Microsoft recently released the preview of a new Software as a service (SAS) accounting system. This is their first pure SAS delivered system. I decided to take a look at it to evaluate the features available in this system.
For those of you that don’t know, Microsoft has been diving into the lower end of the accounting system going all the way back to when Great Plains designed Microsoft Profit. There has been a fascination with Microsoft to compete with QuickBooks and compete in that market space.
My first reaction to the preview was not that great. The building of the site for me took almost a day to complete. I am assuming that it is a preview and there could be issues, but I would think the first experience to the end user should be excellent, this wasn’t the case.
The mobile app is clean and on the most part functional. If you had to do any data entry, the web browser piece would most likely be slow. I determined that it is slow, but that is typical of web-based applications.
The application has only three basic functions right now so the market is limited. These include Customers, Vendors, and Items. There is also a general ledger.
Customers is where you enter invoices. A better label for this would be sales, but over time the user would get used to the terminology. The functionality is limited. Orders and invoices can be entered. I can’t see the process of back orders being effective if you are heavy into inventory. It wants to integrate with Excel a lot and there isn’t an apparent report writer. There are extensions for PayPal integration as well as other services but these are limited. I couldn’t try the PayPal integration to see how effective it is as there isn’t an evaluation process. It would be nice to have more options. There doesn’t appear to be an AR aging which is definitely odd.
Vendors is where you record vendor invoices, create vendors, and pay bills. However, I haven’t been able to see where you pay a bill. It isn’t very intuitive. You can create templates for vendor setup which is kind of nice. Again there really isn’t a reporting feature under vendors. You can export a vendor list but there is no aging.
The general ledger is basic at best. You can record a journal entry and produce a financial statement but really can’t do anything complex with the financial statements. There doesn’t appear to be any external report writers to build new reports. So if your requirements are simple it could work.
Microsoft said that Madeira is designed for companies with 0-99 employees. Quite frankly I don’t see a company with more than 30 employees able to use this system effectively. It lacks many of the features that businesses need. The system isn’t intuitive, maybe they are trying to create a new ecosystem for financial systems, but I think they need better documentation. Setup of the external interfaces isn’t for the average users. QuickBooks provides a more elegant setup of these other features as it walks you through very nicely and efficiently.
Some sort of report writer is a must. Maybe the released version will have one, but I would think you need to give the users flexibility. The integrations that are available now need to be designed better for easier setup. The average small business would be lost unless they engaged a consultant. I don’t think Microsoft is planning on that. We all know that Microsoft isn’t setup for consumer support on an application like this so they need to spend more time on the design to make it more intuitive.
There is no accountant interface which is a nice feature for QuickBooks users and their accountants. This is what drives accountants to recommend QuickBooks for their clients.
Accounting systems are a marathon and right now QuickBooks is 20 miles ahead and running at the same speed. If Microsoft thinks they want to be a real player, they need to start running a lot faster than QuickBooks to catch up.
TIMOTHY (TIM) LALLY, CPA | President/CEO
Tim is the founder and president of KTL Solutions, Inc. He provides high-level guidance to our clients in order to help them better use technology within their organizations. He has an ability to understand the issue and provide a solution that best fits the client’s needs. When implementing solutions, his focus is to utilize off the shelf solutions first and customizations second.
Tim is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and has over 17 years of Microsoft Business Solutions software implementation and development experience. He started implementing Dynamics in 1987 in the early years of Great Plains on the Apple Macintosh. His responsibilities include mentoring new developers, teaching accounting principles and processes to developers, and leading the development and design of custom solutions. Tim oversees KTL’s Microsoft Business Solutions vertical market business.