Sage – the Mainstay of British Accounting Software (and Newcastle United)
Sage Accounting has been a mainstay in British accountancy software for many years for most SMEs, but the software can be quite inaccessible to the lay person without an understanding of double entry bookkeeping, as opposed to accountants. New entrants to the market, such as Xero and Quickbooks, seem to be more focussed on the needs of non-accountant users.
Accessing Old Sales Figures in Sage
Take a recent example. A company in North Wales used Sage for their accountancy software for over 10 years, and recently needed to go back into the software after having moved to Xero and work out some old sales figures. This included calculating various things such as clients who had paid in instalments, clients who had paid immediately and clients who had been invoiced in a standard way, and to produce a report based on this.
Xero – Few Clicks and Bobs Your Uncle
In Xero this would have taken 20 seconds, a quick click of a button and a very straightforward report appearing that a lay person could instantly access, understand and manipulate.
Sage – Not Bobs Your Uncle
Not so in Sage 50. In order to access the accounts, the company ended up having to employ the services of a freelance accountant who was able to go back into Sage and bring up the right types of report and produce the relevant sales reconciliations by matching them on an Excel spreadsheet. It was virtually impossible to produce Profit and Loss account sheets for previous years and although a lot of the issues may have been down to the inexperience of the company directors accessing the data, this is precisely why Xero and Quickbooks have taken off so quickly.
Sage – Accountant Terminology
One of the problems is the terminology on Sage is so biased towards accountants rather than to the lay person. So for example, to produce a report showing paid invoices it is necessary to click through about three screens to find something called a Day Books Paid Invoice Report. To find a report showing issued invoices it is necessary to go and discover a report called the Day Books Issued Invoices Report. This is accessed from a completely different screen. And then to work out the actual sales receipts you have to go via the bank account, click Reports and go into Day Books Customer Receipts in order to source a different report.
Inventor was an Accountant?
I am not sure who invented Sage or who developed it, but they clearly had no inkling that the software could be used by anyone other than a qualified accountant with extensive experience of Sage.
This is what makes Xero so revolutionary (and possibly QuickBooks although we have not used that ourselves) – it can be used by a lay person simply and easily without too much bother, and the reports are available instantly and in full for any years, simply by clicking a button called Reports.
Sage Accounts – Days Numbered?
Why Sage ever was so popular is a moot point (probably because accountants love using it) but it’s quite possible that there was simply no effective competition. Now that Xero has come in and added a whole new level of ease of use, we suspect Sage’s days are numbered unless they are able to up their game and release a similar product.
Jonathan Fagan is MD of Ten-Percent.co.uk Limited and TP Recruitment Limited, a set of websites involved in a range of recruitment work. Jonathan has been running small businesses for over 20 years and has a number of interests and investments in companies as diverse as transcription, legal recruitment and a bit of marketing. He is an author of a number of guides and books, together with a children’s novel. In his spare time he enjoys playing golf, cricket, coaching girls’ football, operating a parent taxi, lots of running and paddleboarding on Bala Lake and the River Dee. He is a strong believer in a good work-life balance and regular blogs on making money vs enjoying life. Jonathan’s website is https://www.jonathanfagan.co.uk