Reckon Accounts Hosted was launched back in 2009 to provide a solution for businesses who wanted the flexibility of the cloud but with the industrial strength functionality of an MYOB/QuickBooks solution. Back then solutions in a cloud environment were much more limited than today: MYOB offered Live Accounts, a functionality limited cloud solution, Intuit had yet to land on our shores, Xero was a much more basic system than it is today and Saasu although more functionality rich was somewhat user unfriendly. So the Reckon option of having the desktop product in the cloud didn’t have too much competition and was eagerly embraced by many businesses.
Fast forward to 2013 where the goal posts had moved with a veritable cornucopia of cloud solutions and with greatly increased user expectations. Xero has been delivering new features regularly making it a much more viable solution, Intuit is firmly entrenched in Australia with a localised version of QuickBooks Online and MYOB has overcome its technical issues and delivered Account Right Live. With a wealth of options, users have become both more sophisticated and discerning and something more than lip service to customer service is required. In addition data conversions between various software products have become available providing an additional carrot for wavering customers. Software vendors can no longer count on customer loyalty, they have to continually earn it.
So many customers reviewed the limitations of the Hosted product and at looked at what other options were available for their business. The limitations identified included:
- Hosted could only be run using Internet Explorer or via Internet Explorer compatibility in other browsers
- Running on a Mac required the Citrix plug-in and thus higher licence premiums
- Printing to local printers was time consuming and fraught with difficulties
- Backups to local devices were very time consuming
- The file structure was complex and daunting to the unfamiliar user
- With no open APIs, Hosted could not connect to any 3rd party product
- Users experienced all too frequent drop outs
Reckon recognised the product limitations and the option that were available with other products and acknowledged there were opportunities for improvement and so commenced work on Version 2 of Hosted. The beta version quickly received positive review from testers so Reckon moved towards a live rollout. The first step for a live deployment took place in May this year with a migration from the old Equinox servers to world class Amazon Web Services. For many users this was the first taste of what was to happen three months later as in the days following the upgrade many users eithercould not log in, experienced multiple drop outs or suffered performance issues. These issues were addressed over the next few days and normal service resumed.
Continuing down the deployment path, Version 2 was successfully rolled out to New Zealand customers in July and four weeks later on the weekend of 9-10th August was rolled out to Australian customers
Much has been written over the last couple of weeks about the major disruption that occurred on Monday 11th August when large numbers of users were unable to log in for most of the day. Reckon copped a lot of flak as it scrambled to identify and then resolve the issue and within a couple of days the backlog of complaints dwindled substantially as users not only were able to log in but familiarised themselves with the new functionality and the associated benefits.
The benefits that were delivered in the new release of Reckon Accounts Hosted included:
- The product is browser independent although Google Chrome is the best HTML5 supported browser.
- Citrix plug in is no longer required.
- Reports run more quickly and are output in pfd format that can then be printed via any local printer.
- There is a single log in for all Reckon products and thus a more complete user experience.
- The folder structure has been substantially simplified.
- There are icons for easy data uploads and downloads and specific directories for Uploads making it harder to ‘lose’ files.
Once they got over the initial shock of 11th August, users began to appreciate and enjoy the improved features, however not all the limitations have yet been delivered and some previous functionality is missing including:
- Many short cut keys unfortunately no longer work within Reckon Accounts as they are used by the browser. Specifically Ctrl C and Ctrl V only work in Internet Explorer, in all other browsers, copy and paste is done slowly and cumbersomely via the Clipboard.
- Firefox is not supported if running Hosted on a mobile device.
- Open APIs have yet to be delivered – on the roadmap and hopefully reasonably soon.
- And my particular bug bear – Reckon Accounts Hosted is still a desktop solution in the cloud and because Reckon charges by user – company files have to be ‘shared’ with other users and shared folders have to be managed. It is easier since the upgrade but still but still cumbersome and lacks the fluidity of a Xero or QBO solution.
So – is it too little to late, was the service disruption on August 11th the final straw or are businesses ready to embrace the improvements and choose a functionality rich Hosted platform rather than a true cloud experience? Discussions with my clients since the upgrade have indicated satisfaction with the new version – it is generally agreed that logging in is quicker and easier, dropouts are virtually a thing of the past and printing is so much better. None have left the platform as a result of the disrupted upgrade but at the same time I have had very few customers coming new to the product. I expect Reckon will be anxiously monitoring the situation in the coming months to see how many businesses take the plunge and come on board the more robust platform versus how many existing users may still prefer a true cloud experience to a Hosted platform.
However the chances for success have been infinitely improved with Hosted version 2.