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Sage for Accountants launch event, 24 Nov 2021
Sage for Accountants_Jake Smith

Sage revamps cloud suite for accountants

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It may have been a long wait, but Sage executives this week unveiled their revamped Sage for Accountants offering, an all-in-one “proposal to advisory” cloud solution.

24th Nov 2021
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“The goal for Sage for Accountants is to unify and digitise the tools used end to end across the practice, not just everyday jobs,” Sage executive vice president for the small business segment Neal Watkins told AccountingWEB.

With the new upgrade, Sage can finally offer some specific answers to queries about what their cloud products actually do. As set out in the company’s press announcement, Sage for Accountants is a suite of tools that gives accountants a unified environment to manage their practice, from onboarding and client management, to bookkeeping, payroll, final accounts and tax.

This combination makes Sage “one of only vendors” available to go from the initial client contact through to service delivery and statutory filings, said Sage global product development director Gerty Bester: “What we’re delivering is what will take us to the next stage.”

What the suite includes

The core Sage Business Cloud Accounting engine (aka Sage Accounting) sits at the heart of the suite, alongside Sage’s existing cloud apps. The central Client Management screen provides a jumping off point to Sage’s accounting and compliance tools as well as associated programs such as AutoEntry and the VAT Centre.

Work is still underway to integrate other Sage products into the suite, including GoProposal and Sage 50cloud.

Sage for accountants

The new editon includes several new elements, which Sage has been testing with accountant users during the development process. Based on that feedback, the new features Sage prioritised for development include:

  • Client Management: Sage’s updated client list (pictured above) emulates the hierarchical folder structure on which many firms organise their client files. Each company entry can be expanded to show any listings for associated entities or individual directors, all of which are governed by security permissions to manage staff access to client records. The hub will be enhanced to include Sage 50cloud customers, Bester explained: “We want to take friction out of that on both desktop and cloud solutions. That pane of glass will become the same for both products.”
     
  • Smart Reporting: This new client reporting module draws information from across multiple records in the Sage for Accounting suite. It includes a menu of readymade vertical reporting packages to meet different client requirements across a range of sectors. As Sage product marketing director Chris Downing noted, however, the same multi-dimensional tools can be used by practitioners to report on their own practices, by client types or by partner and client teams. “As long as you capture the data at source, you can deliver insight in the moment, rather than chasing it and delivering later. It’s getting to the heart of what the business is doing,” he said.
     
  • Rewards scheme: This is less of a product enhancement than a go-to-market strategy. Sage has overhauled its accountant incentives to allow them to redeem product usage points for discounts, starting at 50% of the list price and increasing in line with client usage numbers. The  will include the cloud compliance tools and further reductions will be based Neal Watkins was very careful to emphasise that the rewards model was going to be simple and transparent to ensure it rewarded accountants for loyal and appropriate use of Sage for Accountants. “Our commitment is to keep every accountant in the right place with Sage. They’ll be able to see what they’re being charged and we will remove any discrepancies, for example if they ring their account manager and get a better price,” he said.

These ingredients come as part of the Sage for Accounting product, for no extra charge, which is how Xero and QuickBooks Online market their client management features. Sage was coy before the launch about the actual subscription rates, but explained that accountants will pay for subscriptions of accounting, payroll, HR and tax “based on the needs of their clients”. As they add new clients or extra modules, their discount levels will increase.

At the time of launch, Sage was offering six months free for new Sage Accounting customers, with prices after that ranging from £7/month for the Start edition, £10/month for the  Accountant Standard edition and £12/month for plus. The usual cloud payroll subscription runs at £5/month, with options up to £15/month. 

How competitive is it?

While Sage says it’s one of the few all-in vendors, it first announced its plans to deliver a cloud practice solution in early 2014. There have been a few false starts since then, so it has taken the listed software giant more than seven years to deliver a convincing proposition.

While Sage has had a collection of cloud apps in its portfolio, other vendors have stolen a lead with clearly defined end-to-end solutions of some kind, including CCH/Twinfield (2012), Capium (2014), Nomisma (2014), Taxfiler/KashFlow (2020) and, more recently, Xero Tax (2021).

