Promotes online accounting app, online lodgement and data sync services.
Global accounting giant Deloitte has rolled out to Australian customers an online lodgement service for tax forms and a data-syncing service that aggregates financial data from desktop and online accounting systems as part of its push into digital financial services.
The services fell under the ambit of Deloitte Digital, a division based in Australia which has provided professional services online since its launch in 2008. Deloitte Digital also sold Ubeani, a online accounting program for businesses which were “maxing out” MYOB.
The growing portfolio demonstrated that Deloitte was a big believer in the future of online and digital financial services, said Stephen Graham, senior analyst at Deloitte Digital. “I think we’re the only one (of the big four global accounting firms) with a department of 50 people working only on digital products.”
Deloitte has just released Sync Direct, a tool for gathering financial information from desktop and online accounting systems and combining it into a centralised database. The database stored the data under a common structure chosen by the advisory firm using the service, such as a common chart of accounts or XBRL.
Sync Direct could automatically or manually collect data from accounting programs such as MYOB, QuickBooks or Sybiz, ERP programs such as Oracle and SAP, and online or other accounting systems.
Once the data had been aggregated and normalised into the central database an accounting firm could use reporting or data visualisation tools to interpret the data. The central database could be installed on a server in an accounting firm’s offices or with a hosted provider in the cloud, Graham said.
The benefits of Sync Direct included accessing client information from a central data store at any time and reducing the costs of capturing general ledger and transactional information. Deloitte also offered integration services to automatically feed data from Sync Direct’s central database into a firm’s practice management systems.
Deloitte had built the Sync Direct service to reduce the cost of migrating clients’ data to Ubeani, Graham said.
“We actually tried to overcome the data migration issue by taking all the customer data from MYOB and QuickBooks and other products and pushing the whole data file to Ubeani so you get a complete record including transactions, customer files and the whole lot,” Graham said.
“It’s not ‘push button’ but it’s a massive time saving. We can extract and normalise it into a common structure like the Ubeani chart of accounts and we can push that through in a couple of hours rather than days.
“You can look at an invoice that was paid three years ago and the individual transactions that made up that payment.”
Sync Direct could also be used for quickly migrating clients from desktop accounting systems to other online accounting systems.
The Sync Direct service was so new that Deloitte hadn’t yet created its website. Deloitte charged $1650 per seat per year for the administrative console plus $350 per client file. There was a one-off $5000 charge to set up the centralised database as well as the option of bespoke customisation to connect to a firm’s internal systems.
Next page: online lodgement service and Ubeani
Deloitte was promoting a portal for online lodgement of tax and other government forms standardised on the incoming SBR platform. GovDirect offered two subscription services, one for submitting payroll tax forms and the other for business activity statements, tax file number declarations and (later this year) PAYG summaries.
The services cost $95 a year each. Graham said Deloitte was looking at adding the ability to submit SBR forms directly from Ubeani using GovDirect. Ubeani used an XML database “so we don’t think there will be too much to do,” Graham said.
Three years ago Deloitte conducted a global review for a online accounting program that was more scalable than MYOB. Heavy MYOB Premier users with many years of data found it was taking eight hours to run reports, Graham said.
Deloitte chose Irish software company Visor’s Account IQ in part because of similarities between the Irish and Australian banking and taxation systems, Graham said. Account IQ was sold widely in Europe and at the time was launching in the US market.
Deloitte rebranded the software Ubeani and marketed it as a platform that could handle large amounts of data but without the high price or complexity of an ERP program. Also there were the benefits provided by web-based software; anywhere, anytime access, easier collaboration with accounting staff and the hosted service didn’t require servers to run.
Deloitte has a Ubeani champion working in each Australian office of Deloitte Private, its 450-accountant consulting division, and a 7am-11pm, seven-day-a-week support desk in Melbourne. Ubeani cost up to $300 a month for the full featured version which included an optional, integrated payroll.
Despite the effort Deloitte had put into supporting Ubeani the firm had only 60 customers in Australia, Graham said. There was no salesforce selling the software; Deloitte accountants recommended it if it suited the client needs, he said. If the customer was too small or too large for Ubeani Deloitte would recommend competing online accounting products.
“If they needed an ERP system we would’t tell them to go with Ubeani,” Graham said. He also noted that online accounting systems only made up 2 percent of the Australian market. “If you add up what we can see from Saasu, NetSuite, Xero and ourselves it’s not a big number. It’s a very young market we’re fostering.”
The low take-up was due to several other reasons, he added. SMEs that chose Deloitte as their accounting firm were “more traditional types” and less interested in cloud technology. Companies also needed motivation to move from their existing accounting platforms.
“Unless there’s a lot of pain such as they’ve maxed out MYOB there’s a lot of apprehension for change. There’s a lot of people who work on the (principle that) if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Especially in the last three years (when) you’ve had the global financial crisis and another financial downturn coming up,” Graham said.