountsIQ
By jpeacock
13th Dec 2017 13:33

AccountsIQ is aimed at the mid-market rather than very small companies so would have a lot more functionality than some other systems like Xero, Quickbooks etc
https://accountsiq.com/core-financials/

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Replying to jpeacock:
Glenn Martin
By Glenn Martin
13th Dec 2017 13:45

For that sector of the market you need to consider Exact, as my good mate Kent Accountant calls it "Xero for grown ups".

Exact is a very good bit of kit, for mid range to enterprise level, when your using it, its like been in a German car, you know your in something quality. (Even though they are Dutch)

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Replying to jpeacock:
blue sheep
By NH
13th Dec 2017 13:45

So its not really an alternative to Xero then is it, which begs the question why have you hijacked the thread?
I dont wish to be rude but most of the members of this site object to shameless advertising in this manner.

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By andy.partridge
13th Dec 2017 11:55

Solar now has an online version. Not perfect but might be worth a look.

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Glenn Martin
By Glenn Martin
13th Dec 2017 13:14

Xero is a lot better now than it was 5 years ago and for me it is at least a good head and shoulders better than any of the competition.

I have had the same account manager for 2 years and she is very supportive of me. You just need to see how many platinum partners there are now, it clearly works and will be an industry standard tool when (if) MTD ever happens.

Xero has the reputation of being expensive however Freeagent is more expensive yet it only works for a smaller client base. The 5 versions of Xero mean it works for most clients.

I tried QBO and struggled with it as do clients the bank feeds are poor compared with Xero. Also the tech support and account management is [***] poor with QBO.

The guy from Sage came to see me a few weeks back and Sageone looks ok and the end to end solution will appeal to some although they maybe late to the party unless they focus on converting line 50 uses to Sageone they have actually now built a conversion tool to do it.

Kashflow is terrible and i took all clients off it.

I dabbled with Clearbooks and was not a fan, Scholesy demo'd me it and to be fair it has a lot of features and very good CIS system but as it only has 10,000 you have to question why you would offer that when Xero has over 200k users in UK.

Also when you evolve beyond the bookkeeping side of things Xero comes into its own, with its add ons, all apps are built for Xero first then maybe QBO, if they can be bothered after that they might do it with Sageone.

The Xero add ons let you build a full system for clients with links to amazon, gocardless etc etc so once you get beyond basic bookkeeping Xero becomes the main player. If you are quibbling about a few quid on the subscription their bank feeds alone are worth paying the extra as you can waste hours on ones that dont work or double import things.

I have about 90% on Xero and pleased I went with them overall.

Also the party they had at Xerocon was the best accountancy function I have been to in 30 years in the industry.

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Replying to Glennzy:
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By Manchester_man
13th Dec 2017 13:55

100% - what he said

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Replying to Glennzy:
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By PracticePartner
13th Dec 2017 15:50

Yes you can do a lot with Xero as part of a systems ecosystem, but a big gripe is they never go back and plug holes in what they delivered. With some basic tweaks Xero could raise the game further, simple things like aggregated budget reporting, filtering on the bank rec, and of course updating the rest of the old screens.

I suppose one strategy is to put all the ledger clients on SageOne to leverage the subscription and get integrated compliance, and only use Xero for the ones that will feel (and therefore pay for) the benefit.

I wouldn't write off Sage yet, they are putting a lot of effort into cloud. But maybe a Xero 2.0 would change that!

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Replying to Glennzy:
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By PracticePartner
13th Dec 2017 16:41

Glennzy wrote:

.[Xero] will be an industry standard tool when (if) MTD ever happens.

Depends what they deliver to support it. MTD is one thing but the CTV3 won't die immediately if at all and limited companies will still need to file Companies House accounts and produce Members Accounts in their various forms. So I'm sure many small practices would like a decent cloud accounting platform that does the compliance as well.

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Replying to PracticePartner:
Glenn Martin
By Glenn Martin
14th Dec 2017 12:07

With between 2.5m & 4m small businesses not using any software depending on what press you read, if mTD happens at some point there is going to be a mass migration, Xero for me are sitting best place to serve this with their 5 versions so if they get their fair share there could be 600k+ Xero users within the first 12 months, hence my view that it will be an industry standard product for bookkeeping.

