Editor in Chief (interim) AccountingWEB
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Sage retires Accountant Cloud product

As part of a rationalisation of its specialist tax and practice product strategy, Sage has called time on its Sage Accountant Cloud package.

17th Mar 2021
Editor in Chief (interim) AccountingWEB
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Sage Accounting Partner Edition
Sage Accounting Partner Edition

When consulting the Sage Knowledge Base for information about the cloud accounting platform, each item is prefaced with a note explaining that Sage is withdrawing Sage Accountant Cloud on 31 May 2021 and switching customers to its Partner Edition instead.

“Rest assured, you'll still be able to manage and onboard clients for Accounting, Payroll, Final Accounts, Corporation Tax, and Personal Tax,” the company said.

For years, Sage Accountant Cloud has been a product concept that struggled for definition. In spite of multiple interviews with executives and requests to clarify the product’s functionality, it was always difficult for AccountingWEB to pin down what the Accountant Cloud suite actually included.

The Accountant Cloud idea originated within the old Sage Live platform, which was built using tools from the Salesforce.com developer’s kit. This was an interesting solution if you ran the rest of your business in Salesforce, but the feedback from Sage Accountant Cloud users was lacklustre. Without the underlying links to CRM software, the clunky user interface did not live up to expectations.

After Sage acquired Intacct, Sage announced in early 2018 that it would stop selling Sage Financials to new customers and prioritise Intacct instead. On 31 December 2020, the developer pulled the plug on Sage Financials.

Goodbye Sage Accountant Cloud

According to Gerty Bester, global product management director for Sage, the withdrawal of Sage Accountant Cloud affects a small percentage of the Sage customer base and allows it to focus on a bigger ramp up: “We can throw two teams into one pot and increase resources devoted to the Partner Edition team.”

She continued: “By rationalising our product offering, we’re backing the horse that has been successful in market – the Partner Edition. That’s allowing us to provide one cloud product that offers payroll, compliance and customer management all on one platform.”

Sage has done a lot of work to migrate Accountant Cloud users to the Partner Edition and included migration tools to import clients in bulk and manage their software subscriptions. So far, around 70% of those customers have made the transition and the feedback has been positive, Bester said.

Hello Sage Accounting Partner Edition

The Sage Accounting Partner Edition is being positioned by Sage as a “full suite, end-to-end product”. The central client list allows accountants to sign them up for different connected applications that include:

  • Sage Accounting for bookkeeping and VAT
  • Sage Payroll 
  • Sage VAT Centre
  • Final Accounts 
  • Corporation Tax 
  • Personal Tax.

“When you look at online compliance including MTD for VAT and CIS [domestic reverse charge], We’ve done it. We haven’t made a huge fuss about it – this is our job,” Bester said.

The new Partner Edition has been given a brush-up to improve useability with better search, sorting and filtering tools. A sidebar menu offers up a range of standard client reports such as trial balances, P&Ls, balance sheets and cashflow forecasts.

“All the features we’ve added are less focused on what we delivered in the past – we’re focused on getting the product out there,” Bester said.

The client management elements of the package are currently more focused on migrating and provisioning them with Sage Accounting modules, but Bester hinted at further developments to increase client collaboration and manage tasks and bills within the practice.

The Sage VAT Centre is worth a mention. The main client list includes a column showing the client’s VAT authorisation status, but the VAT Centre draws on data from HMRC’s APIs to track where they are in the return cycle and what their liabilities are. The data is available for all the firm’s authorised VAT clients, not just the Sage Accounting users. This app also handles authorisation for VAT agent and access to the agent services account (ASA).

Big challenge ahead

With the Sage Partner Edition revamp, Sage is showing signs of moving in the right direction – but is it too little, too late? In the wider tax and accounting marketplace, Sage faces a fierce competitive struggle as the tax and practice software market embarks on a period of unprecedented change and churn.

With MTD for income tax looming in 2023, Xero is bundling up a full cloud compliance suite within Xero Tax, which it offers for free to members of its partner programme.

Then there is the longstanding challenge from Taxfiler. Now part of the IRIS stable, Taxfiler’s practice management module failed to make a dent as specialist rivals such as AccountancyManager and Senta filled the gap during the past couple of years. So IRIS bought Senta and now has a cloud-based workflow and client communications platform it can put alongside any of its compliance products – Taxfiler, the IRIS Accountancy Suite, PTP or Keytime.

Bester said Sage did not devote a lot of effort reacting to what competitors have done. “For us it’s about evolving the Partner Edition into solving day-to-day problems for the accountant. MTD is forcing accountants and clients to work much better and collaborate together every quarter rather than putting all your stuff in a shoebox once a year,” she said.

“What accountants are calling for more and more is support for them to operate on a cloud-based level. So, while our core aim is to ensure Sage provides the right technology ecosystem, we are razor-focused on delivering excellent service standards, as that is what accountants are telling us they need and that is the perfect platform for practice success.”

Replies (3)

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By North East Accountant
18th Mar 2021 13:04

The salesforce platform was a poor choice so this is a good move.

Add practice/client management.
Build out the online Bookkeeping (called Accounting).
Build out the online Accounts and Tax products.

Voila..... an end to end cloud system for Accountants.

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Replying to North East Accountant:
By tracey2412
18th Mar 2021 16:54

Couldn't agree more! And do whatever it takes to retain your staff please - I've had more 'Account Managers' in the last few years than I've had hot dinners! No consistency, no continuity & not knowing where to turn or who to ask when I have an issue or a question.
Oh, and mainly don't forget about Start - there are THOUSANDS of single-person entities out there for whom Start is ideal but it would be nice to have SOME integration of other apps with it & an incentive to sell it as well as the more expensive Std & Plus versions.

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By tjlcont
19th Mar 2021 13:06

Product updates (new features and enhancements) ceased in November of 2015.?? The release of year end updates, tax tables and hot fixes will cease in December of 2016. The formal retirement will be September of 2017.

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