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Follow up to do tech stacks work

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Thanks to everyone who has responded. One of my biggest concerns is the add-ons, bolt-ons, extra-apps - whatever you want to call them. I had a client who connected his appointment system to Xero, and his credit card collection facility, and his bank account; the result was that Xero was counting his income three times, so he thought his business was doing really well. 

Xero said it was his choice to connect them and took no responsibility at all; to my mind, this is like a doctor handing out prescriptions (all these solutions are available to you) and not worrying about any contra-indications. And as any of you will know, sorting out this kind of mess takes twice as long as simply scrapping the whole lot and knocking it out on a spreadsheet!!

 

The problem is we are pushing people towards doing something that they (a) don't understand, (b) are not trained on and (c) don't want to do anyway. Couple that with adverts saying how easy it is and you have a recipe for disaster.

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By Duggimon
06th Aug 2021 09:27

It's not Xero's fault your client is using a tool to run his business with no idea of how the tool works.

It's all very well complaining the advertising says it will make it all easy, but to be fair to the software it does make things easy, you still have to learn how to use it.

A car makes it easy for me to get to work but I need to know how to drive it and were I to ignore that part of things I'd be dead in a ditch. It would hardly be the fault of the manufacturer for telling me the car would make it easy to get around.

Any client that asks me about cloud bookkeeping is told the same thing - I like the tools and they can make things easy but you'll need to learn double entry bookkeeping and if you're not interested in doing so, it's easier for you and me if you list everything in Excel instead. Everyone can do a list.

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By adam.arca
06th Aug 2021 13:32

Duggimon wrote:

A car makes it easy for me to get to work but I need to know how to drive it and were I to ignore that part of things I'd be dead in a ditch. It would hardly be the fault of the manufacturer for telling me the car would make it easy to get around.

I'm not sure that's a useful analogy.

People have to pass a test in order to drive a car so car ads don't need to state anything about competence as it's a given.

The situation with software ads is, unfortunately, completely different.

I seem to remember a case from commercial law (was it the carbolic soap one?) which in essence ruled that the advertiser will be held to the standard of the product they claim. Perhaps the regulators should be rolling that one out but it won't happen as HMG are already in cahoots with the software industry to suck us all in as they want everyone to create as big a digital footprint as possible.

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By Duggimon
06th Aug 2021 15:56

Show me the advert where any of the cloud based bookkeeping solutions say you don't need to have any understanding of bookkeeping to use them.

You might not like my car analogy but there are thousands of things that exist to make tasks easier, you still have to know how to do the tasks, or at least read the instructions.

I need to know how to cook to have use for a cooker, how to sew to make use of a sewing machine, how to drive to make use of a car and how to keep books to make use of bookkeeping software. That is obvious enough that I don't really see it as an egregious fault of the software providers for failing to include the learning process in their adverts. It's just crass stupidity on the part of anyone who buys something they know virtually nothing about and expects to be able to use it with no learning process.

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By adam.arca
06th Aug 2021 18:12

I'm not really buying what you're saying.

Duggimon wrote:

Show me the advert where any of the cloud based bookkeeping solutions say you don't need to have any understanding of bookkeeping to use them.

Show me the advert where any of the cloud based bookkeeping solutions specifically address the need for underlying knowledge.

Duggimon wrote:

I don't really see it as an egregious fault of the software providers for failing to include the learning process in their adverts. It's just crass stupidity on the part of anyone who buys something they know virtually nothing about and expects to be able to use it with no learning process.

Yes, agree it is crass stupidity but it's definitely happening out there. You appear to be going down the caveat emptor line here but that defence went out with the ark really, and we all know is only likely to apply in very restricted circumstances these days. If a lot of people try something and fail, it may well be the case that they're all morons but it's also case that it will most likely be regarded as the seller's fault regardless of how honest their pitch was (and software companies aren't even meeting that basic requirement): it's caveat vendor which applies these days.

And, in these particular circumstances, I really think that is right.

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Replying to adam.arca:
By Duggimon
10th Aug 2021 09:52

Your argument might hold water if most computer software could be bought and used without learning how it works. That however is almost never the case.

Why is it the fault of bookkeeping software providers if people keep rubbish books because they don't know what they're doing? I don't suddenly know how to produce music because I bought Pro Tools, I don't know how to edit videos because I bought Adobe Premier and buying Xero doesn't mean I know how to keep books.

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By adam.arca
10th Aug 2021 12:49

I do actually agree with the thrust of your argument that, in general, bad workmen blame their tools.

I'm just a little surprised by your stout defence of software companies in this particular case.

The ads are clever but there is undoubtedly the subliminal message that a) accounts is easy, and b) your accountant can be binned off (or at least excluded from the process). Also, c) there is no mention of the risks of getting it wrong in terms of missed deadlines, potentially underpaid tax and potential penalties, and d) we as accountants know perfectly well there are many, many clients who either won't cope or where MTD isn't really relevant to them (which may not be the software companies fault unless you subscribe to the conspiracy theories).

It's points c) and d) (because I do subscribe to this conspiracy theory) in particular which are the aggravating factors for me and tip these ads into the actively misleading category where "something should be done" but where nothing will be done because it doesn't suit the bright young things at the Treasury who think we should all be like them and live our complete lives online.

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By Rgab1947
12th Aug 2021 09:50

Probably works for a software company.

