Pearl 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.
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.
Related articles by Zemanta
- Review: AccountEdge 2009 (macworld.com)
- Accounting and E-Commerce a Needs Analysis (cloudave.com)
- Online invoicing apps – create your own invoice templates (rotorblog.com)
- InvoiceMore.com – Online Billing And Invoicing (killerstartups.com)
- HOW TO: Manage Bills with Social Media (mashable.com)
- Saas pricing debates (accmanpro.com)