Accounting 2.0 at CloudAve
In an ongoing series of reviews and analysis pieces, CloudAve will be taking a deep look into accounting software for the new world.
See the other posts at this tag
Introduction & Background
Liquid Accounts had its genesis in an application created in 2001 for a large franchisor. Thereafter the offering was scaled down for use by smaller companies – retaining the functional breadth that much larger businesses may require, now or in the future. Looking at the feature list it is difficult to imagine a scenario where Liquid Accounts would be unable to meet a potential user’s needs.
My take on SaaS is that it’s all about responsiveness – one measure of this is how quickly vendors respond to requests for information. When reviewing the dozen or so accounting products I have thus far I’ve always contacted the vendors to ask for information, screenshots etc – I have to say that Liquid’s responsiveness was pretty poor.
I spent two months trying to get access to a demo account or some screenshots – I’m still waiting! This may be a result of them getting more successful and hence busier, it may be that they don’t like to talk to analyst/commentator types or it may just be that they’re not very efficient – either way I was a little disappointed.
UPDATE – I finally heard back from the team at Liquid – see screen shots etc below
You want options? Liquid has options. Coming from the school of thought that says end-user customisation is best, virtually everything in Liquid beyond core functionality is an optional extra. From stock control to payroll, from multi-currency to order processing – it’s all available – at a cost.
In an interesting twist Liquid charges for additional users (at GBP5/month) – I’ve seen reports saying that one user has 4,000 potential users and has never run into concurrent user access problems. While I can’t verify this fact it does highlight two things;
- They’ve done good work on their backend architecture
- At GBP5 per user that’s a mighty expensive SaaS accounting spend!
The user experience
Note – despite repeated requests for screenshots or a demo account I never received any. This review therefore is built using analysis of the publicly available Liquid produced and third party data. E&OE.
The on-screen presentation seems fairly simple and fairly intuitive. As with other SaaS accounting applications, the designers have attempted to make it look like a desktop application.
A nice touch is that individual users can customise their own menu names and details – a small touch but one that will be appreciated by different users with varying work flow patterns.
Reports would indicate that the user interface for Liquid lacks graphs and charts, making it seem more like a big business application than a SMB specific one per se.
The basic functionality
As with other SaaS accounting apps, Liquid is accessible by a customers accountant or bookkeeper at no extra charge.
Users can build new invoices in a screen that will feel familiar to desktop application users;
and then output those invoices directly to PDF where artwork/logos can be easily added/edited in the company tab;
When reconciling bank accounts Liquid has a nice little cumulative total window which should make life easier where single statement entries relate to multiple entries in the accounting package (or for that matter vice versa);
The value adds
In a bonus for those considering a migration from Sage, Liquid Accounts is able to import Sage data, preserving the chart of accounts and transaction data. They also provide a migration service for QuickBooks users.
A nice touch is automated VAT number checking. Liquid validates a new customer’s VAT number by connecting with the European VAT register in Brussels – the image below shows the check being run and the error generated from a non-standard VAT number.
Liquid has business advice within the application – an example of this is with HR information where a tab leads to a collection of documents such as employment and health and safety policies produced and maintained by a HR specialist.
The security issue
All credit to Liquid for their security policies. Specific security measures include;
- The usual secure data centre and 128bit encryption
- Customers are given a randomly generated company code that Liquid doesn’t have access to
- Company password that can be changed at will
- Each individual user has a unique username and password and permissions can be individually set
- Each unique visit is assigned a random url – that dies at the end of the session. Clicking "back" on the browser will show a dead link
APIs – connecting the dots
I could find no specific data about the Liquid API although, given the myriad add-on options that they have in-house, integration should be a fairly well-thought out affair. I’m not aware of any third party integration efforts thus far.
Liquid has lots of options. For businesses that want to tailor their application, and only pay for what they need, Liquid is a strong offering. Having said that, for a five person operation that does some stock, payroll and sales/purchase orders, Liquid quickly gets to GBP100/month which puts it very much at the top end of small business products in terms of price.
I believe that SaaS vendors live and die on the responsiveness they give to customers (and potential customers). While not strictly falling into that category, I can’t help but come away concerned after the poor communications I had with Liquid – and wonder how responsive they are to actual customers.