Sage has entered the Australian cloud-based accounting software market with a localised version of Sage One. The initial review results look promising.
The software is easy and logical to set up and navigation is intuitive. The customisable dashboard displaying on login means I can select, rename and order frequently used tasks for speedy access.
I can also compile a list of functions into a favourites list, although disappointingly you can’t include only a few reports.
This dashboard can be tailored to reflect my business needs and the quick view option for nominated customers, suppliers, items and accounts gives fast access to key data. Data entry screens are clearly laid out, easy to navigate and complete.
Overall, a good user experience with streamlined, configurable and efficient data entry and date retrieval.
Below is a breakdown of features by module.
Sage One includes 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.
A grid option for stock adjustments means I can move quickly through multiple adjustments – a feature missing in both Xero and QuickBooks Online.
It has 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.
Default GST: I could not allocate a default GST code on a ledger account. It needs to be entered each time which increases the opportunity for error. The impact of this is minimised through the use of bank rules and quick entry rules.
No ABA file: 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: Foreign currency invoices for customers or suppliers are not supported (this is scheduled for release by July this year). Again this is similar to MYOB Essentials but out of line with other competing programs.
Bank rules: Bank rules are very basic. The only field available for matching is the description on the bank statement. It 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. (Bank feeds are by Yodlee.)
Lookups: All lookups on the chart of accounts display accounts in alphabetical sequence not by type. This makes finding an account difficult and prone to error by any non-proficient user.
Payroll: There is no native payroll module. Sage One integrates with Sky Payroll, a third-party app, but it is planning to build a native module by the end of the year.
Reports and Inquiries
The reports menu is comprehensive. It certainly compares 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 cover my reporting and inquiry requirements.
Quick Comparison to Competition
User roles limit access to key areas in the system. This feature is somewhat incomplete in Xero.
Sage One also has a budgets module which is available in most other cloud accounting software apart from MYOB Essentials.
It tracks Fixed Assets, which is available in Xero but not QuickBooks Online. Class tracking is common to Xero and QuickBooks Online but only QBO has the option to make tracking mandatory which can assist in data integrity.
I can also attach documents to transactions, another Xero feature.
Sage One is a fully scaleable product. The Sage Group sells complementary products for a business that outgrows Sage One.
The support is good. I wasn’t quickly able to work out a few functions which I recorded via the user feedback option when I logged out. I received quick and helpful email responses.
An open API is available but the website didn’t list any external add-on programs. It may be a little too early for Australian third party vendors (apart from Sky Payroll).
Sage One is reasonably priced at A$15 per month but I could pay another A$6 per month for QuickBooks Online that would include payroll and other missing functions such as multi-currency.
Xero is increasingly looking expensive in comparison to other cloud accounting software products. However, 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. The functions were logically grouped, easy to locate and available with one click from the main menu.
The data entry screens were easy to follow although they could appear a bit busy 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.
Sage could have an uphill battle on its hands in a marketplace where Xero delivered an initial blitz to accounting practices followed by a second round from Intuit.
MYOB and Reckon are busily trying to retain their desktop users in the move to the cloud.
There are still plenty of opportunities as many small businesses continue to migrate to the cloud from Excel spreadsheets, as well as startup businesses.
Hopefully Sage One will find its niche.
A version of this post originally appeared on the Business Eez blog.