JCurve is the ERP wolf hiding in sheep’s clothing. A simplified small business accounting package, it is the only product that can scale up to enterprise level. We examine the pros and cons.
This is the fifth in an ongoing series of articles profiling accounting software available in Australia. You can read the rest of the series in the Technology section
JCurve is another home-grown Australian project alongside Saasu, Reckon and MYOB. While it also is marketed towards small business, it is uniquely different in its potential.
Launched in 2011, JCurve is a fully featured cloud accounting program powered by the most popular online enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform, NetSuite. Multinational companies use NetSuite to track the finances of subsidiaries around the world, global inventories across multiple warehouses, and payroll for thousands of employees.
A JCurve user doesn’t see all this complex functionality, however. It is hidden by the JCurve interface, which switches off all modules relevant to only larger companies.
The promise is that a small business will never need to change its accounting program again. Once a company grows past 20 employees – JCurve’s licensed threshold – the program removes the limitations and JCurve branding to reveal the full NetSuite platform.
Founder Graham Baillie came up with the idea for JCurve after going through the painful process of setting up a large ERP (not NetSuite) for a previous business.
Baillie’s fast-growing business forced him to replace multiple spreadsheets that tracked his customers, inventory, bank accounts and invoices with a system that tracked every part of his business. The solution made it much easier to run the company but it came at a high cost – a A$250,000 bill and six months of disruption to business.
Baillie saw that he could detune NetSuite to create a cloud-based accounting suite for small business, and use a self-install wizard to bring the price down. After negotiating a distribution licence with NetSuite for Asia-Pacific, JCurve was born.
JCurve’s parent company, JCurve Solutions, also sells software to manage telecommunications costs and usage.
What it does
JCurve comes in two flavours, standard and advanced. The standard package covers the basics of accounting. The accounting module includes invoices and statements, sales invoices, purchase orders, accounts payable and receivable with A/R trend analysis, automated reminders and collection notices.
Bank feeds are included although statements aren’t downloaded automatically – you set the frequency to daily, weekly, monthly or ad hoc. Payroll includes automated tax tables, superannuation, leave management and reporting.
Hints of the ERP are in the categories and classes for more detailed reporting. Users can report against budgets for specific customers, projects, items, departments, classes and locations.
The standard edition of JCurve includes a “basic” inventory which is far more detailed than the equivalents in its small business competitors. It tracks orders, backorders and fulfilments, and reports on profitability, valuation, pending fulfilment, turnover and more.
Its heritage is again evident in the contacts module, which is a lightweight CRM. It tracks activities against each customer such as calls, meetings and tasks, which can be allocated to other staff. A sales workflow can track activities from start to completion; these show up as KPIs in the management report.
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The roles and permissions module is extremely granular, which makes sense given the ties to NetSuite. A manager can give each employee specific access to parts of the program. While many accounting programs are used mostly by the accountant and business owner, ERPs like NetSuite have modules relevant to people across the whole business.
A surprise inclusion for a base product is the ability to process credit card payments for offline and online sales. This includes credit card authorisation, fraud management and funds capture.
Unfortunate omissions from the standard edition are multi-currency, fixed asset depreciation, expense claims and timesheets. These are reserved for the advanced edition which packs quite a punch when it comes to small business accounting.
Several modules in the advanced package focus on improving sales and marketing. The sales module adds automated sales workflows for standard items and pricing, and also creates specific campaigns to support their pipeline.
Also included is case management for support, which tracks issues via email and integrated forms. Cases are automatically escalated through a user-programmed setting.
Then there are modules for “advanced” CRM, marketing and e-commerce, which coordinates drop-shipping online inventory, and advanced order management.
The beefed-up inventory can automatically replenish stock and create assemblies, lot or serial numbers and matrix items. Stock also can be managed across multiple locations.
Pros and cons
JCurve has cut back its packages from three versions to two, although it only advertises the price of the standard package. The A$49 per month starting price includes a free login for an accountant and five restricted access logins for employees. Extra users with higher levels of access cost A$49 a month each.
As it is the only small business package that charges a per-user price, JCurve can be expensive. The upside is that it has a good deal of power out of the box. A business just turns on the modules as required.
It’s difficult to compare apples to apples with accounting software but a couple of points are worth mentioning.
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For all its power, JCurve is not the prettiest program on the market. Accountants will have no problems with the interface but it doesn’t have the ease of use compared to other programs focused on signing up small business owners.
The connection to NetSuite has its downsides. NetSuite is an enterprise program, and apps that connect to NetSuite tend to be expensive. There’s nothing like the Xero ecosystem of niche applications.
Once a business upgrades to NetSuite, the costs jump to serious money. The starting price for NetSuite is around A$25,000 a year. The good news is that there should be minimal or no set-up costs.
JCurve best suits fast-growing businesses in retail, manufacturing or with complex inventory. For these companies, complex accounting is inevitable once they reach a certain size.
While JCurve works as a standalone accounting package, its best use is as an easy on-ramp to ERP – but with a lower cost of implementation.
Is Xero right for your business?