This year MYOB has shown the first fruits of a long-awaited revamp of its Accountants Enterprise and Office software. Well, not so much a revamp as a staged rollout, and it’s only getting started. There’s plenty more to come under its “connected practice” vision.
Still, it is a very positive sign for all those firms still running MYOB Accountants Enterprise and Accountants Office. Not that larger firms had many options, given Xero’s commitment to focusing on firms with under 20 employees. But it’s clear that the “wait and see” approach is paying off.
Some elements of the cloud suite mentioned below are in public beta (such as the compliance workflow), some are due for release later in the year. Some concepts such as the MYOB Advisor are original to MYOB, others have been borrowed from point products in the Xero ecosystem, but MYOB’s pitch is that you only need to buy one product to have it all.
This won’t satisfy the early adopters who are willing to put up with the inconvenience of multiple products in return for cutting-edge features and the highest possible efficiency. But MYOB looks like it is doing enough to hang onto the larger firms that move more slowly. As long as it keeps hitting its delivery windows. (See final section)
Compliance in the Connected Practice
Efficiency was a strong design goal, from collaborating with clients to running bulk coding queries in the dashboard. The layout is intended to help accountants plan and prioritise work around BAS lodgement, says Lisa Baldacchino, MYOB senior product manager.
A client filter works across all parts of the connected practice suite. It has just four tabs across the top of the screen for transaction processing, tasks, documents and advisory.
The transaction processing column shows a file summary; the number of unallocated transactions, the type of subscription (eg. Essentials), a quarterly summary of the financial year that look like heat maps, and a percentage automated indicator.
The latter feature is a nice idea – reminiscent of Receipt Bank’s practice platform – that helps you help your clients. The more efficient their compliance the better the service the firm can provide with reporting, etc.
You can filter clients to just see quarterly BASes and when they are due. Filter again by transaction processing to see who has the most transactions to process.
Instead of going into each file to generate a coding report and attaching it to an email, accountants can bulk generate coding reports for all clients and automatically post it to the document portal.
BAS fields are prefilled from the client file, and once given the ok are posted into the document portal for an e-signature.
In fact, the portal gets quite a workout with the new setup. Users can use it to send checklists out to clients for documents as well as queries. MYOB’s cloud corporate compliance product (in beta) will use the portal for electronic signing of forms to make changes to companies.
MYOB have done a good job looking at the ways they can use data to increase the speed of compliance across a client base. Forms and fields across the suite are linked so that entering data in one section such as a tax file number populates in all the others. Ledger data is automatically pre-filled into a trial balance, for example. And the suite will automatically prefill some forms by pulling information from the ATO.
The connected practice suite shows the ATO status of activity statements (eg. overdue) and information about upcoming BAS lodgements. The transaction processing column shows the amount of work due for each statement.
“It saves a lot of time in reconciling those two lists,” says Baldacchino.
MYOB claims that a large proportion of a company tax return (70 percent) will be automatically prefilled. Form fields are deep linked which means you can click on a number and see the source behind it, such as an MYOB worksheet. If you manipulate the number in the source document it is automatically updated in the return.
The new suite is billed as more user friendly, and certainly the interface does a better job of displaying information. Tiles at the top of the compliance screen jump to different parts of the workflow; trial balance, asset register, financial statement, tax reconciliation, and company return.
MYOB counted the number of mouse/keyboard clicks it took to complete common tasks and looked for ways to reduce them. You can see this in small but important productivity lifts users will appreciate, such as the ability to build a favourites list (My List) for your current clients. Entities are listed in groups so that you can see all the tax returns for companies, individuals or trusts within the group.
Workpapers gets a boost, too. Data from the previous year is rolled over to the next year, so you have that data to start the compliance workflow. The trial balance screen includes a column with icons showing which accounts have workpapers attached. MYOB plans to add an AI feature which will analyse account groups and suggest where workpapers are required.
Advisory in the Connected Practice
MYOB Advisor, an acquisition which is now firmly tucked into the suite, is a very solid addition to the business reporting lineup. The biggest benefit is that it is a very fast way to generate valuable advice.
It takes two minutes to generate text summaries of important events in a business’ finances over the past period.
It’s the text summaries that make this product work so well. The auto-generated text insights are straightforward interpretations of the data, but they cut down the time it takes an adviser to decide which things to mention and what to say about them.
It also means that a relatively inexperienced adviser can use the tool to reveal all the important occurrences in the past quarter’s trading. So junior accountant can print off a report and still give some useful advice to a client.
Of course, this tool doesn’t turn an accountant with no experience into a grey-hair guru with decades of business experience. But even just following the script with small businesses and asking them, “what happened during this period with this account code?” could help them understand their decisions a little better.
The report is broken into sections with dynamic graphs. You can click on the ranges on the accounts receivable bar graph (current, 1-14 days, 15-30 days, 30 days+) to include or exclude those figures.
If a business has a large amount of very overdue invoices, an adviser can choose to show only invoices more than 30 days overdue.
New Owner – New Priorities?
The big question is what MYOB’s new owner thinks of the ambitious revamp. The company has committed $50 million to R&D over three years from 2019 to 2021. Will KKR turn out to be a cost-stripper like Archer Capital or an investor like Bain?
“KKR are very excited about our strategy and growing the business,” says Dave Weickhardt, MYOB’s general manager for product, when I asked him late last week. Hopefully for all those MYOB AE firms out there that money is locked in.
Image Credit: MYOB