Last week at its partner conference, MYOB taught accounting software incumbents around the world an important lesson. You don’t have to be first to market with an idea, you just have to price it right.
MYOB dropped a lot of product compared to its releases over the past 24 months, with a slew of mobile apps, new online tax forms, a corporate compliance makeover, and most interestingly a payments module integrated into its accounting software.
In nearly every case there was already another app in the market, either a direct competitor or a third-party “add-on”, that had already released a similar function.
For the true believers at the conference, this didn’t matter. As Steve Jobs showed, you don’t have to make the very first smartphone or music player to win customers.
And, just as important, you have to price it right. If MYOB had decided to charge extra for anything that it launched last week, people would instantly have compared the value of one to the other. MYOB’s first releases would have looked a little underweight.
But it didn’t. MYOB is bundling a lot of tech found in Xero’s ecosystem into the existing price of its practice management software and SME accounting software.
Let’s look at some highlights.
- Corporate compliance. Integrated with the MYOB Accountants Office suite so that when a change is made in Practice Management or Tax, you’ll be reminded to update the relevant forms and to lodge them with ASIC. You can electronically lodge these forms and receive lodgment proof straight away.
A nod to the success of BGL and NowInfinity. I haven’t done a feature comparison but would doubt that MYOB’s release has the same depth. But for MYOB firms, it is one less interface and subscription to worry about.
- Employee self-serve app. It’s a tablet-based clock-on, clock-off app that emulates Deputy. As employees tap on and off for work, it creates time sheets that are sent directly to MYOB payroll.
Again, a very basic version compared to Deputy, but you don’t have to pay any more if you’re using AccountRight.
- Capture app. Take photos of your receipts and they pop up in AccountRight. Xero and Intuit have had more powerful smartphone apps for years, plus strong partnerships with ReceiptBank, AutoEntry, Expensify and the like. And the demo video I saw it looked like there was no OCR to auto-populate the expense form.
And yet Xero has decided to carve off this function and charge extra for it. If MYOB builds it up to the capability of a Receipt Bank, this will add real value to its software.
The most innovative move was to add a “Pay now” button to the accounting software. You can pay single or batched bills, payroll and even tax without having to go to your online banking portal.
No ABA files (an Aussie thing). Just mark what you want paid, click “Pay now” and the business owner approves the payments from a mobile phone app.
You can already do some of this in Xero if you bank with a relatively new bank, Tyro. (A tech company in POS machines that recently won a banking licence.) It doesn’t work for payroll or tax, though.
And if you one of the 80% of businesses that bank with Australia’s top four banks you can forget it.
As a business owner, the only reason I go to my online banking portal is to make payments. This is a very welcome addition to accounting software.
I can imagine a proper banking section where you can create recurring payments or perhaps triggers for payments (commissions?) – there’s lots of room for innovation here that the banks have failed to deliver. And most importantly, it’s eliminating another step in the accounting/banking process.
Again, you could argue that the MYOB implementation is a little basic. It only works with credit and debit cards, not electronic funds transfer (EFT). So it does have a cost to the business.
All up, it was a relatively strong conference for MYOB, and a good finish for outgoing CEO Tim Reed.
MYOB’s heavy investment in developers is paying off in product. It has a good game plan – cherry pick the best innovations from the Xero ecosystem and bundle with the existing price. This will reduce churn among its late majority/laggards customer base who believe you’re better off with the devil you know.
Still unresolved: replacing AccountRight with a true SaaS accounting app. This has to be in the works. MYOB’s future depends on it.
What to watch – how fast MYOB builds out its receipt capture, employee self-serve, corp compliance, etc. products to match the best in market. If it can move quickly then it really will be game on.