FreeAgent unveils business performance tool Radar
Top four accounting platform FreeAgent has released a new feature called Radar, designed to increase productivity for small businesses. Coronavirus support is soon to follow.
Radar is free for FreeAgent users and includes an admin tool that provides an automatically updated to-do list to help users improve their workload management efficiency. Although there are other offerings on the market from third-party providers such as Futrli, Radar appears to currently be the only non-plug-in offering an engine of personalised insights from the central software provider.
According to FreeAgent CEO Ed Molyneux, the point of Radar was for FreeAgent to do “the hard work instead” in identifying and planning daily admin schedules by building personal, daily to-do lists by interpreting user-data.
Molyneux explained that the schedules would become “more intricate and insightful over time”, with Radar eventually becoming a “complete central hub for small business admin”, from daily accounting tasks to financial services, such as finding insurance and loans. Molyneux added that the end goal is for “FreeAgent to be invaluable for teaching and informing people about how their business is actually running.”
The smart analysis to-do list
FreeAgent chief product officer Roan Lavery told AccountingWEB the point of the daily to-do list was to encourage customers to “keep on top of their books” by “doing little and often”. In turn, this will ensure that the data is up-to-date in order to reflect as accurate insights as possible back to the customers.
The to-do list is the key new admin feature of Radar which “makes FreeAgent the first point of contact as users can log in in first thing and see everything they have to do to keep on top of their workload,” said Lavery.
Currently, most of the tasks relate to banking, such as reconciling transactions, explaining transactions and reconnecting banks feeds – “nothing particularly clever, but it helps people keep on top of work.” Lavery added that a wider variety of tasks will be added in time, particularly relating to bookkeeping.
The feature uses smart data analysis from within each customer’s business accounts to highlight important admin tasks and it collates a unique, personalised list that small business owners need to address in their accounts each day.
The Insights aspect to Radar has existed for some time, but recently FreeAgent has moved away from the traditional accounting model. “Before, the general model has been passive,” said Lavery. Users would go in, add data, and if they wanted to “dig a little deeper”, they would have to run a report and have the required knowledge and understanding to interpret the data. Most small business owners “don’t have the time, experience or background to do this confidently”.
According to Lavery, the point of Insights was to “move away from accounting software as simply a system of record to being a system of insight” using analytics to decipher events and data, making it easy to specific aspects of how your business is performing. For example, Insights provides ‘intelligent financial data insights’ on best and worst-paying customers, upcoming VAT bills and areas of highest spending.
FreeAgent plans to add more functions to Insights during 2020 to ‘provide deeper and more useful analysis of business accounts’.
In the current crisis, keeping informed on business performance is crucial. Knowing your best customers, which ones pay late and being able to identify cashflow issues weeks in advance can help keep a business afloat.
However, Lavery also revealed that the FreeAgent team has been working on a coronavirus-specific government support insights function “about pointing to applicable support, tailored to the customer’s business”. The business's Insights data, such as business type, location and VAT status, will be used to point customers to the relevant government support, offering “more personalised guidance so they don’t have to dig around on the web”. The feature will also flag to users if they have a deferrable VAT payment and has just gone live.
The importance of accountants
For Lavery, the key concerns for FreeAgent customers made apparent in the recent weeks is the uncertainty for the self-employed and freelancers, principally around “understanding the support offered and how it actually applies to them”.
“A lot of support has been announced but people are struggling to take advantage. Trying to run businesses and educate people on the help available is a real source of confusion,” said Lavery.
“It’s crucial that people are supported and given the help they need and accountants play a crucial role in that. Now more than ever, customers are going to need the support of their accountant. It’s going to be a struggle for accountants, but the work they are doing is absolutely essential.”