Sage accounting review: new name, new interface

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Sage accounting review: new name, new interface

We update our review of Sage One, which is being renamed to Sage Business Cloud Accounting.

Sage has been in the small business accounting market in Australia for years – and its payroll and accounting practice management software, MicrOpay and HandiSoft respectively, are widely used – yet it doesn't have as high a profile here as it does in some other countries.

Its entry-level cloud app Sage Business Cloud Accounting (previously known as Sage One) and more advanced Sage Business Cloud Financials (formerly Sage Live) could change that.

To see if it’s worth you considering making the switch, here’s our original 2017 review of Sage One – part of our series on small business cloud accounting systems – followed by an update on the new features that are being added to Sage Business Cloud Accounting.

The basics

We liked Sage One's "workspace" interface. Somewhat like the array of icons representing apps on a phone or tablet, it presents the activities that can be performed (create quote or invoice, receive money, pay a supplier, generate reports and so on).

If that doesn't suit the way you work, you can instead set the dashboard as the default page so you can quickly see various pieces of information about your business, such as the customers that owe you the most, top selling items, customer or supplier payments due, and cash movements.

The advantage is that this approach suits both the owner or manager who has to keep an eye on various numbers, as well as the employee who just needs to perform specific tasks such as invoicing customers.

A secondary benefit is that it reduces the number of steps to start certain activities from the dashboard. There doesn't seem to be a one-click way to create a new invoice from the dashboard, instead you sequentially select Customers, Transactions, Customer Tax Invoices, and then Add a Tax Invoice. That can be reduced by one step by selecting Home, Workspace, and then Create an Invoice (that is, one click in the workspace creates a new invoice)

Routine activities such as generating quotes, raising invoices and entering bills are generally straightforward. One quirk is that if you want to print (say) an invoice, you need to select Print Preview and then print from there. Selecting Print instead downloads a PDF version of the invoice that you can then open and print.

If you're in a business where customers request quotations, Sage One makes it easy to create an invoice corresponding to an existing quote. In that case the quote remains in the system, and the transaction's status changes to Invoiced. Inventory items can be tracked.

Sage One lets you allow customers to view and print their invoices, quotes and optionally transaction histories.

Room for improvement

The way Sage One works is particularly cumbersome for receiving cash payments at the time of supply, for example when selling items over the counter. We accept that it isn't meant to be a POS system, but some other products let you enter the payment on the same screen as creating the invoice.

With Sage One, you create the invoice, select Receive Payment, enter the payment details, click Process, go back to the list of tax invoices, invoices, open the relevant one (normally the most recent, unless someone else is creating invoices at the same time), print preview, and print (showing $0 due). Or you could print the invoice when you create it (showing a balance due), then create and print the receipt, but that means two pieces of paper.

There is an easy way of printing both an invoice and a delivery note from the invoice entry page, but again that downloads a PDF rather than allowing printing from within the browser. This is a particular problem for casual cash sales as you can't take advantage of online or emailed invoices without setting up each customer within Sage One.

Another quirk is that the custom invoice layout designer is only available for Windows. That seems odd for a cloud-based system that should work on pretty much any platform.

Payroll and reporting

Sage One subscriptions include Sky Payroll for up to five employees. We found this to be one of the most straightforward systems in terms of setup and use, though we did initially struggle with the employee portal for entry of timesheets. Time tracking is available with a no-cost upgrade.

Reporting is reasonably snappy. The GST report shows item labels to make it easier to transcribe the numbers to the BAS. But – and this is a criticism that applies to all of the systems reviewed here – it would be even more convenient if the software generated a facsimile of the ATO's form.

The layouts of the other reports generated by Sage One were acceptable, though not quite clear as we're used to. Specifically, we prefer indentation to than coloured headings as a way of indicating groups of related data such as categories of expenses within the profit and loss report.

The Reporting menu includes Sage One Intelligence Reporting which apparently allows the creation of custom, spreadsheet-like reports. It seems that this is still in beta and will be an extra-cost add-on when completed, so we didn't explore it.

Third-party support

Sage provides an API for developers that want to integrate with Sage One, but just five integrations exist for Sage One (plus Sage’s HandiSoft software), though they are big names. OneSaas provides integration with BigCommerce, Shopify and WooCommerce ecommerce systems, and there's an eWay payment gateway and a link to Sky Payroll (the first five employees are included in the Sage One price).

Usability and conclusion

The overall look and feel of Sage One seems a little dated, especially when compared with MYOB Essentials, Reckon One and Xero. And some processes are more convoluted than they need be, but whether or not that's a problem depends on how your business operates. It would be for our hypothetical business, but not for several real small businesses we know.

Given the breadth of functionality, $20 a month for unlimited transactions and payroll for 5 employees seems particularly good value, even if bank feeds cost an extra $7 a month, and there's a $3 a month charge for each additional user.

2018 update

As previously mentioned, Sage One has been renamed to Sage Business Cloud Accounting. 

Changes to the application that may be available by the time you read this include a interface facelift, Simpler BAS reporting, a plug-in for PayPal's Braintree payments service (for subscriptions), and a user task dashboard to help people manage their daily tasks and reminders.

It also offers an easy upgrade path to Sage Business Cloud Financials (formerly Sage Live).

Sage is “very confident” its products will be STP compliant by 1 July 2018.

See our accounting feature for more advice on choosing a cloud accounting system and details on how we tested, or select another review below. 

Some of Sage One’s processes are more convoluted than they need be, and so far it has only five add-ons, but it’s good value, offering unlimited transactions, payroll for 5 employees and bank feeds for a total of $27 per month.
From $20 AUD per month
Includes quoting, invoicing, purchases, purchase orders, inventory, payment gateways, bank feeds, payroll, time tracking, documents attached to transactions, mobile app, and support for 5 third-party applications.
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