Was Sage too late entering this race, or can its portfolio of ready-to-go cloud solutions and pipeline of desktop Sage 50cloud users counteract the head start it has given to other suppliers?

“It’s not too late,” answered Downing. “It’s the right time. If you consider online compliance, we’ve been doing it for years. We have thousands of accountants producing year-end statements and tax returns using Sage in the cloud. Because client management is changing, accountants have learned time is key resource they are trying to save. We are creating capacity to save time on day-to-day jobs so they are in a position where they can tame MTD.”

Bester added that there is going to be a massive boom in practice software over the next few months as the profession heads into the next phase of Making Tax Digital. “To launch now is critical to win the hearts and minds of accountants. Their workloads are increasing four-fold and there’s going to be an influx of clients. How can the practice be as efficient as possible? This is the perfect time to get the quick wins into the market,” she said.

Product roadmap

To give Sage credit, Sage for Accountants is more than a minimum viable product release. The payroll, accounts production and tax applications are already in place and the new Client Management and Smart Reporting enhancements cover off core essentials that any cloud practice will need.

There is more to come with Sage for Accountants, as Sage moves to integrate GoProposal and Sage 50cloud into the suite, with cashflow forecasting, workflow/task management and more analytics in the pipeline. Not to mention an MTD for income tax solution in the new year.

Users will have to wait a little longer for the classic time and billing functions, but Chris Downing made the point that GoProposal will take care of some of that workload. He argued that this approach fitted into the growing trend within the profession to bill clients based on activity rather than time spent. According to Bester Sage is working to support different pricing models. “Whether they do flat fees, annual bills or instalments, or transaction billing, they’ll have a choice,” she said.

To see Sage for Accountants in the flesh for the first time, join Chris Downing,  James Ashford and Jordan Smith at the Sage workshop on Day One of AWEB Live Expo - click here to register

Replies (25)

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By Winnie Wiggleroom
24th Nov 2021 16:01

I would prefer it if these software companies would just put the resources into making the core product better (and believe me Sage more than anyone else needs improving), for me no supplier is ever going to be a one stop shop for everything, why would I want to put all my eggs in one basket, when that basket starts to get a few holes in it my eggs will start to fall out and the head basket maker will start to charge me more money because he knows I cannot leave, and by then everyone will be so used to the old basket it will be far too difficult to transfer my eggs into a new basket without upsetting everyone.

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Replying to Winnie Wiggleroom:
ghm
By TaxTeddy
25th Nov 2021 10:09

Eggsactly.

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Replying to Winnie Wiggleroom:
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By BryanS1958
25th Nov 2021 10:20

This is what happened those who took up Sage desktop - a pretty awful product, but businesses were stuck with it because it was too much hassle to move.

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Replying to BryanS1958:
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By johnt27
25th Nov 2021 12:59

My understanding, but not referenced in the piece here, is that this new Sage platform will be agnostic in terms of where client accounting data is coming from. Which, if this is the case, does set them apart from most others on the market.

Having said all that, the biggest issue, is not getting the data into many of these platforms it's being able to surface useful insights whilst still managing the compliance complexities. Xero Tax et al, excepting CCH (but ignoring the awful Twinfield product) only really cater for the smaller end of the accountancy market and their clients. Edit: Having just read the press release the quotes from practitioners confirms this

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By johnjenkins
25th Nov 2021 09:41

Methinks there will be a few more software companies "upgrading" as the take up on their products, they assume would happen because of MTD hasn't (and won't) materialise. So expect a free for all over the next couple of years.

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By BryanS1958
25th Nov 2021 10:18

Sage's online offering was very poor compared with QuickBooks online last time I looked at it. But that was a couple of years ago. I have also seen the aftermath of businesses trying to use Xero for final accounts and it has resulted in a real mess.

