SageOne opens new Cloud front
Two years after its first failed SageLive experiment, Sage UK has returned to the Cloud accounting battleground with SageOne, a three-stage web application catering for microbusinesses and their accountants.
Developed from the ground up by an autonomous team within Sage’s online division, the SageOne name derives from the company’s convention of assigning numbers that reflect the size of the user organisation. Where Sage 50 and Sage 200 cater for organisations with those numbers of employees, SageOne is targeted at sole traders and small firms who struggle with bookkeeping but don’t want to employ a dedicated bookkeeper, explained Sage Online managing director Simon Black.
The emphasis on the product itself is simplicity. SageOne comes in three varieties, all based on the same underlying code. The cashbooks module costs £5 per month and presents a simple graphical workflow to step the user through entering income and expenses into the software.
For a £10 monthly subscription, the Accounts version offers a fuller set of accounting functions including invoice processing, VAT, banking and bank reconciliation.
The Sage One Accountant edition is available for a £250 yearly payment (or free to Sage Accountants’ Club members) and presents the practitioner with an overview screen for each of their Cashbook and Accounts users, with the ability to access journals for each client to amend entries or generate trial balances.
Borrowing a trick from other graphical desktop and Cloud accounting programs, the Accounts and Accountants editions include a customer view showing a chart of the user’s recent current account balance, plus and summary boxes detailing cash in hand and at the bank, the top five invoices due and number of days until the next VAT return deadline (see right).
“We kept it it simple, retaining the strong elements o accounting software while making it easy to use,” said Black.
At the time its launch on 18 January, Black described SageOne as a “first step” and said new features would be added in a series of upgrades. The roadmap currently includes more detailed reporting (eg aged debtors), integration with Sage Pay, and eventually a payroll option.
“It will evolve very significantly, but it won’t move away from the target customer set,” he added. “We won’t be throwing bells and whistles in for the sake of it, we’ve got to make sure customer requests add vale.”
Dave Gibson of North Shields-based Blu Sky Accountants was a test user during the SageOne development project and thought the application was simpler and more flexible than others he had tried such as Xero and FreeAgent Central. But aside from the emphasis on simplicity, on a first view there isn’t much to set SageOne apart from the 50 or so other Cloud accounting applications available in the UK.
Figures from the annual Software Satisfaction Awards have shown that Cloud accounting providers such as KashFlow, FreeAgent, Liberty and Xero have grown exponentially since 2007, capturing the small and start-up businesses that Sage needs to secure if it is to sustain its organic growth. Within the Cloud space, Sage has got to try and offset the four-year headstart it has handed to smaller rivals. According to Black and Sage’s CEO for Northern Eruope Paul Stobart, the combination of a simple product, 24/7 support and the power of the Sage brand will re-establish Sage’s presence in this crucial competitive sector.
“The value is in the overall proposition in what the customer and accountant get,” said Black. “First of all there’s the backing of Sage and the credibility and assurance that brings as brand leader.”
Stobart added: “The thing that swings it for me is the support. No matter how simple the software, users will find a something like a negative credit and need your need help. It’s not the same as sending an email - you want a personal touch –someone who’s friendly, capable and, understanding. You want an organisation that understands how to do the personal side of support. That, added to the simplicity and value of the product, is what differentiates the proposition.”
For more coverage of what Sage, test users and accountants Blu Sky and other industry insiders have to say about SageOne, visit the extended thread on the subject in the Cloud computing for accountants discussion group.
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