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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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  • Dan Ladds

    “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!”

    Ugh, sooo last decade. People can’t like what they haven’t tried and personally, I don’t like to try if it’ll be a pain to leave. Without this I might have been tempted to check it out …if I liked it I might have been tempted… but this way it’s not even getting a look.

    No API also kills it for me. Plus I value reporting.

  • http://www.woodyoulike.co.uk Karin H

    Do me a favour, check if Sage thinks their users are clever enough to be able to edit bookings/journals?

    Too many software on bookkeeping/accounting make you jump through security hoops (password here, another password there – double pop-up windows: ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO CHANGE THIS?? REALLY SURE??) to change anything at all after the initial booking is made.
    We’re bookkeepers, business owners – not juveniles!

    Glad KashFlow simple comes with a “changes made” notice ;-)

    Karin H

  • Jim Mackenzie

    Even more worrying, it is possible to sign up without seeing how much it will cost at any stage.

    I can guarantee their support folks will be sick of those calls in about 30 days time.

    Looks ok though.

  • John Donnelly

    “Do me a favour, check if Sage thinks their users are clever enough to be able to edit bookings/journals?”

    I’ve just edited a transaction I’d previously entered and all I had to do was select Save, no are you really,really sure messages at all – clicked on Save and got a message that the change had been made successfully…

    John

  • http://www.woodyoulike.co.uk Karin H

    Well, it’s something ;-)

  • Alex S

    Haven’t looked at the detail yet, so I can’t comment on the quality of the product BUT what I like in principle is the sound of the cashbook option – ie no bells and whistles, just a simple means of recording incomings and outgoings – this would appeal to a significant section of our client base.

  • Mike M

    Been testing it for just under a year and, while fairly functional, it’s incredibly sparse on some of the most fundamental features and a million miles behind the superior KashFlow, FreeAgent and Xero.

    The version that is currently live has no discernable differences to the beta version we were given to test 11 months ago.

    It’ll do reasonably well because of the brand name alone, however unless they have some major tricks up their sleeves it’s not one for the long-haul.

  • http://Actinic.co.uk Benjamin Dyer

    The lack of an API is a curious one. Sage have never been that great at handling developers but with their acquisition of Protex I would have thought they would have integration as a top priority.

    Without spending much time with it I can’t be too critical but it looks like a bit of a hatchet job to me.

  • http://www.sageone.com Christopher Challis, Sage One team

    Hi Duane,

    Thanks for your comments about Sage One. I just wanted to re-assure you that we’re certainly not going to be invoicing customers who sign up for our free trial. When you sign up for the free trial it really is risk free and you won’t be invoiced. The invoicing process only begins when you provide us with your Direct Debit details.

    Clearly we need to work on the wording to reassure people. Thanks for pointing it out.

    Chris

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  • http://www.businesswebsitemanager.com Vincent

    The website could do with some screenshots and video as well.
    I don’t want to bother with sign-ups without a good ‘visual’ overview first.

  • Nigel

    Interesting that they provide 24/7 telephone support. Do any of their competitors?

  • Patrick Johnson

    I agree with Vincent. Now-a-days people EXPECT a video and a good visual overview. It’s the standard.

    Micro-startups often don’t think they can afford these videos and don’t do them. Sage, can and it should have been a priority.

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  • http://www.goldfigure.co.uk Jeremy @ GoldFigure

    “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!”

    I wonder if this is like the Currys Extended Warranty cooling off period. Documentation says “call, email or write to us at…” so when I email / call I am invited (in the way you might be invited to jump into a shallow grave) to write a letter with my own fair hand to head office. “But it says here I can cancel by phone…”, “No Sir, you can phone us and we tell you that you are required to write”.

    As @[Dan Ladds] says… very last decade!

  • John Donnelly

    @Jeremy – did you read Christopher Challis post further up, Sage will not be automatically invoicing anyone at the end of the trial despite what Duane said in his initial post…

    John

  • toby

    Duane is brash and it makes me nervous about buying anything from him. We are looking for ERP but with manufacturing so have to consider SAP BDB or Netsuite (both of which are far too expensive)

    I keep hoping for Sage 200 to be SaaS and then the world will be alright again.

    Sage are measured in their reply. A proper corporation. Why are you professionals not demanding polite debate. Are you not intimidated by a company that makes wild allegation. IT may be marketing and business but its not fair play. Sage only dont fight back because they think people like you put a value on courtesey – why not show them they are right by agreeing here.

    Duane is just barging himself abut and upsetting people and being santimonius about it being just competition when asked.

    Unfortunately in todays society, the brash and rude get attention.

    Assuming this gets published, at least Duane gets a mark for allowing free speech

  • http://www.KashFlow.co.uk Duane Jackson

    Hi Toby,

    Thanks for taking the time to post a comment.

    I’m curious as to what parts of the above are wild allegations, barging about, upsetting people, rude and sanctimonious?

  • Bob H

    Hi Duane,

    I roughly support what toby has said. Generally I find it very suspicious when the representative of one company comments on the product of a competitor. I work with high profile retail products and I would find it very easy to slate our competitors products but part of the honourable thing between businesses is to avoid such games.

    Perhaps it is because Sage are such a significant player that you have chosen to do this (and to cross post this blog to websites which carry the release (V3.co.uk) but it isn’t a very honourable approach. It is rather like watching politicians throwing their toys during election campaigning. “Yes, of course such and such has merit, but…”

    Congratulations, I now know about KashFlow, but I am not sure that I would be comfortable doing business with such a company.

    Bob

  • http://biztwozero.com David Terrar

    Hi Duane,
    I’ve had a play around with Sage One and listened to the launch messages. I think my take is very similar to yours but with different language and emphasis. I’ve quoted your post over at my place. Here’s my view:

    ○ Probably the most important thing is having the market leader finally come out with a proper Cloud accounting solution – this will help validate the topic with the mainstream account in business or in practice in a way none of we Cloud evangelists could ever manage.
    ○ Sage are so frightened of disrupting their cash cows of Sage Instant, Sage 50 and associated training, support and partner network hat they’ve positioned this product at the very bottom end of the market for micro businesses, with very little functionality for accountants to get excited by.
    ○ Like you I’m amazed that they’ve spent a year in development and 6 months in heavy customer testing and come out with such a simple, weak set of functionality – the average Ruby on Rails development team will look at this and wonder how big companies manage to do so little with so much resource.
    ○ The user interface looks very presentable.
    ○ They’ve missed a a huge opportunity to do something innovative. This is too little too late and I would argue marks the start of a steady decline. They’re a big company with a strong user base, so it will take a long time, but this is the high point.
    ○ They’ve ignored the online accounting topic for a decade. Now they’ve finally validated the topic and are talking about shifting the other products in to the Cloud, it will be the startups and players lik you and Twinfield who have come in to the market since around 2005 that will reap the benefits, not Sage.

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