News that Sage has entered the Australian small business cloud-based accounting software market with a localised version of Sage One coupled with some wet weather over the Easter break presented me with the opportunity to road test this new product. Managing Director of Sage Software Australia, Alan Osrin has been reported saying that Sage One will be competing with the likes of Xero and MYOB so the product is aimed squarely at the Australian SME cloud accounting market
Initial review results looked promising. The software was easy and logical to set up and navigation was intuitive. The customisable Workspace displayed on login means I can select, rename and order; from 25 available, frequently used functions for speedy access. I could also compile a list of functions into a Favourites List, although disappointingly only a few reports were available for Favouriting. The customisable Dashboard available from the initial log on screen meant that could be tailored to reflect my business needs and the ‘Quick View’ option for nominated Customers, Suppliers, Items and Accounts gave me fast access to key data. Data entry screens were clearly laid out, easy to navigate and complete. Overall a good user experience with streamlined, configurable and efficient data entry and date retrieval.
Sage One comes with an Inventory module which is very similar in depth of functionality to the recently released Xero Inventory. I can track items, recognise cost of goods sold at the time of sale and do item quantity and value adjustments. There was a grid option for the stock adjustments which meant that I could move quickly through multiple adjustments – a feature that is missing in both Xero and QuickBooks Online. There were a number of User Defined fields available against items for additional analysis and various pricing levels but no min/max or reorder quantities or multi locations, kitting etc. so it must still be considered as a light option.
All the normal accounting functions apart from Payroll are supported including Purchase Orders and Quotes but I did identify some issues/omissions:
- I could not allocate a default GST code on a ledger account which means that it needs to be entered each time increasing opportunity for error. The impact of this is minimised through the use of Bank and Quick Entry rules.
- I could not generate an ABA file of supplier payments to go to the bank – this feature is also missing in MYOB Essentials but was added last year to QuickBooks Online.
- Foreign Currency invoices for customers or suppliers are not supported (this is scheduled for release by July this year) – again similar to MYOB Essentials but out of line with other cloud products.
- Bank rules are very basic, the only field available for matching is the description on the bank statement – this means that this must match exactly for the rule to work. I found this to be very limiting and disappointing because carefully defined bank rules in Xero for example can drastically reduce data entry error and increase data integrity.
- All lookups on the chart of accounts displays accounts in alphabetical sequence not by type which makes finding an account difficult and prone to error by any non-proficient user.
There was no Payroll module – Reckon has identified that lack of a payroll module is the most limiting factor to the takeup of their cloud based accounting software Reckon One, however an integration to Sky Payroll is expected to be made available within a couple of weeks. I expect to review this along with any pricing once it becomes available.
Reports and Inquiries
The reports menu was extensive and comprehensive which certainly compared favourably with Xero but there were no options to run reports such as Profit & Loss on a Cash basis. I also found a Statement of Assets and Liabilities report but no Balance Sheet which was surprising. Otherwise – the reports combined with the Quick Views readily covered my reporting and inquiry requirements.
Additional Functionality available
- User roles could be specified enabling me to limit access to key areas in the system – this is a feature somewhat incomplete in Xero.
- Budgets module which is available in most other cloud accounting software apart from MYOB Essentials.
- Fixed Assets – this is available in Xero but not QuickBooks Online.
- I can attach documents to transactions – another feature of Xero.
- Class Tracking – this is available in Xero and QuickBooks Online – but only QBO has an option to make the tracking mandatory which can assist in data integrity.
- Sage One has is a fully scaleable product as there are complementary products within the Sage group for a business that grows beyond the functionality available in Sage One.
- Support – there were a few functions that I wasn’t quickly able to work out which I recorded via the User Feedback Option when I logged out of the software. I received quick and helpful email responses.
- An open API is available but the web site didn’t list any external Add-Ons that had been developed – maybe a little too early for Australian third party vendors (apart from Sky Payroll).
- Price – Sage One is reasonably priced at $15 per month but I could pay another $6 per month for QuickBooks Online that would include Payroll and other missing functionality such as multi currency. (Xero is increasingly looking expensive in comparison to other cloud accounting software products but it has already established market share and has never competed on price focusing rather on what it delivers.)
I did find Sage One easy to use; functions were logically grouped and thus easy to locate and available with one click from the main menu bar. The data entry screens were easy to follow although they could appear a bit ‘busy’ to some users especially in comparison to Xero and QBO. The initial functionality is reasonably solid and provides a good base to deliver the missing components noted above. Once these are released, Sage One could prove a quality alternative to Xero or QuickBooks Online.
The challenge will come in marketing the product. Accountants that use Handisoft for their Tax and Practice Management software may recommend the product to some of their clients, but apart from that Sage could have an uphill battle on its hands in a market place where Xero delivered an initial blitz to accounting practices followed by a second round from Intuit and where MYOB and Reckon are busily trying to retain their desktop users in the cloud. There are plenty of opportunities though as many small businesses continue to migrate to the cloud from Excel spreadsheets as well as startup businesses so hopefully Sage One will find its niche.