Sage adds Futrli to growing cloud collectionby
Small business cashflow forecasting software Futrli is the latest tool added to the burgeoning roster of products in the Sage for Accountants cloud stable.
The purchase of the cloud-based forecasting and reporting tool lays another brick in the road towards the Newcastle-based software giant’s stated destination of offering accountants ‘end-to-end proposal-to-advisory services’ through its Sage for Accountants suite.
As with the other recent deals, Futrli is a ledger-neutral platform that adds functionality to Sage’s existing product offering. It will continue to be available as a standalone product under the banner ‘Futrli by Sage’, with founder and CEO Hannah Dawson and her team remaining in place. While the tool works with a variety of imported data, it currently has integrations with Xero and QuickBooks - a full Sage integration is reportedly imminent.
Founded in 2014 as Crunchboards, Futrli rebranded in 2017 to emphasise its focus on accountant-delivered advisory services. It currently provides small businesses and accountants with data-driven three-way forecast financials (profit and loss, balance sheet, and cashflow) using propriety prediction algorithms. These are based on historical trends, blending direct and indirect forecasting methods, using invoices, bills, journals, cash and payment data to allow customers to visualise past, present and future trends.
Speaking to AccountingWEB about the acquisition, Futrli CEO Hannah Dawson said she was excited by the opportunity to scale the product, particularly given the recent surge in interest in forecasting and planning tools.
“Covid uncertainty hasn’t dissipated,” said Dawson. “Communcation between accountants and their clients has increased - the government initiatives kicked this off but this trend has continued and the trusted advisor status of accountants has never been more evident.
“Giving advice has also become simpler,” she added. “It doesn’t need to be verbose. Every business has a different need - it’s important to make sure a startup isn’t being overwhelmed with information but multi-entities can get to the insights they need efficiently. We give firms the tools to ensure this can happen.”
Forecasting predictions come true
Sage has a history of acquiring forecasting tools, with AccountingWEB member favourite Winforecast absorbed (and sun-setted) in the past. In a somewhat prescient interview with AccountingWEB back in 2015, Dawson told AccountingWEB her firm had set out to replace Winforecast - perhaps befitting of her status as head of a forecasting firm, the prediction came true.
Regardless of the company’s past forecasting forays, Sage EVP of Product Neal Watkins told AccountingWEB that the North East developer has big ambitions for its latest acquisition.
“As governments digitise tax and compliance, we’re seeing more automation come with it,” said Watkin. “MTD ITSA will create more regular conversations between accountants and clients, and with the right tools, conversations move from record keeping to what you’re seeing from the data set. Futrli is the best tool in the market to give accountants the capability to mine business data and generate insights.”
For Watkins, the purchase forms part of the overall Sage for Accountants solution: from finding prospects, digitising upfront proposals, the automation of compliance and workflow then future advisory work. “We’ll integrate tighter over time,” he said. “Start to feed data between products, add triggers, automations and additional products, and provide a single sign-in for them all.”
As highlighted in the most recent Accounting Software State of the Nation report, government requirements for cashflow forecasts and general covid uncertainty have driven an uptick in interest in forecasting and planning tools.
However, to date only the early adopters among the practice community have ridden this growth and been able to make money off the back of it - meaning specialist tools have struggled to compete on any meaningful level.
Julian Green, AccountingWEB’s head of insight, commented that it’s unsurprising such conditions have led to a degree of market consolidation.
“There’s a general trend where users of accounting software tend to prefer specialist, best-of-breed solutions for their greater functionality, particularly in payroll and practice management,” said Green.
“This trend is bucked when it comes to forecasting and planning tools, where users prefer the accessibility of this function in their main accounting platform. This suggests the specialists are not differentiating themselves sufficiently or demonstrating superior quality.”
However, Green believes there is long-term promise for forecasting tools with MTD, open banking and evolving business behaviour driving a need for better financial planning and visibility.