This time they’re serious. After a sequence of early test launches and user feedback cycles, Sage is finally rolling out its Sage Accountant Cloud environment for practitioners.
Sage Accountant Cloud has been on the drawing board for several years and was reportedly ready for take off this time last year.
After taking on board user feedback and some recent corporate changes, further work has done to shape the underlying technology for practitioners’ needs, according to Sage director of product management Chris Downing.
If the name is familiar, he is the former Milsted Langdon BI partner who was AccountingWEB’s technology champion in 2014. Earlier this summer he crossed over to the software industry to become Sage’s link man to the practice marketplace.
“We’re releasing Sage Accountant Cloud this month, but there has been a lot of testing. We listened to clients to make sure that we were building something fit for purpose,” he said. “We’ve got one test user who grew from 30 clients up to 200 – so they’re able to do more with less resources. That’s part of how Sage is trying to reduce the administrative burden for accounting firms.”
Sage Accountant Cloud ingredients
Based on Salesforce platform, SAC brings together all the client data and compliance tools alongside Sage accounting systems in an online environment that meets the needs of the typical small practice.
The launch version of Sage Accountant Cloud is built around a Client Manager screen offering access to standing data alongside an overview of their subscriptions to accounts and third party applications such as Receipt Bank, AutoEntry, Chaser and Fluidly. The other facilities currently available include:
- Links to accounts data in Sage and other ledger systems
- Online compliance tools, including personal tax, business tax and accounts production
- Live activity feed, showing deadlines and to-do tasks
What’s not included – yet
An Industry Update on the experiences of Sage Accountant Cloud test user Accountancy Scotland includes a “coming soon” list of new features on the product roadmap:
- Practice management: Time and billing are not available yet, but they will be coming, Downing said.
- Alerts and notifications
- Workflow and task management
- Office 365 integration
- Sage 50cloud integration
- Sage virtual CFO
- Sage Marketplace
Reporting capabilities are not available yet but data analytics and mining the data for insights is an important element in the Sage Accountant Cloud story in two ways, according to Downing.
“First, understanding the data around client milestones, reports and managing them internally,” he said. “The second view is into client financial information. We’re working on things like working capital measures and other KPIs. They will be part of the Sage Accountant Cloud offering, which is all about delivering advisory services out of the box.”
During the years that Sage has devoted to its new suite, new entrants to the practice market such as Gbooks, Capium and Taxfiler have been building a presence among cloud-oriented small practices and startups – prompting IRIS to acquire Taxfiler in May.
Now that Sage has a product to offer these kinds of firms, how does it plan to tackle the headstart it has given its rivals?
“Accountants don’t move products unless they have to, unless the decision is forced on them,” Downing replied. “If you’ve got an accountant paying for a full accounting licence and compliance is part of the package, that has got to be value for money.
“Sage has thought about our customers. We have a very diverse range of clients, including small practices with two-three people who want an integrated product. I’d question whether recent acquisitions create truly integrated experiences. Sage has built ours from the ground up for the future, to be a truly integrated product.”
Introducing Sage Accountant Cloud now has one timing advantage, he added, since the new General Data Protection Regulation is one of those compliance triggers that force firms to review their systems.
“Firms that manage their clients on manual records, spreadsheets and different systems are finding they’re not fit for purpose,” he said.
“The Sage Accountant Cloud is perfect timing if they want to get a view of what data they need to store and capture that data in one place. It gives them a way to control employee access and make them more effective.”
About John Stokdyk
AccountingWEB’s Head of Insight has been with the site since 1999 and likes to spend his time studying accountants’ technology habits. When not nerding out, you can find him exploring obscure indie music and searching for the perfect organic sourdough loaf from his base in Brighton, UK.