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By johnjenkins
25th Nov 2021 13:24

I have to say this. I have been using VT since 1997 and have not found a more simpler economic accounting package. It doesn't make the tea or answer the door but it gives an Accountant what they need. The accounts production is linked to excel so you can play if you want. I have a client who turns over between £8m and £11m every year and his wife uses VT (under my supervision) with very few errors.
Do we really need anything more (I don't mean the big boys)?
If you haven't tried it, download it free for 60 days and have a play.

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By North East Accountant
25th Nov 2021 13:41

We all know Sage have made mistakes in the past (who hasn't) but imagine if people kept banging on at you for your mistakes like everyone bangs on at Sage.......let's move on people.

Sage has shown some real intent with the purchase of Auto Entry and Go Proposal......fab buys if you ask me.

And this new platform looks the business so well done Sage.....keep up the good work (only a bit quicker please).

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Replying to North East Accountant:
blue sheep
By Nigel Henshaw
25th Nov 2021 14:25

North East Accountant wrote:

We all know Sage have made mistakes in the past (who hasn't) but imagine if people kept banging on at you for your mistakes like everyone bangs on at Sage.......let's move on >

I can only presume you are not a regular user of Sage one/start/accounting/cloud, tried to change a vat scheme, deal with stock or even import a bank statement recently and you will know what I mean, its by far still the worst of the main products out there for anything other than a simple business

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Replying to NH:
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By North East Accountant
25th Nov 2021 16:30

I am a regular user of Sage Business Cloud Accounting and really like the jobs we have on it with direct bank feeds that never stop working, and don't have to be refreshed every 3 months, as well as a full audit trail.....oh... and actually having a proper sales and purchase ledger.

Buy hey ho.....each to his own.

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Replying to NH:
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By North East Accountant
25th Nov 2021 16:30

I am a regular user of Sage Business Cloud Accounting and really like the jobs we have on it with direct bank feeds that never stop working, and don't have to be refreshed every 3 months, as well as a full audit trail.....oh... and actually having a proper sales and purchase ledger.

Buy hey ho.....each to his own.

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Replying to North East Accountant:
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By Winnie Wiggleroom
25th Nov 2021 16:58

North East Accountant wrote:

I am a regular user of Sage Business Cloud Accounting and really like the jobs we have on it with direct bank feeds that never stop working, and don't have to be refreshed every 3 months, as well as a full audit trail.....oh... and actually having a proper sales and purchase ledger.

Buy hey ho.....each to his own.

Doesn't the not having to refresh the feed authorisation every 3 months depend on the bank, we certainly have plenty of Sage clients where it falls off every 3 months?

I think I smell a rat here -no offence but are you one of the paid Sage promoters we have been hearing about?

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Replying to Winnie Wiggleroom:
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By North East Accountant
25th Nov 2021 18:44

No offence taken....and I can confirm that neither I nor my firm are paid one penny by Sage........I did get a free pen once at Accountex but I got stuff from the others too so surely that doesn't count.

The point of my post was that we all make mistakes, I've made tons (just ask my wife) and so did Sage with Sage One many many years ago and also using the salesforce platform....but these are long gone now so surely we can stop this constant anti-Sage stuff and acknowledge when they do something good.

With the new platform, Auto Entry and Go Proposal Sage are getting their act together.

The big three (QBO, Sage and Xero) all have their strengths and weaknesses and we use all of them........based purely on what's in the best interests of the client.

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Replying to North East Accountant:
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By PERMON
25th Nov 2021 19:22

I agree. My experience with Sage over the years was generally good . I used Sage Accounts Production for many years and only changed a few years ago when they were very slow updating the formats for Republic of Ireland . I might well return to the fold in the future - the new cloud version looks usable (one thing I didn’t like was the plethora of P&L schedules rather than a single detailed P&L for sole traders ). I never used Sage One but have used Sage Cloud Accounting - it works reasonably well . It’s not perfect but neither are the others , I would rather let a client loose on it than on some of the others . They all have pro’s and con’s. I could never understand the anti Sage sentiment on AW - it reminds me of the anti Microsoft sentiment one sometimes finds on computer/ IT forums

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Replying to North East Accountant:
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By exceljockey
26th Nov 2021 14:01

North East Accountant wrote:

The big three (QBO, Sage and Xero) all have their strengths and weaknesses and we use all of them........based purely on what's in the best interests of the client.