Off course they don't say. They imply, fudge whatever. Gee does the guy think we are that stupid.

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By Rgab1947
12th Aug 2021 09:51

Probably works for a software company and part time for politicians.

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Glenn Martin
By Glenn Martin
06th Aug 2021 17:11

For me Xero still see the accountant partner route as a valuable pipeline it would seem to me that QBO would prefer to deal direct.

If you take advice at the start the systems are fairly easy to roll out and problems like you mention should not really happen, someone who just cracks on and tell you to check it at the year end is much more likely to go wrong as the problem will repeat right through. We have some right messes come in from people who bought QBO from the advert and messed it up so we have tried to sort it out we now wouldnt even look at them unless they agreed to start again on Xero as you never recover your time properly and client rarely see any value in sorting their crap out.

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By johnhemming
06th Aug 2021 19:09

Looking at this I think the adverts should say "less effort" rather than "easy".

It takes less time and hence work, but you need to know what you are doing (which over time people will learn).

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By adam.arca
07th Aug 2021 07:36

johnhemming wrote:

Looking at this I think the adverts should say "less effort" rather than "easy".

Agreed. That still wouldn’t be exactly accurate but it would be close enough: we’re used to adverts having a tangential relationship to the truth but at least that relationship would then be there.

johnhemming wrote:

It takes less time and hence work, but you need to know what you are doing (which over time people will learn).

You’re both wrong and right IMHO.

Your experience as a software developer makes it invalid in this context because you’ve been preaching to the already converted.

You’re nevertheless right that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks, but you’re also wrong because that saying still holds true in the main.

You’re also right that this will happen but it will eventually happen as part of a generational swing rather than by conscripting the middle aged and oldsters into a straight jacket they don’t want to be in (and, even worse, making them pay for the privilege).

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By trecar
12th Aug 2021 10:01

The problem regarding book-keeping software is that in order to sell it to the market the software companies imply that it is easy. I struggle to understand why this is permitted by the advertising regulator. There are countless agencies selling book-keeping courses for the various book-keeping programs and for professionals you can even get certified as one of their specialists. If it was that easy then there would be no need for certification. This would imply that a customer buying add-ons to their software is not skilled enough to know that the add-on may cause problems. Therefore I would have thought that the software companies have a responsibility to advise that help is sought, even if only from one of their certified advisors.

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By cbarling
12th Aug 2021 10:35

I have founded a couple of software companies and been the chairman of others. I specified a general ledger system in the early 80s when packages were pretty much unknown and have implemented accounting systems all over Europe.

Yes, the current TV advertising for QB, Xero and Sage in my opinion gives the impression that everything is easy. That can mislead.

At the same time, we did some independent research on SME businesses with 2+ staff in the trade space. For each of QB, Xero and Sage in answer to the question "What are the 3 things you most love about the solution "Easy to use" (or some variant of that) was the top answer.

My current startup provides a business solution for trade companies and we provide support for MTD for VAT. However, we charge £25 per month per user because we have to give good support to make this viable. We aren't anti-accountant at all and we have a fairly comprehensive Xero interface as well.

However, one of our problems is that accountants sometimes tell our customers to dump us (when we are specifically oriented to help the end user run their business day to day) and use an accounting system instead.

So there are a number of angles to look at this issue from!

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By adam.arca
12th Aug 2021 11:49

You make some good points and it's interesting to have a different perspective. To pull you up on one of your points, however:

cbarling wrote:

At the same time, we did some independent research on SME businesses with 2+ staff in the trade space. For each of QB, Xero and Sage in answer to the question "What are the 3 things you most love about the solution "Easy to use" (or some variant of that) was the top answer.

It appears that Winston's saw should now be changed to "lies, damned lies and market research conclusions! HMRC are also guilty of wilfully misapplying / spinning their market research (not that I am suggesting that is what you are doing).

Of course the man on the street thinks the software is wonderful and easy to use: that's why they have the misplaced confidence to carry on and make such a mess. If it were difficult and they really had to stop and think about it, then the more cautious / sensible ones would speak to their accountant first and that would be better for them in the long run.

So, in other words, that question is misleading and / or doesn't really dig deeply enough.

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By 19kings
12th Aug 2021 11:03

I have no problem with Xero not being accountable. Why should they be?
To me it is no different from buying a Porsche, adding on slicks and lowering the suspension. Would Porsche be responsible if you got into trouble spinning out around the first corner on the racetrack?
In terms of accounting software and add ons this is where the accountant and bookkeeper need to be advising clients what is suitable for their business and not leaving the client on their own to spin out or triple their turnover.

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By Hugo Fair
12th Aug 2021 14:06

Sorry, but not a valid (or helpful) example.
On the other hand, if Porsche delivered a new car on a sunny day with slicks and lowered suspension as the default ... then I believe they'd indeed be responsible for the foreseeable carnage when it rains.
That is closer to how Xero (and others) advertise ... with a focus on a couple of simple aspects and an inference that it will be ever thus (but no mention of rainy days or the need to understand accounting principles).

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By john hextall
12th Aug 2021 14:46

It's a bit rubbish if Xero lives in a 'tech-stack' without realising it's triple counting data from other parts of the stack. I understand the support Xero offers (which would otherwise get this sorted out) is also somewhat rubbish. Although the user is mostly at fault for not understanding the plumbing, I don't think it is acceptable for software companies to behave like this.

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