What are the options for a small business wanting to use cloud accounting software when the business has outgrown current entry-level software such as Xero or QuickBooks Online (QBO)? There are a couple of reasons why the entry-level software may no longer be suitable: firstly its business model may have become more sophisticated and new requirements can only be addressed using add-on software, or the transaction volumes are too great (Xero also has a limit of approximately 1,000 and 1,000 banking transactions per month and around 5,000 contacts although QBO maintains that it can support any number of transactions with no adverse performance.)
One solution that has the potential to address both of these issues is the simplified version of NetSuite provided by Australian-partner JCurve. Although NetSuite has been around for some time, the JCurve solution is reasonably new and is promoted as the entry-level solution into an ERP solution, or more specifically entry level into the full blown Netsuite ERP software. The JCurve solution has the advantage that it is fully scaleable so businesses that subsequently outgrow JCurve can move seamlessly to the full NetSuite solution. NetSuite is an all-in-one ERP Cloud software solution since as well as standard accounting functionality it supports full CRM, E-Commerce, Advanced Inventory, POS etc – virtually eliminating the need for add-ons. So this solution has potential to support both business growth and the need for more comprehensive functionality.
I signed up for the 45-day free trial to road test the JCurve version of the software and to evaluate it as a solution for the small businesses that are pushing the boundaries of Xero or QBO. Unfortunately I dithered around a little over the Christmas period and wasted a good many of those 45 days and also encountered the 85 transaction limit in the trial version which impacted my testing but I got there with a bit of creativity. In the comments below I have also indicated where there is a comparison with Xero or QBO.
It did take me a while to become comfortable with finding my way around the software but probably no more so than any other product. The Dashboard was virtually infinitely customisable with just about every imaginable widget available which was good. I also liked the customisable task bar at the top where I could place shortcuts to frequently used functions for speedy access.
A comprehensive set up wizard steps you through the initial set up which is helpful as it can be a little complex but the initial set up is always the most complicated part of any new software implementation. After that it was reasonably plain sailing. The options in the initial set up enabled me to quickly realise that JCurve was seriously ERP which I think will be appreciated by many businesses. It also had some basic functionality such as Default Payment Terms and Credit Limits that I have sorely missed in Xero. (QBO has Default Payment Terms.)
JCurve does have the ability to import csv files for customers, suppliers, items and chart of accounts but the apparent lack of a sample file to structure the import meant I went through a few attempts before successfully importing. I did later discover the default templates in the Help section but they were only available for Customers, Suppliers and Items not the Chart of Accounts – DIY novices beware!
As I delved deeper, I found much to be pleased about as there was a lot of functionality that is frequently missing or limited in entry level software:
- There is a choice of FIFO or Average Cost at the Item level in Inventory – at this stage I don’t know what costing methodology Xero will use when its inventory module is released but QBO just has FIFO.
- There is a choice of Department, Class and Location categorisation on transactions with the option of one of each per transaction or one per line with the further option to make each Mandatory or Warning. (However I quickly found the mandatory option was realistically unworkable as it was an all or nothing and I would not normally want to classify transactions like Cash Receipts from Customer and Bank Transfers.)
- Comprehensive User Roles enabled very granular definition of user access – I find both Xero and QBO too limited.
- There is an incredibly comprehensive set of reports all of which could be customised and the format saved for future use (available in QBO)
- There is a transaction date and a posting date for each transaction – so good and sorely missed in other entry level software (needed for example if I have completed my December accounts and receive a late supplier invoice for December, without a posting date, I need to record it as January.)
- I could click a link to see the GL postings on every transaction – this is probably something that only excites accountants but I do miss this in both Xero and QBO. I could also arrow backwards and forwards between transactions – love that. These features are both in the desktop version of Reckon Accounts (formerly QuickBooks)
Other features I also appreciated include:
- Account numbers were optional – (also in QBO)
- Sales and Purchase Orders (both in QBO), CRM, E-Commerce
- I could rename transaction types so for example a Bill can be named Supplier Invoice making the User Interface more friendly.
- On both supplier and Customer invoices – I could use either an Item or a GL account (available in Xero but not for customer invoices in QBO)
- There is a default general ledger account against a supplier – great for data entry consistency. This is partially present in QBO and Xero as they can remember previous transactions.
I did encounter some challenges and some dislikes along the way:
- Response times especially when saving transactions were poor
- Tax Codes – the naming convention was so user unfriendly it would daunt all but the most intrepid. (To think I complained about Saasu tax coding)
- Bank Feeds are only available via Yodlee, no partner banks appeared to be available
- Setting Tax Periods – mine kept being set to Calendar year not Fiscal year and I was unable to change.
- Customising the customer invoice wasn’t as flexible as I would have liked and I couldn’t resize the logo
- Make Deposits doesn’t allow for recording a tax code (same limitation in QBO) it is needed torecord the refund of workers compensation and similar events.
- Doing a look up on the chart of accounts when entering transactions such as supplier or customer invoice – firstly it didn’t display the account type and secondly it wasn’t context friendly, i.e. display income accounts for customer invoice and expense accounts for supplier invoice.
- I couldn’t set a default bank account so if I have a savings and transaction account, normally I would want to use the transaction account and set that as a default. I also couldn’t change customer receipts defaulting to Undeposited Funds.
- I couldn’t easily see how I could indicate on a supplier invoice that the amount included or excluded GST
- The layout of the customer invoice screen gave plenty of real estate to the header but very limited for the lines – compares very unfavourably to the clear layouts of both Xero and QBO.
- And the biggest disappointment – Multi Currency is only available in the Advanced (NetSuite) version. This is very much a limiting factor as most small businesses I work with need multi currency either in suppliers or customers and having to go to the full NetSuite product means there is no set up wizard etc.
I didn’t explore the Payroll module in detail, mainly because reviewing Payroll is always a very time consuming task. Suffice to say it looked as though it covered all major functionality for Australian payroll, it did have an Employee Portal which is now an industry standard.
I couldn’t find any evidence that JCurve was SBR-enabled so no automatic links into the ATO Portal. Xero has led the accounting software world in embedding links to the ATO although QBO can now do this using 3rd party software – GovReports.
The product pricing is per user based and starts at $49 per user per month (including 1 external accountant user and 5 restricted employee users). Given that this is a product you would probably only use if you had outgrown entry level cloud software, I would expect most businesses would require at least 3 standard users so it is definitely more expensive than Xero or QBO with their unlimited user plans. However given the comprehensive nature of the product, most businesses probably wouldn’t require add-on software which is where the cost of a Xero or QBO solution can multiply.
So would I recommend JCurve? I think this solution does have potential, there were quite a few things that I didn’t like and especially the response times and lack of multi currency is a concern but overall it looks to be a solid product that should support both business growth and more complex business models under the one umbrella. Hopefully future releases will address some of the usabiity issues noted bringing a dynamic all-in-one solution for growing businesses.