A roundup of new Sage Intacct features in late 2018
Dec 19, 2018 | By Blake Oliver
It was a blast attending Sage Intacct Advantage in Nashville with the FloQast team this past year. After the conference, I caught up with and interviewed David Cieslak of RKL eSolutions, a top Sage Intacct and FloQast partner.
David shared his key takeaways from the conference and spoke about what really stood out to him. Read the edited transcript below to catch up on everything new with Sage Intacct as 2018 comes to a close:
David Cieslak on What’s New with Sage Intacct:
FloQast: David is chief cloud officer and EVP with RKL eSolutions, a leading business process automation consulting firm with offices across the US. In his role he is responsible for helping companies grow strategically with cloud-based solutions, and industry-specific service expertise for ERP, CPM, CRM, AP automation, and other critical business processes. David, thanks so much for joining the show, and I should say congratulations on making the Accounting Today Top 100 list again.
David Cieslak: Thank you very much. I very much appreciate that.
FQ: It was great to see you at Intacct Advantage this past week in Nashville. I'm really interested to know your take on all these new features, announcements, and general direction of Sage, based on your experience at the conference. How about we dig into it?
DC: I would tell you that I think Sage Intacct Advantage this year was especially exciting, because I think what we've seen is several years worth of product innovation, product effort, really starting to come to fruition. They had a lot of not just forward announcements, but a lot of, "Here's what's now being released in this upcoming R4.” You know, release of the product coming out here in about two weeks time or so.
New Feature: Intacct Budget & Planning
DC: The big one, or a few of the big ones, was the budget and planning module. We have found this to be kind of a persistent need amongst our client base. That they say, "Okay, what does Intacct do for budget and forecasting and planning?" The reality is, there's a number of legacy products in the marketplace, and there's some that we'll call higher-end solutions. Things like adaptive insights and host analytics. But really nothing really well aimed at the mid market.
Intacct is aware of that, and ultimately discovered a product called Budgeta. They've been working with this new provider and purchased it, and now are in the process of rebranding it. It's not a new product. I guess that's the good news. It's not like you're going to be out there doing alpha software testing. It's actually — I believe — written by an organization out of Israel, and it is just very very impressive looking. We're super excited to see that one finally now become available. That's going to be available here in pretty much real time.
FQ: That's great. What sort of your clients, what types of businesses would that be a good fit for?
DC: It's definitely aimed at the small to medium business space. I would say for companies with 50 to 500 employees, 50 to 250 to 500. Somewhere in that range. It clearly is aimed squarely at those who are doing budgeting in Excel today, and are really kind of harassed and hampered by the usability, or lack thereof, trying to budget in Excel and saying, "There's a smarter, better way".
Being able to manage the budget process. Consolidate. Instantly see a view of the rolled up budget. But it's also got some forecasting capabilities as well, so you even have the ability to do some what ifs, and play with or toy with certain changes that you're considering implementing across the organization. Really a very powerful solution, and right sized and right timed for the mid market.
FQ: That's great. That's available now, right?
DC: Yeah. Correct.
New Feature: Interactive Report Writer
FQ: David, there was more than just that. My favorite is the next one: The interactive report writer.
DC: Yeah. This one's going to be very game changing as well. Intacct has been talking about really, not just enhancing, but really replacing the existing customer report writing engine inside of Sage Intacct for the last several years now. Giving end users something far more powerful than what exists in the product today. That's exactly what's coming. Had a chance to do some hands-on sessions, as well as some great show and tell. But really, I would consider it a much more capable, much more robust, deeper, and richer report writing engine. It really is going to enable any Intacct customer to do very deep reporting, very complex reporting, directly within the product.
If you think about so much of Intacct from a design perspective, they are very keen to try to reduce the dependency on outside reporting via spreadsheets or other reporting tools. This new interactive report writer goes a long way toward delivering that. That's going to be formally releasing GA here in the next few weeks as well. Very excited to see what value that's going to bring to our customer base.
FQ: Now it's hard to visualize this based on a podcast description, right? Maybe we can explain it a little bit. I did see something in there about the ability to do pivot tables. Is that right?
DC: Yeah. The analytics portion of it I would tell you, that one's coming. You do have the ability to do what I'll call, I'm not even going to call it basic pivots. Yes, you do have the ability to do pivots. Some of the more advanced analytics will be in the next revision. But the foundation is all there for very strong reporting with what I'll call straightforward pivots, available now.
