One firm selling both programs.
One session worth a listen at the recent ATSA conference was an on-stage Q&A between MYOB‘s Daniel Jones, partner relations team leader, and Sean Devenish, a fast-talking young partner from Tasmanian firm Collins SBA. Devenish was driving the introduction of MYOB’s cloud programs at Collins SBA, including the pilot of AccountRightLive which is due for release before the end of the year.
After a rough start MYOB has been improving LiveAccounts, an online-only cloud accounting program targeting individuals and micro-businesses, and it was interesting to hear how the Tasmanian firm was using it with clients.
It was also one of the first conversations on the public record about the unreleased AccountRight Live.
Below is an edited transcript from the conference.
MYOB: How has LiveAccounts change the way you collaborated with your clients?
Sean Devenish: Normally, with clients filing in 12 months later, it can be a disaster scene. Especially with a sole trader you are just trying to piece it all together for a tax return. They just use Excel records and there’s no guarantee that the information is correct.
In LiveAccounts the account is reconciled to the bank account, the first bastion of accuracy in the accounting process. And it gave us the ability to talk to the client throughout the year, jump in and see what they were doing, help them with their BAS without sending Excel files back and forth. All these little benefits start to come in.
One client who came to me was using one of the other desktop accounting packages. He had a very high number of low-value transactions and he was doing it all himself. I set him up on LiveAccounts, it took about an hour to set up the bank feeds.
He came back three months later, he was on time for the first time, and 80 percent of the transaction workload had been memorised.
The beauty of it was we were still charging him not quite what we were charging to clean up his desktop program. He was happy because his workload was reduced, I was happy because my workload was reduced, and everyone is still getting paid what we used to, so it’s a good scenario all round.
MYOB: Profitability I assume must go up on each of these jobs due to greater efficiency. Would the bill be consistent or reduce it?
Devenish: As far as fees go we wouldn’t generally reduce it all. We essentially try to sell our fees on the value we’re providing so we don’t want to make it look like the value is related to the mess we’re fixing up each year. Our cost base stays the same.
MYOB: For clients using Excel, what’s the journey like for moving them to LiveAccounts?
Devenish: We suggest that the client take a look at LiveAccounts and sign up for the 30-day free trial. It’s a really easy sell – you just jump online and setting up a demo takes about three minutes. We show them the basic tools they can use, the spend and receive money features and how to get the banklink feeds starting. If they’re happy with the way it’s looking, then we get the actual file set up from the outset.
I sit down with the chart of accounts, set up the bulk of the transaction memorisations, and check that bank feeds are coming in. It takes me 45 minutes to set up 60 percent to 80 percent of the transaction memorisations.
MYOB: Payroll has been in LiveAccounts for 12 months. How’s the release of how payroll works with your team?
Devenish: Most of our clients in that space aren’t using it. It’s more a feature that gives me confidence in recommending the product because I know that as they grow they can add a few staff members and there’s that feature there.
MYOB: What would be a common theme among your clients using LiveAccounts today?
Devenish: Time saving. Their personal effort in doing accounting is dramatically reduced and it’s a lot more accurate and it’s simple to use. Without exception it works, there’s no problem with it.
MYOB: What has been the process of taking the clients online with AccountRight Live?
Devenish: We selected a few clients that would understand the advantage of having AccountRight Live store the data file online. We’re keen to roll it out across the entire client base. There’s a lot less obstacles in moving accountants to AccountRight Live. There’s no retraining with clients about how it works.
MYOB: What’s the process for putting clients onto AccountRight Live?
Devenish: It’s just an extra upgrade. Most of them are used to upgrading the software every year and it’s very seamless and easy to transition. There’s nothing complex about it.
We selected a few that we thought would get the advantage straight up of having the data file in the cloud. We’re rolling it out our entire partner base.
About 80 percent of our client base are using Account Right version 19 or 2012 and obviously the vast majority of those will be moving to the AccountRight Live version.
MYOB: What are the benefits your clients on the AccountRight Live beta trial are seeing at the moment?
