Saasu is one of the most developed online software accounting packages available, with handy features for online retailers. Does it have what your business needs?
This is the second in an ongoing series of articles profiling accounting software available in Australia. You can read the rest of the series in our technology section.
When it comes to cloud accounting software, no one has been doing it longer in Australia than Saasu. The company was founded in 2000 by husband and wife Marc and Emma Lehmann, and Grant Young.
It was the same year that Intuit launched QuickBooks Online in the US. Marc Lehmann saw the opportunity while he was a principal trader and vice-president of Deutsche Bank. During the bank’s transition to online trading he saw piles of receipts on traders’ desks and realised an online accounting system dedicated to automation could save them hours of time. Small and medium businesses would also be natural customers for automated accounting software.
Fast-forward 15 years and Saasu is the only profitable online accounting software company in Australia, with an estimated customer base of more than 20,000 businesses.
Related: Is QuickBooks right for your business?
Despite this success, Saasu has had to endure unfavourable comparisons to Xero’s rocket ride. Detractors pointed out that Saasu wasn’t selling as quickly, it wasn’t attracting the same numbers of accountants and bookkeepers, and had a slower pace of development.
But Saasu has stuck to its business plan and built a very strong product – one that has proven to be a reflection of its CEO Marc Lehmann, a quiet achiever who follows a minimalist philosophy in business and life. Lehmann has deliberately avoided large capital raisings to hire masses of developers and fund glitzy marketing campaigns. Built with A$5 million in founder and seed capital, Saasu offers a lean yet powerful accounting program used by sole traders to mid-size companies with global operations.
What it does
Saasu has a complete feature set, although its priorities have differed from its rivals’. It was late to add bank feeds, a key attraction to cloud accounting, for example. Saasu’s bank feeds came out of beta last year and the software includes fast coding, bank rules and integration with PayPal.
The PayPal integration is particularly useful for e-commerce retailers, a key market for Saasu. The cloud app has been designed to scale with high-volume online businesses and can handle higher numbers of transactions than competing programs. It also handles 50 foreign currencies for retailers selling overseas, an increasingly common scenario.
Another retailer-friendly feature is Saasu’s highly capable inventory module. It can track kit and bundle combinations, serial numbers, multiple locations and expiry dates. It auto-flags refill levels when supplies of one item run low and can run voucher promotions.
In comparison, Xero has only just released a basic inventory module, and Reckon and MYOB are yet to add this feature to equivalent browser-based programs. (However MYOB’s hybrid program, AccountRight Live, has a comparable inventory function.)
Invoicing is done well, with customisable designs and a sequence that moves from estimates to orders to sales. However, Saasu lacks online invoicing and quoting, which can reduce debtor days and speed up price negotiations.
How is Saasu different?
• Saasu software has light functions of a customer relationship management (CRM) program. Users can assign tasks to staff such as following up prospects, reminders for project invoice dates or attaching documents for client approval. These activities and notes are tracked by client.
• Users can create custom lists of customers and tag them by geography, industry or other interest area. They can then run reports to benchmark and compare sales frequency and volume. Xero added a similar feature last year called Smart Lists.
• Saasu includes payroll with automatic tax calculations, basic time sheets and pay officer approval for pay runs. Annual tax table updates are included for free and users can set up multiple pay runs to pay staff at different times.
• In 2014 Saasu added a fast global search function, which uses intelligence to auto-correct or suggest alternative search terms to find information faster. Its purpose is broader than search; Saasu intends it to be used as a primary navigation tool.
• The software also has cash flow forecasting, which shows the amount of cash a business can expect to have on hand if it collects invoices and pays bills on time.
• Saasu users can pay invoices to online suppliers at competitive exchange rates through an integration with online currency trader OzForex.
What are its drawbacks?
If Saasu has a weakness, it’s that it’s less appealing for sole traders and business owners unfamiliar with accounting software. Xero, MYOB and Intuit have softened their interfaces and terminology to attract businesses that use Excel to manage their finances. This huge market relates more to modules called Bills and Invoices rather than Accounts Payable and Receivable.
As well, Saasu can’t match the hundreds of developers employed by Intuit, MYOB, Xero and the like so it has to pick its projects more carefully. Consequently, Saasu has lagged in some important areas. The initial implementation of bank feeds was below par and its outdated user interface cost Saasu customers in comparisons against Xero.
Bank feeds came out of beta last year as did a badly needed interface refresh. The mobile app, an increasingly important aspect of online accounting, lacks the polish of competitors.
Saasu starts at A$15 a month and includes 1000 transactions a year and three bank feeds for a sole trader. A business needs to upgrade to the A$40 a month medium plan to add multi-currency, a basic inventory and payroll for up to 20 employees. It also has a 20,000 annual transaction cap.
The large plan (A$70 a month) adds capacity for 40 employees, 40,000 transactions a year, advanced inventory, consolidated P&L [profit and loss] and a KPI [key performance indicator] report builder.
The extra-large plan (A$180 a month) handles 100,000 transactions a year and 100 employees. Saasu has around 60 add-on programs, with e-commerce solutions the most popular.
Sholto Macpherson is a journalist and author of the Beginner’s Guide to Online Accounting.
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