Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Business
24 September 2013updated 07 Sep 2021 12:17pm

So which Cloud software should I get?

The top 5, deconstructed.

By Economia

Over the last few years there has been a trend for small and medium sized businesses to adopt cloud accounting software over longstanding legacy solutions. In simple terms, this allows for business owners to access their accounting data online as opposed to it being stored remotely and/or backed up with an external storage solution.

The main benefit of cloud software for business owners is that they can access their financial data anywhere that has an internet connection. Additionally, some of the cloud accounting software products are also accessible on tablet and mobile devices, and can allow the business owner to carry out tasks such as bank reconciliations whilst they are on the move.

The benefit of accountancy firms adopting cloud software is that both the accountant and business owner can access data in real time. This eliminates a lot of unnecessary data reproduction, and creates an ongoing dialogue between the business owner and accountant. This results in the business owner being more engaged with the financial performance of their business, and allows for accountancy firms to upsell additional services.

Entrepreneurial accounting firms are reacting to these changes in the marketplace by moving away from a compliance based offering, and refocusing their businesses towards adding tangible value to clients.

Below is a snapshot of some of the leading products on the market:
 

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Xero

Market Size: 193,000+. Over 22,000 of these are in the UK.
Online Filing: VAT.
Add Ons: Receipt Bank (converts receipts into data), Vend (inventory management), Wofklow Max (job time and invoice management). The full list can be viewed at www.xero.com/uk/add-ons  
Bank Feeds: Direct feeds from HSBC and Yodlee (third party app which allows download of data from most banks)
Business Development Features: When a firm signs up more than five clients they achieve “bronze status” and are added to a central repository of accounting firms which use the software.
Industry Accreditation: ICAEW

Xero is one of the innovators in the cloud accounting space. The company was founded 2006, and is listed on the New Zealand stock exchange. The software also has a personal finance feature. Their UK office is based in Milton Keynes, and has been undergoing rapid expansion. UK growth has doubled year on year for the last three years.

Clear Books

Market Size: 10,000+, the majority of which are UK based. Around half of these are paying customers. Over 200 users are accounting partners (predominantly sole practitioners and small firms).
Online Filing: VAT, RTI (through Clear Books’ Open Payroll software)
Add Ons: Receipt Bank, Keebo (receipt and invoicing), Capsule (CRM integration).
Bank Feeds: Yodlee. Customers can also manually add bank statements as a CSV file through an easy import feature.
Business Development Features: Partner accountants are invited to list themselves in Clear Books’ public directory. SME customers are also encouraged to connect with accountants signed up to the software.
Industry Accreditation: ICAEW and ICB (Institute of Chartered Bookkeepers)

Content from our partners
With capacity comes opportunity
On the road to efficiency
Meeting skyhigh demand

The typical profile of customers consists of businesses which are sole traders and startups, with up to £10 million in revenue. The company is working on developing the practice management feature of their software, in order to give accounting partners more control over their businesses. Customers brought in through accounting partners are offered discounted pricing.

FreeAgent

Market Size: 30,000+. Primarily caters to the UK market but the software has users based in over 80 countries globally.
Online Filing: VAT and RTI.
Add Ons: Receipt Bank, Stripe (payment processing software), Float (online financial forecasting). The full list can be viewed at www.freeagent.com/developers/goodies  
Bank Feeds: Direct feeds from Barclays, Yodlee.
Business Development Features: FreeAgent accredited practices are added to the company’s centralized repository of qualifying practices.
Industry Accreditation: None at present.

FreeAgent’s customer niche is freelancers, contractors and other small service-based businesses. The software is also sold to accountants through IRIS, under the brand name IRIS OpenBooks. The Edinburgh based company have a small US office to cater to the needs of their growing Stateside user base.

Kashflow 

Market Size: Over 20,000 customers, the majority of which are UK based. The software is also popular in South Africa.
Online Filing: VAT. CIS filings are due to be introduced soon.
Add Ons: Receipt Bank, Stripe, MailChimp (email marketing). The full list can be viewed at www.kashflow.com/add-ons .
Bank Feeds: None at present. Duane Jackson (founder and CEO) has been outspoken in his views against them. Business Development Features: Kashflow Orbit acts as a practice management tool. There is also a “Find An Accountant” feature which drives new business to accountants. Around half of all customers signed up are linked to a partner accountant.
Industry Accreditation: ICB (pending).

The software’s typical customer is an owner managed business with turnover below £500,000. KashFlow claim to be the first company to come to market with a cloud accounting package. This means that they have a large ecosystem of partners but also that the underlying technology of the software may date faster. They are addressing the latter by refreshing their product over the next few months.

Crunch 

Market Size: 4,000+ clients. Crunch differs to other pieces of cloud accounting software in that the company acts as an all in one accounting solution by providing clients with software, as well access to their accounting staff.
Online Filing: Corporation tax, VAT and RTI.
Add Ons: Receipt Bank, Tripcatcher (expenses). The company are in the process of building out their API so more services are due to be integrated soon.
Bank Feeds: Clients can pull in their data through Crunch’s Bankbolt service. The service is does not require clients to hand in their log in details to a third-party service, which arguably makes it more secure than other solutions market.
Business Development Features: None. The software’s end user is small business owners who are seeking an all in one accounting solution.
Industry Accreditation: None. Crunch’s accounting firm is AAT, ACCA and PCG accredited.

The client base has a heavy focus towards freelancers, IT contractors and SMEs up to ten people. Crunch is directly in competition with accounting firms by providing a one stop outsourced finance function to clients. The company view this as one of their strengths as it allows them to not be beholden to a third party development road map, and means that they can tailor their software to the needs of their clients.

Nick Levine

This piece first appeared on economia .