FQ: Basically, I'm taking away from this, the idea is I'll be able to spend less time exporting and manipulating data in Excel to get the reports I need, and be able to just create those, save those in Intacct directly.
DC: Absolutely correct. Again, that has been almost part of their credo since the foundation of the product. We're excited.
New Feature: Dynamic Allocations Module
FQ: There's one last feature announcement that I heard about, that I think was in particular going to be great for not for profits. That's the dynamic allocations module. Could you fill us in on that?
DC: Sure. If you think about so much of even the month-over-month accounting process, or we'll call it even the close process, is taking dollars that have been expenditures and expenses that have been incurred over the last operating period, and reallocating those to departments or entities or to segments of the business based upon some kind of metrics. Square footage. Headcount. Relative cost. That type of thing. Dynamic allocations is going to be something far richer, better, deeper than just kind of a, "Do 20 percent here. 10 percent there. Do the other 70 percent someplace else.” Instead, you're going to have the ability to say, "Here is the algorithm. Here's the mathematical equation behind the reallocation of those dollars.”
The dynamic allocations module, while they are saying it will be great for nonprofits, it's going to be great for really any organization.
FQ: Right. Anyone that has to allocate overhead expenses to various departments, that's a very basic type of allocation. But I imagine it could get pretty complex.
DC: Correct. This gives you the much more robust allocation functionality that organizations have been asking for.
New Feature: Bank Reconciliations
FQ: I think that was about it for the major product announcements, right? I think there was one other though that I'm remembering now. Did they say something about bank reconciliations?
DC: Yeah, bank reconciliations. Intacct is in the midst of rolling out a new UI for the product. They've actually, it's been available to end users now for a number of releases. In the background they have been working diligently to convert the entire application, the entire suite of products over to the new UI. There's just one or two, just a handful of screens left. As a part of that, they're also re-imagining some of the solution, as well. Bank rec was another portion of the product that, they're not just upgrading the screen. They're really going to energize the overall solution, and they're going to be working to incorporate bank feeds directly into the reconciliation process. Really, just some terrific stuff coming there as well. Not just a facelift or an upgrade. It's going to support quite a bit of additional wonderful new functionality.
FQ: Bank feeds is music to my ears, because I grew up in the world of QuickBooks and Xero. That was just a given, right?
FQ: It blew my mind when I started working with larger organizations as my career progressed. That bank feeds weren't built into Intacct, into NetSuite, right? Into ERP systems.
DC: Yeah, there's a lot of legacy products that don't have that. I think that's a bump that everyone experiences when they move from a QuickBooks or a Xero into one of the mid-market solutions. The challenge is not unique to Intacct, so, very pleased that they're getting that resolved and addressed, and now ready to start incorporating that into the solution.
FQ: I'm curious. Do you have any insider insight into how they are going to do the bank feeds? Are they going to work directly with banks? Are they going to license feeds from someone? Because there's 3,000 banks in the US. That's one of the big challenges of building this.
DC: Yeah, you know that's an interesting question. I think several people were similarly curious about that, and I think what we heard from them was, "Stay tuned.” But part of this too, I think, they're going to have the opportunity to probably interface directly with a number of banks. That's no surprise. I think a number of banks do have somewhat open, an opportunity to interface with in a rather open manner.
Others are going to probably go through some kind of concentrator, as it were, an organization or some kind of conduit where we're able to collect all of that. But, the comment I was going to make is that, as you know, Blake, Sage purchased Intacct last August. A little over a year ago now. As a part of that, they're gaining access to not just a great name and an international presence, an international organization focused on counting solutions — they're also gaining access to their knowledge and their technology stack.
Part of what we were also hearing and learning more about at Advantage was some of the great technology from Sage that they've now had a chance to wrap their arms around a bit. We're going to look for that, and them to continue to leverage that technology and find its way into Intacct. Really giving them some nice springboard opportunity here.
Intacct’s Place in the Global Sage Organization
FQ: It really seems that Intacct is now crown jewel in the Sage crown. Given the trouble that Sage, globally — as an organization — has been facing, with Stephen Kelly being ousted and some troubling quarterly results. Or, I guess, they do twice a year, right? Up in the UK? How confident are you that the global Sage organization is going to be able to latch onto the cloud and really help drive the growth of Intacct?
