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NetSuite vs Intacct: The cloud battle for the mid-market heats up

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Oracle NetSuite and Sage Intacct both announced big moves at their recent conferences. What will this bring to the table for mid-market businesses looking at cloud tools, and what opportunities does the expansion of cloud software in general present for firms looking to work with larger clients?

25th Oct 2022
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For a good while, NetSuite and Intacct were the only shows in town when it came to browser-based accounting work for multi-entry organisations or if you had complex accounting or reporting needs, wanted a cloud tool but couldn’t find a suitable plugin for QuickBooks Online or Xero.

NetSuite claimed the cutting edge as its own by launching an online enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite in 1998 before people were even talking about the cloud, while a chunk of Sage’s recent success has been driven by the acquisition (and subsequent growth) of midmarket powerhouse Intacct in 2017.  

AccountingWEB’s Insights research this year has shown that while smaller businesses are easing back in the throttle when it comes to tech acquisition, there are increased signs of activity among mid-size and larger organisations. 

Traditionally the home of upgrades and tweaks due to its relative complexity, the mid-market has seen a wave of cloud adoption in recent years, driven by a combination of covid lockdown demand, a need for efficiencies and lower barriers to implementation.

While this has helped the NetSuite and Intacct numbers, it has also allowed others to expand in a space described by iplicit CEO Lyndon Stickley as “grossly underserved”. Microsoft’s cloud finance suite Dynamics 365 emerged as one of the biggest winners in AccountingWEB’s Q1 2022 survey, while Xledger, iplicit and AccountsIQ have also prospered and grown in their respective fields – not to mention the recent move into the UK mid-market from Intuit with the launch of its QuickBooks Online Advanced product.

So how have the two cloud mid-market giants responded to new challenges on their home turf? During the recent conference season, with NetSuite’s SuiteWorld and Sage Intacct’s Transform events held just two weeks apart, the duo duly delivered a raft of measures intended to separate themselves from the pack. 

Intacct expansion plans

At its Transform conference in Florida, Sage CEO Steve Hare announced increased investment for Intacct, which has played a major part in the group’s subscription ambitions, adding 22% recurring revenue growth to the wider business and delivering more than 2,000 new customers in North America alone last year.

Intacct will also expand from its traditional base of service industry and not-for-profit customers by launching manufacturing, construction and wholesale distribution modules (with manufacturing already up and running with UK early adopters).

Intacct also took a step towards tackling an area of weakness in comparison to NetSuite by announcing the “internationalisation” of the product. It will go live in France by the end of the year, marking its first non-English-speaking country, and there are further plans to expand into Northern Europe.

NetSuite feature blitz

Over in Las Vegas, Oracle NetSuite hosted its 2022 SuiteWorld conference. CEO Evan Goldberg and his team hit SuiteWorld attendees with a blizzard of feature announcements, including a workforce scheduling tool, the ability to calculate payrolls in multiple territories, payment automation across different mechanisms and a dynamic pricing tool which shows the impact of configuring prices, either positive or negative, so users can understand the implications and improve conversion rates.

While a range of new tools may appeal to its more sophisticated users, given NetSuite’s stated aim to help small businesses scale rapidly, the need to find a balance between innovation and ease of use should be front of mind for its executive team.

“We’re not focused on the latest technology but ease of use, so relatively unsophisticated users can enhance their business with point-and-click tools,” Goldberg told a SuiteWorld press conference.

He added that after devoting resources in recent years to vertical industry solutions, the new accounts payable automation mechanisms announced at the show were a response to calls from finance customers who felt they were spending too much time on paying their suppliers.

Accounting firm opportunities

We've also been hearing from mid-size accountancy practices about increased opportunities for working with larger clients on systems implementations and improvements. 

Virtual finance services represent both an opportunity for accounting firms to grow and for mid-market vendors to help them provide a diverse range of services, from management reporting and forecasting to credit control, payments and funding.

At the moment the picture is patchy, with a range of tools used across the picture. At the smaller end, many start clients on Xero or QBO and fill the gaps with relevant apps. While this may work for less complex clients or lower transaction volumes, firms could end up paying thousands a month to consolidate and report on multiple software instances to produce management information that could be provided by a more comprehensive system.

Meanwhile, at the larger end of the scale, mid-market tools appeal on a cost and efficiency basis. Instead of spending nine months and potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds implementing new enterprise software such as Oracle or SAP, mid-market solutions offer the ability to provide a slightly less painful experience out of the box – at the expense of a reduction in bespoke functionality.

PwC’s presence as an implementation partner at the Sage Transform event certainly hints that they’re finding value in such services, while the Big Four firm also recently chose AccountsIQ as a platform for its MyFinancepartner outsourced accounting offering.

For accountants willing to put in the hard yards to become product experts, there are also potential rewards and outlets to use accounting in a constructive and meaningful way – as showcased by AccountingWEB’s recent conversation with UHY Advisors consulting manager Alanna Abreu.

A NetSuite implementation consultant, most of Abreu’s work is around implementing and improving Oracle NetSuite systems for some of the firm’s larger clients, many of which need help getting to grips with a full enterprise resource planning (ERP) product.

“My favourite part is the first informational drive,” said Abreu. That’s when she gets to know what the owners want and what they are looking for. Once she can understand what their angle is, “Then I can fix the system to do that and then get the data correct so that way they can focus on what they wanted to do."

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