Sage has launched Sage for Accountants, a new platform that will allow accountants to onboard customers quickly and grow their business efficiently. Sage for Accountants will act as a hub for accountants to access both Sage tools and third-party tools for their own and customers’ benefit. It is available now in the UK, and Sage will both enhance and roll out the platform to a wider audience over the coming months.
Enterprise Times spoke to Sage about the announcement and new product that will bring Sage even closer to the accountants it already works with, and should also provide a magnet to attract new ones. Neal Watkins, EVP Small Segment at Sage, described the product succinctly, saying, “Sage for accountants is the pane of glass that every accountant will use to interface with Sage.”
Importantly Sage for Accounting is free, so Accountants can rapidly access and start building a new practice with the tool from scratch.
What is Sage for Accountants?
Sage for Accountants provides a digital hub for Accountants. New research from Sage showed that 99% of accountants already have some form of digital accounting.
The new platform enables accountants to carry out much of their business from a single location, managing clients and applications easily. This is not just a portal that allows access to different applications; it delivers a single source of data across both Sage and third-party solutions. It achieves this through an API first approach. While not all the applications are fully integrated yet, Sage has provided the first iteration with this release and demonstrates how powerful it could become.
For example, accountants are presented with a list of active clients and client contacts. These are easy to set up, and there is a nascent integration to GoProposal, which allows some data to transfer across and avoid duplication. Accountants can also quickly set up and then manage subscriptions for clients on Sage Tools and applications. These include access to Sage Accounting, Payroll, Corporation Tax, Final Accounts and Personal Tax for individual contacts. Other applications include GoProposal by Sage, VAT Centre, and AutoEntry.
Setup is accomplished in a few clicks, and where the data is already known, it is prepopulated into the setup wizard for these applications. Accountants gain access to a 50% discount on the RRP of such licenses. However, if clients want to access apps, they will need to pay the normal rate, though accountants can invite them to access the correct instance.
What is coming?
Enterprise Times asked Gerty Bester, Director, product management for Accountant whether Services created in a GoProposal quote will feed directly into Sage for Accountants. Bester replied:” Not at this point, but that is exactly where we are going with adding GoProposal in. From the time we create the proposal, we list whatever the services are, whether it’s VAT compilation, month-end, reporting, payroll, etc. as well as the Sage products that complement that, all of it will be shown.”
Sage also has an early adopter, planning for multi-dimensional reporting, which is available within Sage Accounting. It will provide accountants with a live view of the financial performance of their clients. It could then enable a more interactive advisory service.
Is this a CRM?
At first glance, this appears to be a simple CRM; accountants can add companies, contacts and add notes against them. Enterprise Times asked Sage what its strategy for CRM is. Sage sees this as more a Client Management solution than CRM and plans to build integrations to popular CRM solutions in the future.
While Sage intends to integrate with other applications, it sees collaboration platforms as the first thing to address. Common platforms in use by Accountants are Slack, Teams and Zoom.
When asked about the plans to integrate to CRM such as Salesforce, Bester replied: “There’s always a plan to integrate with different products. We see this becoming the hub for collaboration across the board. Now that may not use CRM, but in the future, it certainly could use CRM, but it could all be native state. A key thing that we’re addressing with this is client to account and collaboration, bringing them closer together.”
Several other benefits for accountants looking to partner with Sage were announced in conjunction with the Sage for Accounting. It will offer up to 50 free user licenses for Sage Accounting Plus, Sage HR, and Payroll apps (combined) for accountants to use within their practice.
In bringing all subscriptions into a single platform, Sage has consolidated its rewards platform and simplified it to gain rewards as part of a tiered program. Also, while the discounts on client software start at 50%, that will increase as more are sold. There is also access to the Sage Accountant Hub. It offers learning paths, information, advice, and support on various topics, including marketing.
As Watkins noted, “Wherever the accountant starts their journey with Sage, whether that’s GoProposal, AutoEntry, Accounting or Payroll, we want them to use client management as their single portal. It means they get the benefits of being able to manage their clients across the practice, then, hopefully, the accountant will get more value managing their practice. Over time, they’re going to get more benefit from the reward and loyalty programme because it will go across the portfolio as opposed to down into one individual product.”
First the UK, then?
Sage for Accountants is currently available in the UK. Sage intends to roll out the solution to other locations over time. Enterprise asked Sage about those plans. Watkins replied, “We want to ensure that we deliver value in the UK first. We will extend to Ireland after that. Then we’ll then look at Canada, South Africa, the US. But it’s important that we deliver value for accountants and their clients first. Once we’ve got something that’s repeatable, we will absolutely take it International.”
The cadence will likely see a rollout into Ireland and Canada in 2022, but Sage would not commit to specific timescales yet. However, will it add an integration to Sage Intacct when it looks to launch in the US?
Bester replied, “What we are building is an infrastructure that supports accountants where their clients are. Intacct currently isn’t supported. But, it is something that’s on our roadmap to incorporate.”
Watkins added, “The US team have worked closely with accountants around outsourced CFO functions in the US. We absolutely want to bring that capability to the UK market. Again, the single pane of glass will be Sage for Accountants. When we’re ready to do that, we will bring it into the proposition for an accountant to use.”
Why this is good for Sage
While Sage for Accountants helps accountants, it should also help increase user numbers for Sage Accounting. Enterprise Times asked Sage whether that was the intent.
Bester explained: “Firstly when we spoke with accountants, there’s been a couple of feedbacks that they’ve given us over the years. Predominantly, they’ve said to us; we need to make it easier to do business with ourselves and, by that, remove friction during the onboarding process. Secondly, we need to remove friction for them doing business with their clients.
“One of the key things that Sage for Accountants addresses is we have a digital self-serve onboarding journey. What that practically means is they can get a new client up and running in not even a couple of minutes. It’s a couple of clicks of a button, and you’re up and running. Addressing the fundamental efficiency of getting a client up and running is going to have the net result of organic growth of customers into sage accounting by making their accountants lives easier.”
Enterprise Times: What does this mean
Sage is bringing together a coherent technology platform for both Accountants and Clients. When Sage Business Cloud was first announced, it was little more than a marketing slide designed to convince clients they had a strategy. Under Aaron Harris, Sage is now creating the platform to deliver on what was purely a vision.
They have wasted little time in starting the integration of GoProposal following its acquisition. The direction they are heading not only makes sense but there is now progress. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to connect all the solutions within the multitude of applications to make this a seamless platform.
Customers already using the platform are seeing significant benefits, the proof point of any solution. Sarah Riley, owner of Riley Accountancy, commented. “Time is a big challenge for me in a busy practice with over 150 Small Businesses, I save 2 hours per week by serving clients through Sage for Accountants. They are all in one place easy to access, and it allows me to navigate swiftly between each subscription, from data capture to tax submission.”
This could provide a significant boost for Sage in a market where it is under pressure from both Xero and QuickBooks. Sage for Accountants provides a free and simple tool. It allows both new and existing accountants to help scale their practices. It also comes at an opportune time.
Chris Downing, director of product marketing accountants, commented, “Sage for Accountants is being launched at the perfect time when accountants are trying to manage their own profitability, not to waste time and effort and more importantly, money on software, which they do not need.”