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App Watch on Sage, Zoho Books, and Fourlane

Aug 9th 2016
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Welcome again to another gripping edition of App Watch, the weekly column that provides you -- the tax and accounting professional -- with a snapshot of the most recent, and relevant, application and service provider news. And, as an added bonus(some people think so, anyway) we try to offer a bit of inisight as to what this news means, or could mean to you and possibly your clients.

This week we have news on a bot from Sage, business intelligence tools in Zoho Books, and a website for QuickBooks desktop users from Fourlane. As ever, this column is in no way, shape or form an endorsement -- paid or otherwise -- of the aforementioned products and services. It is, as previously stated, merely a way to keep you informed of a few key goings on in the application and service provider space in order to help you make a more informed decision about them.

So, let's dive in shall we?

News: Sage and Gupshup Partner to Launch Accounting Bot

Sage has formed a strategic partnership with bot platform Gupshup to launch Pegg, Sage’s new chat bot for accounting. Pegg enables users to log expenses, check invoices, track payments and more by simply chatting with it. The bot was designed to makes it easy for users to instantly enter and track important financial information such as filing expenses, tracking account balances and recording receipts and income. Pegg contains natural language processing abilities that enable users to say things in more than just one way. Pegg is currently linked with the Sage One accounting solution, with plans for integration in other Sage products. Pegg can currently be used on Facebook Messanger and Slack messenger apps, but will be available on other messaging platforms in the coming weeks.

Views: As I had mentioned in my coverage of the Sage Summit event, where Pegg was first revealed in beta form, if you like and work with cloud apps you will love bots. Conversely, if you still fear cloud and mobile applications, bots will send you screaming for the hills. I got to see a live demo of Pegg and it’s basically like texting with Siri or even an on online/automated “help desk.” It is programmed to respond intelligibly based on even the most simple or colloquial questions such as “did I send too much this month?” or “will my client be able to pay their bills next week?” Technology today is all about your comfort level and for anyone using the most current Sage products, you have to admit that they are indeed finally innovating. Being able to use a simple chat function to access file data will likely become more of a norm for the cloud and mobile-minded, who are used to convenience and want information fast. Many of you may already be comfortable searching for a restaurant or office location by using the voice feature in Google. It's kind of like that, but again with text rather than voice...for now. As to the overall market acceptance of bots, the jury is still out. Apps have been out for years and are only just gaining more of a broad acceptance in the accounting and business marketplace, so let’s see how the bots fair.

News: Zoho Reports Added to Zoho Books

Zoho Books has had an adequate reporting module built within it, but now there is an advanced analytics add-on powered by Zoho Reports, the company’s business intelligence and reporting service. Data can now get synced automatically from Zoho Books to Zoho Reports and users get to analyze their Zoho Books data. The add-on comes with approximately 75 pre-packaged reports and dashboards, which allows users to knowing important finance metrics like quick ratio, activity ratio, EBIT, gross/net profits etc, to viewing trends. There is also the ability to create unlimited ad hoc reports and dashboards using a drag-and-drop interface. Viewers of a report can apply filters, see the underlying data, do a drill-down, and more.

Views: It’s not surprise that many accounting application users want more out of the products they use every day, otherwise spreadsheets and general ledgers would still be the norm. Being able to drill down, look at key performance indicators and simply share more with a client than basic financials are not the future, they are today – they are what businesses want to see and know on a regular basis. Bottom line, if you or the accounting software you or they use are not able to provide this level of information, the value of what they are paying (for you and/or said program) will be in question.

News: Fourlane Launches New Training Site for QB Desktop

Fourlane, a provider of workflow and consulting services in QuickBooks, QuickBooks Point of Sale and QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions, recently launched -- a training site designed for all QuickBooks users from the most basic bookkeeper to QuickBooks Advanced Certified is a subscription-based service providing unlimited access to more than 200 videos, organized by tasks with beginner, intermediate and advanced topics to walk users step-by-step through every aspect of how to use QuickBooks more efficiently. Monthly subscriptions run $29.95; annual subscriptions are $249.00. The site will also offer live training for QuickBooks Desktop Advanced Certified users through Intuit’s new ACE training program. The first course, Data Conversion: Importing Customer List, Vendor List and Open Summary Balances to QuickBooks, will be held August 31 from 12-2 pm Central Time.

Views: OK, so this is all about more online help for QuickBooks desktop users. Say what you will about the rise of the online product, and other cloud accounting apps for that matter, QB desktop users will not be ignored and continue to require training. Until the day Intuit decides to finally discontinue support for the desktop (which it promises it won’t do, despite heavy efforts to push their cloud products) Fourlane and their ilk will continue to have a business, and desktop users will continue to need assistance as they move up the certification ranks. Thus, a website dedicated to helping the desktop user base is, I would imagine, a welcome thing.

As ever, don't let this or any other column or article be a one-way experience. We'd love to hear your thoughts.