Devenish: It’s the concept of being able to see the live file. I’m working as a virtual CFO for one client. I can sell extra services because now I can drill in and see his live accounting data. Previously it involved talking to their team members, get someone to put the data file in DropBox or send it on a CD, you’re always waiting for someone to do something.
DropBox works to some degree although you had to make sure you were using the latest copy of the file. Once a client took an old version before I had updated it and had to scrap a whole lot of work. Now we both jump in and out as we need to.
MYOB: Is it a good thing that clients have a choice to run in the cloud, on the desktop or both?
Devenish: Absolutely, not everyone has a good internet connection. And there are noticeable differences when you’re operating on a live version cos it’s a little bit slower.
For a power user that is punching in a whole lot of invoices it gets a little painful when you move to a different tab and have to wait for it to refresh. So in that situation you’d download the file to work offline, update it quickly and then shoot it back up.
Whereas for someone like myself who is not a power user – I’m not doing a whole lot of data entry just doing payroll – it doesn’t really make a difference. That covers off on how we get around that particular issue of speed.
MYOB: How do you handle questions about security? Does it come up often?
Devenish: It hasn’t actually. You prepare yourself for that eventual conversation but it actually hasn’t happened. One client raised it briefly who didn’t like cloud in general and we agreed to use the software in an offline basis only and that was fine.
It’s a fairly tight login environment and if you did have a hard sell in terms of security you just point to any other cloud-based solution they’re using, from online banking through to DropBox or Google Mail.
MYOB: What’s been the impact of using AccountRight Live on the practice in terms of the services offered?
Devenish: It makes life a lot easier. It makes compliance a lot cheaper. If you put that across the whole industry that’s going to be an interesting dynamic as accounting firms find compliance is now efficient. Whether they will become more competitive and the price will come down remains to be seen.
But it opens up the scope more because you now have access to live data and we’re starting to educate the client and fix the file throughout the year. Suddenly the quality of the reporting is increasing and that increases our scope for management consulting services.
MYOB: If a brand new client walks through the door how do you know whether to give them AccountRight Live or LiveAccounts?
Devenish: Part of it will be the volume of transactions, the skill of the user, whether they’re processing a huge number of transactions. You also might look at really sophisticated payroll in the desktop product.
LiveAccounts handles a decent volume of transactions but it’s more the repetition on the back of those transactions. If I’ve got somebody who’s got to enter in every individual invoice it suddenly gets a little slow to have to rely on a web-based interface to load every time you want to generate an invoice.
MYOB: What’s your experience using these cloud products with MYOB Accountants Enterprise?
Devenish: We started using Workpapers and Stat Reporter as soon as it was released. When we started, the big benefit was all the rework. It’s pulling data from the file live through Stat Reporter without you having to rejournal everything into a separate ledger package. It just streamlines it.
Now at the end of the year process we’ll be modifying and fixing the live file which will still be used for next year so the configuration in Stat Reporter will happen seamlessly. I see that on our internal files. You fix it and set it up the first time round. This year I did my basic entries and it was a dramatically quicker experience.
MYOB: Who are you using Workpapers and Stat Reporter on?
Devenish: Basically everyone. About 80 percent of our business client base would be using MYOB and every one of those will be using Workpapers and Stat Reporter.
MYOB: What was the journey like getting staff to use Stat Reporter? Was it difficult in the beginning?
Devenish: Yes it was. Like any accounting system there’s a lot to them and there are a few tricks we’ve learned along the way in terms of how you format the chart of accounts. I ran some training sessions with the staff, documented the processes and with new staff it’s just the next system we’re using.
MYOB: Where do you see the practice in five years?
Devenish: Compliance has become a nice little earner because it’s more systematised, there are less messy files. So the client base is getting to a better standard and the compliance load will decrease and that gives us the opportunity to sell value-added services.
MYOB: What impact do you see cloud accounting having on the broader industry?
Devenish: It gives us the ability to give us higher quality reporting across every business client and that gives us the opportunity to add value to them but it also improves the overall quality of the business.
So everyone’s got online access to their own data and we have the ability to make sure they know how to get things done regularly. It’s exciting for the whole industry and the business community in general.