Do you mind me asking, are your staff all well versed in all three, or do you have different teams for Sage, Xero and QBO? We only use Xero but as we have grown it may be worth looking at the others now and am just wondering how to set it up.

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Replying to exceljockey:
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By Winnie Wiggleroom
26th Nov 2021 14:26

exceljockey wrote:

North East Accountant wrote:

The big three (QBO, Sage and Xero) all have their strengths and weaknesses and we use all of them........based purely on what's in the best interests of the client.

Do you mind me asking, are your staff all well versed in all three, or do you have different teams for Sage, Xero and QBO? We only use Xero but as we have grown it may be worth looking at the others now and am just wondering how to set it up.

Jumping in here - generally the way we work is that we have some staff that work with one only and we have others that work across them all.

It depends on the member of staff, I will probably get shot down in flames here but the younger ones adapt to any software very quickly, the ones who are perhaps shall we say more set in their ways do not like to try new things too much and we are able to accommodate that and work with it.

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Replying to North East Accountant:
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By johnt27
26th Nov 2021 08:30

North East Accountant wrote:

I am a regular user of Sage Business Cloud Accounting and really like the jobs we have on it with direct bank feeds that never stop working, and don't have to be refreshed every 3 months, as well as a full audit trail.....oh... and actually having a proper sales and purchase ledger.

Buy hey ho.....each to his own.

The direct bank feeds that Sage has that never need refreshing only work for a handful of banks where Sage, like Xero and QBO, had arranged direct feeds prior to the open banking rules kicking in. These are few in number so aren't a catch all. The issues with feeds rounding entries dates back to Sage One days so disappointing this still hasn't been fixed.

Like others I'm not interested in bashing Sage (we still use SAPA, even though it's a bit of an unwieldly beast) but they do have to be held up to the standards of the competition. Until SBCA's app marketplace becomes mature I won't be recommended it to clients because for all it's familiarity for those moving from Sage 50 they will be put at a competitive disadvantage by not being able to operate as efficiently had they chosen an alternative

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By johnjenkins
25th Nov 2021 14:40

John, Iris has just announced an Accountants club. They're not going into competition with you are they? How long before Dext get theirs going?

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Replying to johnjenkins:
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By johnt27
25th Nov 2021 15:03

Iris Accountants Club is just another talking shop. Plenty of others already out there and Dext, with their Orange Select group, have had something similar for years.

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Replying to johnt27:
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By johnjenkins
26th Nov 2021 09:37

Thankyou for the update.

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By indomitable
26th Nov 2021 11:15

"proof of the pudding" Don't think they can pull it off.

Easy to make these bold claims, but in my experience they will be incapable of producing something that will work and is fit for purpose.

They all try it - Xero another one, great for bookkeeping - but payroll, hubdoc, workflow max, final accounts prep, CT600, just not good enough and we as a practice have to use other software.

They need to get their core products working properly!

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By indomitable
26th Nov 2021 11:15

"proof of the pudding" Don't think they can pull it off.

Easy to make these bold claims, but in my experience they will be incapable of producing something that will work and is fit for purpose.

They all try it - Xero another one, great for bookkeeping - but payroll, hubdoc, workflow max, final accounts prep, CT600, just not good enough and we as a practice have to use other software.

They need to get their core products working properly!

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Profile
By indomitable
26th Nov 2021 11:15

"proof of the pudding" Don't think they can pull it off.

Easy to make these bold claims, but in my experience they will be incapable of producing something that will work and is fit for purpose.

They all try it - Xero another one, great for bookkeeping - but payroll, hubdoc, workflow max, final accounts prep, CT600, just not good enough and we as a practice have to use other software.

They need to get their core products working properly!

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By indomitable
26th Nov 2021 11:19

My computer posted this 4 times sorry

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Replying to indomitable:
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By johnjenkins
26th Nov 2021 11:55

Says it all "blame the computer" lol

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