Accounting 2.0 at CloudAve
In an ongoing series of reviews and analysis pieces, CloudAve is taking a deep look into accounting software for the new world.
See the other posts at this tag
Introduction & Background
Merchant’s Mirror had the stereotypical genesis when a couple of guys, sick of using an installed application for their invoicing uses decided to create their own solution. A couple of years later, Merchant’s Mirror is the result.
The user experience
For the functionality Merchant’s Mirror has, the user experience is OK. It looks and feels very QuickBook-esque – arguably making an easy transition for existing QuickBooks customers. Of course some would argue that replicating a desktop application feel within a web app is counter productive but that’s a discussion for another time.
Right from the outset I have to say I’m against vendors using fundamental aspects of the SaaS mode of delivery as their claim to “killer features”. The Merchant’s Mirror features page is headed by the ability to share data and use a “real-time” dashboard. This is SaaS – those two features go with the territory.
I’m also a little annoyed when accounting vendors tout their product as “full-featured accounting software” when it isn’t. The fact is that it is happening and it confuses the customers who lack the insightful analysis of the "experts". While Merchant’s Mirror does the basics (invoicing, vendor control, banking, basic reporting) there is a whole heap of functionality it doesn’t have.
Merchant’s Mirror has recently introduced basic CSV exporting allowing users to perform an export of customer lists and vendor invoices and payments. It’s a good move – vendors need to enable their customers to dump their data as and when they see fit.
Merchant’s Mirror has a nice document attachment facility whereby scanned copies of tax receipts for example can be attached to individual invoices – it’s an eminently logical feature and one which is a real boon for businesses.
Merchant’s Mirror has fairly basic sales tax settings, it doesn’t allow for multiple levels of sales tax as exist in many different jurisdictions. As such it’ a solution that will only really work for locations with the simplest of tax structures. Merchant’s Mirror is also lacking true inventory functionality (although it must be said so are most SaaS accounting products) – again this is a failing for a significant proportion of real-world businesses out there.
Payroll is on the roadmap and CSO Ben Huang told me it was due for release Q2 2009.
Late last year Robert Scoble interviewed the founders of Merchant’s Mirror. While the video is slightly dated – it’s an interesting watch. Telling is the statement by the CSO that he doesn’t know accounting and doesn’t really want to. While I understand where he’s coming from, I’d contend that to build a truly robust accounting application, you need a robust understanding of accounting – if that’s the case his comments, albeit off the cuff, was a little unfortunate.
The security issue
The datacentre that Merchant’sMirror uses is PCI compliant which is a positive thing. Beyond that the Merchant’sMirror security disclosure is very lacking – we’re talking here about financial information, the most important part of a businesses operation – there’s little or no information about their backup/security features, data export and the like.
APIs – connecting the dots
Merchant’s mirror is currently developing its API and is reportedly in talks with a couple of vendors right now about integrations. The API is due for completion Q2 2009.
What can I say – I’ve reviewed a couple of dozen SaaS accounting applications so far in this series – recently I’ve come to the conclusion that at least a dozen of those are pretty much carbon copies of each other. Merchant’s Mirror falls into that category – I came away pretty uninspired.