Sage One – First Impressions

sageoneI’ve been saying for months that Sage have been working on a KashFlow-competing SaaS accounting product as a successor to their ill-fated SageLive.

I said it was called Sage One and would cost £10/month.

I was told I was wrong, and Sage denied it when reporters asked them.

Today, Sage announces a new SaaS accounting programme. It’s called SageOne and costs £10/month.

I’ve had a quick look and initial impressions aren’t too bad for a very basic accounting app, and it’s certainly a better product than SageLive.

It is very lacking in useful features and has only 3 reports (Balance Sheet, P&L, Trial Balance). It doesn’t compare favourably to the 45 we have in KashFlow.

The apparent absence  of an API would also seem to be a huge oversight.

As security was the issue that caused them to abandon their last attempt, they’ve gone overboard this time at the expense of user experience. You HAVE to set 3 security questions when you register for a trial, and if your answer to the question “what is your favourite car” is less than 5 letters then you have to choose a different answer. Not ideal if you like BMWs or Audis!

It comes in three flavours, and if you want to try them all then make sure you have 3 different email addresses handy. You can’t try more than one with the same email address.

The big shocker though was when nosing around the settings. Click the Settings tab and choose Service Settings. I thought I’d registered for a free trial, but apparently if I don’t call them on their 0845 number and cancel then they’re going to invoice me! Good luck with that.

So am I worried? No. It looks a decent product, but it seems to be aimed at a very different market to us and our existing SaaS accounting brethren. I think it would take a good couple of years of development to get anywhere near the depth of functionality they’d need in order to be a straight-swap alternative.

Update 20/01/2011

I’ve had phone and email conversations with a number of analysts over the last couple of days. Sage have an Analyst day on 2nd Feb and I’m known for being willing to spout my opinions to anyone who will listen.

Those conversations, and reading the quotes released by Sage, have got me thinking a bit more…

What Sage have released is incredibly basic. It’s not possible to overstate how basic these products are. It’s what developers refer to as “minimum viable functionality”.

This is a Good Thing.

The informal rules of developing a Web 2.0 application is that you should release as soon as possible with the minimal viable functionality, and Sage have done that.
One of the other rules is to iterate quickly – that is, to keep adding new functionality in ongoing release cycles. Sage say that’s what they’re going to do.

Sounds good, right? Well, it does until you look at the numbers.

Sage are quoted as saying they’ve spent “millions” on this product and that it’s been in development for over a year.

An agile startup could have got a product with this level of functionality built and released in under 3 months with a team of 3 or 4 people and it would have cost far less than £200k.

Sage can sustain the financial damage of it costing them 10x more than it should, but do they have the speed and agility to get updates out as quickly as they need to? I’m doubting it.

I said above that “it would take a good couple of years of development to get anywhere near the depth of functionality they’d need”

Like the analysts, I’m going to “adjust my outlook”. I now put it at at least 5 years.

Update 16/08/2013

Well, it’s been a couple of years since I last touched this blog post; has anything changed in that time? Well, we’ve added some 15 extra reports and SageOne have added…erm, 2.

Oh, and SageOne still insist on employing a CAPTCHA (yes, occasionally good for a giggle, but not a particularly pleasant bit of UI) and they continue to impose draconian restrictions on their minimum of three security questions. Come on, SageOne, haven’t you had time to read this blog yet…?!

Duane Jackson - Founder

As Founder of KashFlow, Duane writes primarily about the trials and tribulations of starting and growing a successful business. Having handled KashFlow’s PR internally for so many years he can’t resist writing a bit about that too.

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