Yesterday evening I fielded a quick fire, in depth conversation with Intacct executives. If you’re a UK based business or vendor the name may be new, less so in the US where they’ve accumulated 3,300 customers (representing some 30,000 users) and have a pipeline of more than 1,000 CPA firms interested in SaaS solutions. Average cost per month for mid-sized businesses runs $400 so we’re not talking Mickey Mouse sums of contracted monthly revenue. The conversation suggests Intacct not only has a sustainable business model but also in some areas at least, it is streets ahead of competition in understanding what needs to be communicated to potential buyers.
For example, while the UK vendor community struggles to figure out central messaging that answers the fear, uncertainty and doubt put out by incumbents, Intacct has an ongoing education programme in which it explains (for example) the value of a comprehensive service level agreement (SLA – PDF link.) Regardless of the size of business a vendor is targeting, SLAs provide a level of comfort that is much needed for buyers. Professional advisors also need these as part of their evaluation criteria.
This is fundamentally different to buying on premise software where you might be lucky to find indemnity clauses about fitness for purpose. In a SaaS SLA, you are getting assurance across a range of issues while identifying the parameters of the service elements in a SaaS arrangement. Intacct goes further than many providers by offering a money back guarantee. That’s a level of innovation that sets the company apart. As is their publishing system status statistics.
We also discussed vertical market needs. Intacct says it has templates for 30 verticals that can be deployed within a month. Professional firms represent one of those verticals. Here, Intacct has developed an accountants edition that provides a console inside which all clients are linked. There is inherent user control with over 3,000 actionable permissions. This means firms that deploy the service can control access by different parts of the practice. This is not restricted to viewing but includes actions individuals can take on the data.
As always with these kinds of conversation, there was the inevitable product pitch. Rather than go through the details, check out Ben Kepes analysis of the highlights which include: multi-dimensional attributes applied to the GL, advanced revenue recognition management and extending the reach of the accounting app to employees beyond the finance department. They’re all valuable additions that make sense in the context of a SaaS application.
One point of incessant discussion among the chattering classes is whether SaaS is real and whether it represents a viable alternative to on premise solutions. It’s often a FUD based discussion that draws upon the notion SaaS is less mature etc than the incumbents. Intacct is proof positive of the intellectual bankruptcy of such arguments. 30 verticals, monthly upgrade releases, advanced functionality, a solid SLA and an ability to take finance into the business should be enough to convince any potential buyer that solutions of this kind should be given at least equal consideration in evaluations.
UK vendors reading this should be pleased to know that Intacct has no immediate plans to ‘cross the pond.’ If Intacct did, they’d make a formidable competitor. It believes there is plenty to do in its home market for the time being. I fully understand that argument. I counsel vendors to avoid the US unless they’re prepared to invest huge amounts of money in something that could easily fail. Even so, there is much to learn from Intacct’s experience and example. Trawl the website and you’ll see what I mean. Check out the webinar series for more learnings.
Perhaps the most valuable thing I learned is that the US is demonstrating huge interest in SaaS that mirrors some of the experiences I am hearing about in the UK. In that sense there is much to look forward towards.