Someone sent me an email the other day alerting me to the fact that Accomplish, a vendor of desktop small business accounting software, has just announced that it’ll be providing a SaaS product.
Nothing overly interesting in that, but what was interesting was reading the interview with Accomplish General Manager Grant Hewson and seeing the tightrope he tried to walk in the interview. He attempted (and made a good show of the spin to be fair) to talk up his own SaaS product while pouring a dose of cold water on the importance of SaaS accounting at all.
As a bit of background, Accomplish has sold around 25000 copies of its desktop package in over 15 years, compare this to it’s local SaaS competitor, Xero (disclosure – I have done a small amount of contracting to Xero to produce some marketing videos) who boasts of 7500 customers – but these customers are recurring ones.
Accomplish’s standard product runs to $500, with another $200-odd for support. Yes customers may purchase upgrades as and when they become available but Xero is extracting this sort of revenue from its customers on an ongoing basis.
I’ve always been an opponent of selling SaaS as a cost saver – the fact is that I know businesses using 10 year old copies of desktop accounting software – a SaaS product will always cost more than a one off purchase – SaaS however brings value to businesses far beyond what traditional siloed software can. The worst possible route is for companies to deliver products that Phil Wainewright calls SoSaaS and I label SaaS/s – there’s no value add in that and it’s a recipe for disaster.
Getting back to the Accomplish announcement however, and taking a look at their website is informative and speaks to the pain that traditional vendors feel trying to move their business from installed to SaaS (and yes – before @davidturner1 points it out – I know that Coda is held up as an example of a company that has done this successfully – all credit to them but they’re the exception rather than the norm). Accomplish’s CashManager Online product is difficult to find on the website, there is no specific mention of, what is in truth a major change for the vendor, and all the while their MD says in his product launch interview;
the jury is still out on whether the SAAS approach to business software had a long-term future… There are certainly advantages offered by the online model but right now, as technology stands, I think there are enough drawbacks or considerations to say that the jury is still out. And for many of our clients, at present there’s simply no compelling reason to have an online accounting product.
Which begs the question why the hell did you bother launching a product that fits within a category that (publicly at least) you seem to be so dismissive of?
Interestingly enough some detective work I’ve come across (admittedly by a competitor but still useful) indicates that Accomplish is strethcing things a little in calling themselves a SaaS provider – while I’m not dogmatic about definitions, it would seem that the hoops one needs to go through in this case remove many of the benefits that “traditional” SaaS delivery would bring.
I firmly believe that, notwithstanding the success that companies like Coda have had reinventing themselves for an on-demand world, the best way for traditional vendors to go SaaSy is to find a new way of doing business – witness what Intuit has done with its Intuit Partner Platform (disclosure – I’ve done a little bit of work with Intuit on the partner platform while in Boston) – there’s a reason why I’m so positive about what they’re doing. beyond the obvious use-case there is a business case that is sufficiently removed from it’s traditional product to give some security from sudden changes of direction.