Pearl goes to V2.0, new pricing options, MYOB safe haven

by admin on April 27, 2009

in Cloud Computing/SaaS,Featured,General

portal3Pearl Software [disclosure: Pearl sponsors this site] briefed me last week on the new version of the service along with details of new pricing options. I have reviewed the service before but on this occasion I was interested in diving deeper into the portal and accounting practice specific functionality along with a few other goodies.

All accounts, including those that are free have access to the portal. (see image to the left). The portal provides view access to customer information. In a live situation, this allows client customers to access to their information including orders, invoices, statements along with the ability to change standing data like name and address together with the ability to pay bills. That’s impressive as it takes the notion of reaching the extended value chain beyond simple on-demand access.

For the practitioner who wants to onboard a portfolio of clients, Pearl offers two ways to use the system. First, it can be used as a looking glass into the client’s accounts. Crucially, the accountant doesn’t count as an extra user so there is no cost to the client for allowing the professional access to review or change the data. Second, the professional can use Pearl is their dashboard for client billing and time recording. There is a built in clock so for those still billing by the hour, Pearl can act as a stopwatch.

Pearl is offering the professional the option of billing clients direct for use of the service or passing that back to Pearl. Professionals therefore have the potential for a greater degree of control over client activity.

In recent weeks, Pearl has been approached by certain practices concerned that in 2010, MYOB will be sunsetting their end user application – at least in the UK. Pearl has built an import routine that allows MYOB customers to seamlessly switch, retaining the MYOB chart of accounts structure. While most professionals prefer their own COA – and this option is still available – the ability to replicate the MYOB COA is a huge advantage because it means the end user doesn’t need to get used to remembering a new set of codes. This is one of the biggest barriers to learning having this ability allows the trainer to concentrate on what matters – teaching the system and not worrying about coding structures. pearl-cust-billing

While discussing imports, Pearl told me they can take TAS information and fully populate both customer information and contact details. That’s because TAS provides a comprehensive export. That’s not equally true of all systems so it is worthwhile checking to see where Pearl has reached in managing this essential function.

One area where Pearl isn’t quite cutting it is in final accounts production. At present the company has mapped to IRIS for that purpose and says Digita, Sage, CCH and the rest will follow in time. Right now it has no ambition to compete directly with those practice management systems. I disagree – at least up to a point. Given that much of what Pearl is already doing meets the needs of practitioners, then the logical next step would be to build out reporting capability that maps to sole trader, partnership and limited company formats. I’m aware this is not the simplest of things to achieve but it would go a long way towards allowing the practitioner a low cost way of managing many critical processes in a single place.

Pricing has been revised so that the free ‘Express’ accounts also have full accounting capability but will miss out on advanced functionality. The idea is that Express style customers are likely to be those that need a system which they can grow into as they become larger. I like the idea though it is fair to say that many small businesses remain relatively static over time. So while this may be a good alternative for those wishing to pare costs back to the minimum, it may be that Pearl ends up attracting many free usage accounts without necessarily benefitting. As always, we’ll need to wait and see what happens because as I’ve said before, pricing is all over the map for on-demand systems.

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Chris Chapman April 30, 2009 at 12:53 am

Hi Dennis,

I agree that Andrew and Chris at Pearl seem to have given the product a big kick up with this release and change in pricing structure, but do you think that the majority of startup/small businesses really want this level of offering, or do they just want a simple bookeeping tool without the charts, colours, bells n whistles?

Of course it depends what type of business they are and lets assume that if they're after e-commerce as well as e-marketing, etc, then Pearl will win hands down, but for the many thouands of businesses that don't, will the richness and multi-modules just put them off?

Chris will point out that Pearl can be customised and modules can be swithced off for different clients that don't need certain aspects, which may well be the solution. After all, if you can get the type of functionality that Pearl offer without paying more than a 'standard' accounting package would cost, then why not go for it and just ignore any buttons you don't need.

Should we be looking at the competition to see where things are heading…. Liquid accounts, who offer a great product that I'm becoming more impressed with each time I go back to it, are poised to launch their own CRM module in anticipation of where they think the market is heading. That must be a good indicator..?

Ultimately it'll be horses for courses and the long tail of businesses is big enough to provide a market for these 2 and many more products, but I'm looking forward to watching accounting 2.0 develop in the coming months.

Chris

Dennis Howlett April 30, 2009 at 12:59 am

Good analysis Chris but as I'm sure you're aware, the market is far from cut and dried.

FWIW I am planning on producing a premium set of analyses that reviews the market, players, individual offerings in depth provided on a subscriptions basis. This will be a continually updated service that adds value over time. Does that sound interesting?

The reason is simple – I give away 80% of what I know but there is that crucial 20% that is unsaid but which should help people make better informed decisions.

This won't be 'Gartner' pricing – that's a broken model – but it will be buyer centric.

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