I would fully still to intend using an accounting suite on top, and i suspect that is why IRIS, Digita and BTC have built a 2 way interface with Xero.

Xero seem to be pushing the Xero HQ platform with it associated "super Apps" perhaps the main Practice Software will see themselves joining the platform also so all info is shared between products.

I think the issue you have with Bank Recs will be fixed by better bank feeds and the merging of banking and accounts software where payments will come in pre coded from the bank software so less need to do internal reconciling.

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Replying to Glennzy:
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By PracticePartner
19th Dec 2017 09:52

I reckon Sage will come up with a more streamlined and cost effective alternative to Xero. The interesting point is whether MTD creates opportunities for accountants from the 2.5-4M small businesses you quote. Or will TaxAssist simply mop them up if they haven't got accountants at the moment?

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Replying to PracticePartner:
Glenn Martin
By Glenn Martin
20th Dec 2017 12:05

I think it will create opportunities for us, but it will come down to systems to deal with it.

There will be a big market for someone who can deal with Sole Traders on a large scale for at a price that won't break the bank, so providing value as opposed to a cheap service.

Instead of the once a year model, it will be a 4 times per year model.

I have signed up quite a few landlords this year who used to do their own returns but now don't fancy it after changes to interest etc.

I dont currently do many sole traders, but if you had the scale and systems right it should generate the same margins that bigger jobs do it would be worth considering as 2.5m clients is a big number to go at.

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Logo
By marks
13th Dec 2017 20:58

What do people tend to do? Recommend their preferred cloud option or work with whatever the client wants.

We are mainly a Xero firm with about 100 clients on Xero but we do have clients on other systems; 1 SAGE line 50, 1 SAGEone, 2 Kashflow, 1 Freeagent, 1 Quickbooks Desktop.

Was thinking about offering Kashflow as an option as we use IRIS so would make sense from an integration viewpoint plus they also now bundle IRIS Snap and IRIS insights into the package for £20 + VAT. So comparable to Xero standard package in price but with more "stuff" included. But always read bad reviews on Kashflow and when we looked it it before, about a year ago, it wasnt intuitive to use (like Xero is).

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Replying to marks:
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By PracticePartner
14th Dec 2017 11:41

Bit of both really. We tend to suggest Xero where the user will be hands on, otherwise now tending to put managed clients on Sage because of the final accounts and personal tax, plus it is much better value. If they have a system they are happy with then we'll work with that.

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By chrisacc1985
14th Dec 2017 05:52

Does anybody recommend Wave as a free alternative for clients? There is a posting from 2014 on it (https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/any-answers/wave-accounting-0), but does anyone have any recent experience?

A friend of mine uses it for his business (not VAT registered) and is very happy with it. He says the bank import works well, and can be automated like other systems.

I would suspect that it doesn't support add-ins as well the main providers. I also wonder if it will fully support MTD when it comes along.

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Replying to chrisacc1985:
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By the_drookit_dug
14th Dec 2017 13:14

I use it for a charity that is strapped for cash. Seems to do the trick - obviously it's pretty basic, and to handle fund accounting I have to put a marker at the beginning of each transaction to indicate which fund it relates to, which is not ideal, but it lets me export to Excel from which I can do a quick pivot table to get fund movements.

Not exactly a 100% fit, but what do you expect for free?

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By D V Fields
15th Dec 2017 20:32

Pen and paper.

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blue sheep
By NH
16th Dec 2017 13:16

I wouldn't say they are alternatives to Xero, but I have a client on Zoho that seems quite good.
also, there are aspects of Quickfile I really like but the pricing for a bureau with more than one client is bizarre, and as its open source there is no real support

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Glen Foster
By Glen Foster
18th Dec 2017 19:21

Hi PracticePartner,

I head up our account management function at Xero and would love to have a chat and ensure we get the account management up to your standards. Feel free to drop me an email to [email protected] and we can setup a time for a chat. I'd love the chance to change your opinion on the account management experience.

Thanks

Glen Foster
Xero UK

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