Accounting heads for the clouds
As many as a third of New Zealand businesses have the option of switching their accounting software to the cloud by taking advantage of a free software update released today by Australian firm MYOB.
It has begun marketing a "cloud-enabled" version of its flagship product for small businesses, AccountRight, which New Zealand managing director Julian Smith said was used by about a million businesses in Australia and New Zealand - including one in three Kiwi firms.
MYOB has spent $30 million developing the update, AccountRight Live, which will compete with the cloud-based accounting software developed by Wellington-based Xero.
Smith forecast its software would change the way businesses worked. Customers needn't install the update, but those that did would find it easier to work with others such as accountants and consultants by giving them remote online access to their live accounts.
"In New Zealand in particular the relationship between small business owners and accountants is quite strong. Accountants are the biggest sources of advice but they charge for time and accountants' biggest issue is it is time-intensive to review the information they get from their clients, " Smith said.
"The whole idea of this is we make it quicker for accountants to access information. Our vision is that over time accountants become more like advisers than compliance officers."
Xero has brushed off the threat posed by AccountRight Live, claiming it has the advantage of catering for the cloud with an entirely new base of "beautiful code". Its shares were trading up 35 cents at a record high of $5.80 during early afternoon trading.
All AccountRight customers are also now able to automatically import details of their financial transactions from 100 banks, building societies and other financial institutions. The automated feeds, which remove the need to rekey data, have been provided through a hook-up with Auckland financial information intermediary BankLink.
Unlike Xero's software, AccountRight Live can also be used offline. While in that mode only one person can enter or edit data, with others getting read-only access.
Melbourne-based product strategy head Dale Dixon said that could be useful if a business owner wanted the cloud-based features of the update but also wanted to work on their accounts while travelling on an aircraft or in rural areas with poor internet connections, for example. It also meant businesses could keep backup copies of their accounts on their own computers.