Following along on our SaaS trail from last month, I’ve been tuning into what’s going on out there. It is really hard to draw any firm conclusions on where accounting in the cloud is going to end up, since opinions are varied and often misinformed. Here is an interesting sampling from the blogosphere that you may enjoy and learn something from.
Gene Marks, a technology journalist for Forbes, makes a strong case on paper that SaaS accounting solutions will replace QuickBooks sooner than later because QuickBooks is not “in the cloud.” The only problem I have with this conclusion is that the good, bad and ugly of QuickBooks is in the cloud. QuickBooks Online, which has been around for several years and meets the basic definition of a SaaS application (see last month’s article), has more recently been heavily promoted by Intuit as the product of the future. Further, the QuickBooks desktop product is hosted in the cloud, a trend that will continue to grow. Our firm, through a partner, provides application hosting for QuickBooks Enterprise (the client-server version of QuickBooks Premier desktop) in conjunction with our outsourced accounting service. Joanie Mann’s blog is good place to learn about what is going on in the QuickBooks world.
This Forbes’ article is from a recent interview with Intacct’s CEO, Robert Reid, who talks about his vision for accounting in the cloud and how his company is making it happen. Intacct and NetSuite are the early pioneers in offering accounting software as a service. Intacct is still getting funded by venture capital with the promise of become highly profitable and making its investors very rich in the meantime keeping entry prices low and buying market share (my opinion). It is also distinctive in focusing on the small- to mid-size market made up of small businesses and nonprofits. They especially go after QuickBooks’ users that constitute about half of its 4,000 or so customers.
This is a good foundational article for those who want to know the basics of SaaS accounting products and where things are today. The company, Find Accounting Software, provides a matching service for business, government, and nonprofit sector organizations that are looking for accounting software and software provider. Our firm subscribes to the service.
Finally, there’s a fairly recent article from another company that helps users find business software that highlight the 10 top online accounting software products, including the two mentioned above, ERP products and the current major players in the nonprofit sector, Abila MIP Fund Accounting and Financial Edge. The article summarizes what is mostly boiler-plate from the software vendors and lumps them all into the online genre where some are clearly online only and others are designed as client-server, on-premises applications that can be hosted in the cloud. Software comparative articles in general are generally pretty shallow and probably should be avoided beyond offering a starting point. This piece is fairly representative of the current state-of-affairs.
So, after reading these articles, are you confused? I don’t blame you. The whole industry is trying to sort things out. Some players will succeed and others will fail. Software developers without strong capitalization are in trouble. No one has perfect foresight, but there is at least anecdotal evidence that the technology and the economics favor moving most accounting software to the cloud. The early adopters are ahead of the game. The more traditional strong vendors (e.g., Abila, Blackbaud, Intuit, Sage, and Microsoft Dynamics) with strong customer bases will likely get there either in leaps or smaller steps. Others will be left behind. For example, components of Abila’s MIP and more recently its Grant Management system are totally cloud-based. Expect an acceleration of this movement from all the primary vendors. But will they get there before technology spawns the next “Big Thing?” I’d love to hear your comments.