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 below;
2.0 – Thought Leaders and Product Reviews
– Helping SMBs Ride Out the Storm
Less Accounting –
FreshBooks – Review
Free Agent –
Xero – Review
QuickBooks Online Edition – Review
Introduction & Background
Clarity Accounting is a SaaS accounting package created by Habitsoft, Inc. Clarity is pitched at small businesses and self-employed professionals. Clarity is a product borne through a real "lean and mean" strategy – it was created over a period of 12 months (6 months part-time and 6 months full-time) by one software engineer! The beta started in June, 2008 and Clarity was fully launched in September, 2008. Clarity has no external funding thus far and while bootstrapped mentality is great in terms of lowering risk, in a financial application it may prove a show-stopper without some serious credibility building work.
As we’ve come to expect from web applications, Clarity offers a 30 day free trial. Thereafter their is a tiered pricing structure as detailed in the table below;
The different plans relate to time only – and both get the complete Clarity functionality.
The user experience
The Clarity experience begins with their dashboard (see below). It’s a simple and intuitive page that gives the main data entry fields, and some general reporting – all in a one page layout.
The basic functionality
I have to explain that I live pretty much as far away from Clarity’s servers as is possible – I’d expect performance to be a little shabby. That said Clarity did seem particularly slow when compared to its competitors – In Clarity’s defence this did seem to be a one time delay and thereafter things moved along pretty well.
Given the amazing fact that Clarity was created by one developer, you would expect the functional offering to be very light. In fact, while Clarity doesn’t boast the level of function that a more established, well resourced provider does, the basics it does do, it does well.
It has good invoicing ability, it allows some customization of invoice layouts along with the setup of recurring invoices. Unlike many of it’s much larger competitors, Clarity already has multi-currency support – a useful feature for those doing cross border work.
Clarity’s accounts payable functionality is pretty much a mirror image of their A/R. They also provide for expenses management, which makes sense that from an accounting perspective, expenses and bills are much the same thing.
The value adds
The biggest benefit that a small software developer provides to customers, when compared to a large vendor, is their agility. Clarity displays this in bounds. They even have a customer request page, where customers can make suggestions for future developments, vote on other customers suggestions, and see which features Clarity is working on at the current time.
As would be expected, there are some recurring themes in the wish list – things like automatic bank feed, integration with other invoicing players and import functionality – Clarity is obviously watching what users want, and responding to the same.
The security issue
For such a trim operation, Clarity have done their homework when it comes to security, privacy and terms of service. They have a four page treatise on their site detailing these areas.
A criticism that can be levelled most other vendors is the absence of a one click export button for all information. SaaS vendors try and increase the stickiness of their offerings for business reasons – while this is understandable they need to realise that customers feel nervous without the ability to rapidly and easily extract all of their data from the application. Clarity deserves lots of praise for their one click export function. In the "busienss profile" page a user can get an excel, XML or CSV output of their entire data stream – now that’s really best practice!
APIs – connecting the dots
It’s on the list! Bear in mind that Clarity was only released a month ago so at this stage there are no completed integration projects – however keep watching the customer request page for progress with this.
Clarity is an awesome product given the resources given to it. While they should be commended for what they have achieved, the purpose of this review is to make recommendations as to what prospective customers should do. The bottom line is that Clarity isn’t there yet, although the momentum they’ve got so far makes me confident that they’ll iterate rapidly. If you’re flexible, prepared to be a bit of a guinea pig and don’t mind the obvious holes in functionality – Clarity could be an interesting experiment. If you need rock solid completeness and great integration – you should probably leave Clarity for the next little while.
Clarity advise me that they are looking into "integration" as a way of making the offering more versatile. They also admit that there is still a lot of functionality work to be done. However, contend that their offering is simple enough at only $10 US/month and that it seems to serve a certain segment of the market extremely well.