DC: I think you actually put it very succinctly. It really is the jewel in their lineup, and so you think about, really, what is their outward-facing, go-to market across their portfolio right now? It's Sage EM, that was formerly Sage X3 at the high end and Sage Intacct at the mid market. It's all part of just a cloud-oriented portfolio. They very much are not just trying to move folks toward a subscription model, but really saying, "What are those cloud-enabled apps within, applications within our lineup?" That is what they are really trying to push forward with, and they very clearly are looking to Intacct to be a key part of that success.
Intacct versus NetSuite
DC: We've worked with, and definitely are not just aware, but have had a chance to really dig into NetSuite as well. A very capable product. Truly the other, I would call it, significant product in the mid market, true cloud solution space. But you know, Intacct for their part, yes I would say a number of years ago maybe a bit more of an underdog. Today I think they're competing very handily, very competitively, with NetSuite.
Intacct's focus is to pick a vertical, and they evaluate Intacct as a solution against that vertical. They're not trying to be all things to all people. They're not trying to allocate a limited number of dollars across a very-wide product suite. Instead, they're trying to be the best in class, a world class financial accounting solution. You've got more dev, more, just, product innovation happening basically in the financial accounting space. It's really, the result is that the product is innovating very, very quickly. We see it very competitive, and in many many respects, exceeding NetSuite. The performance on the solution. The features and functionality on the product. Definitely the verticals where they have chosen to invest. Just being very, very strong, and, in fact, being a clear winner a majority of the time. Very, very encouraging in that regard.
But you know, I look at it and I say Intacct, as an organization, as they really kind of morphed or transitioned from maybe a more, a smaller organization. Something that really not a whole lot of people knew about, to one that was a channel-driven company, and one that was clearly going to be competitive in the mid market.
They went out and they just were able to attract and hire some of the very best and brightest talent across the entire industry. It has been just a heck of a lot of fun working with the organization. The team members that they've hired. You see it in the product. You see it in your day-to-day interactions. They're just quality quality people, creating an extraordinary product. I really do feel like the best it yet to come as it relates to Sage Intacct. We are not just feeling like we're investing our time well and wisely, but I've got to tell you, it's really put the fun back in our day job.
Best-of-Breed versus Suite Approach
FQ: Likewise for me, it's been really fun. It was really fun going to Intacct Advantage this year on the vendor side. The year prior, I was there as a VAR. I've kind of had both experiences. The thing that was really interesting to me was, there seemed to be an even greater focus on marketplace integrations this year, which was really nice. It seems like a lot of the accountants and controllers and CFOs who are coming to Advantage are on the prowl for integrations. They're looking for additional solutions they can integrate with Intacct.
This idea of having many many applications that you integrate together with your ERP or with your financial accounting solution is becoming more and more common in the mid market. It's funny, because I didn't quite get that same feel at SuiteWorld, with NetSuite. I feel like there's more of an emphasis on NetSuite being able to do everything, right?
FQ: Be a suite.
DC: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
FQ: It seems to me like Intacct has a potential competitive advantage in de-emphasizing a need for a suite. Because, again, there's downsides to having an all-in-one solution, when you can pick the best of breed.
DC: Well, and that's really, genuinely part of what Intacct is suggesting, is that that clearly is, the preference is just that best in class. That best ... It gives the customer freedom of choice to pick what they want. Don't presuppose that this is the best approach to expense management or to CRM or to payroll. While, I guess, initially there may seem like there's a lot of wisdom in trying to build an end-to-end suite, the reality is, there's so many fantastic products in the marketplace. Customers feel so much better served when they feel like they've got the freedom to choose the solutions that work best for them, uniquely for their organization, and from there have integrations that Intacct guarantees in their paperwork will not break.
FQ: Oh, that's good.
DC: They call it their buy with confidence guarantee. When you've got a product that they guarantee won't break or won't, those integrations won't come apart. Intacct comes out with four releases a year. One of the things any organization is kind of always wary of is, "Well okay. What's going to break? What's going to stop working?" Intacct says, "Nothing. Nothing's going to break. Nothing's going to stop working. We guarantee that. It's in our paperwork. You're not going to need to redo any of those integrations" That's pretty extraordinary, to put that right into your paperwork and put it on paper as a guarantee.
DC: They go so far as to say that they're 14 years backward compatible. We don't know a single publisher who even comes close to being able to represent something like that.
FQ: Thanks so much for your time, David. If our listeners would like to get in touch with you online, follow you, where is the best place for them to do that?
FQ: Thanks, David. Have a great rest of your week. I hope to talk to you again soon.
DC: Thanks so much, Blake. Always great.