• It’s All About Support – Granular Is Good


    The other day I had one of those nightmare situations that only those who are similarly detail-focused (some would say retentive) as myself can appreciate.

    Now I’m a stickler for detail – it really offends my sensibilities when things aren’t stacked in order, when things don’t match and, most of all, when the numbers in my accounting system don’t add up.

    This post is a reaction to something I experienced with Xero, but could equally apply to anyone with an application that has to support the bane of all of our existences – end users.

    Most of my consulting work is in international currencies and, as such, I find it easier to use PayPal to wrangle the vagaries of a handful of currencies, forex fluctuations and complex fund movements. Luckily for me Xero has an integration with PayPal which automates most of what I do.

    Recently the PayPal integration went down – for some reason I was getting strange error messages in the PayPal bank account section of Xero. I flicked out a Twitter message to Xero asking what was up:


    Seemingly a natural enough question – what was wrong, how long would it be broken for and can you tell those affected once it was fixed. Xero is great at replying on Twitter (the OG stands for OrangeGirl, Xero’s community manager and the nicest person you’re likely to find in tech) and I got this back:


    Excellent – timely, honest advice and an indication of the intended course of action. Except of course that of the 15000 or so Xero customers, I’d wager that only a very very small percentage use the PayPal integration. I ruminated a little on that and, being one who likes to communicate my thoughts, flicked the ever-suffering Orange Girl another Tweet:


    To which (did I mention she’s long-suffering) Oragne Girl decently replied:


    The most that Xero was able to do was to send a mass-Tweet to all followers:


    Xero reacted perfectly to the situation and, after-all, it wasn’t anything critical. but the problem is that it’s inefficient and sub-optimal to send status updates to everyone that only affect a small proportion of users/followers. What we need is fine grained control over customer support – the ability to target status updates based on particular (and flexible) criteria…

    It’s an opportunity just waiting to be fulfilled – a third party application that mines an application database to provide vendors with the ability to fine tune customer communications…. There’s the idea, now over to a keen engineer to seize the opportunity and build something!

    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

    Read more

  • T Shirt Friday #41 – Pervasive


    ns-pervasive-t Everyone knows that professional conference goers like myself attend events not to listen to presentations, not to network but to collect schwag. Over the past couple of years I’ve done fairly well collecting tech t-shirts and I decided to create a weekly series critiquing tech companies t-shirt offerings in the expectation that a company with  a great t-shirt is a prime candidate to have a great product also. Click here to see the series.

    If you’d like your t-shirt reviewed, flick me an email to arrange things. The judges decision is, of course, final and very little correspondence will be entered into (perhaps).

    At the recent NetSuite SuiteCloud event I met up with Adaptive Planning, a pretty cool vendor doing a nice budgeting service that is well integrated with NetSuite – I’ll review their offering sometime soon but in the meantime I’ll get the important stuff out of the way and talk about their T shirts.ns-pervasive-t-back

    I went into this review pretty hopeful – until I turned the shirt over and looked at the back! The understated an elegant front with two simple logos makes way to a diagram worthy of it’s own Hairball Award


    • It’s white – and I’m a sucker for white shirts…
    • I quite like both the NetSuite and the pervasive logos


    • The logo on the back… I mean really!

    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

    Read more

  • On Design at Apple


    Whether you love or hate the way they do business, there are not many people who would argue that Apple creates product of deep thought and beauty. In this video, Apple chief designer Jonathan Ive, he who is credited with ideating every Apple device since the first iMac, talks about purposeful design in particular in relation to the unibody components of the MacBook Pro.

    It’s interesting to compare that video to an archive one from a few years ago,

    An interesting part for me comes a couple of minutes from the end when Ive declines to comment on the iPod battery issues that surfaced a few years ago – something of an insight into the control that everyone, even Ive himself, are under at Apple HQ.

    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

    Read more

  • ClearBooks Ups the Ante


    Interesting to read that ClearBooks , the UK based privately held online accounting application, has just secured a new financing deal for an undisclosed sum. Their press release announcing the deal is a marketing message – calling out Sage and Intuit, and specifically pitching itself as a “more UK focused service than online international competitors Xero Limited.”

    No mention of the other UK players like Free Agent Central or KashFlow.

    Further spin comes in the following:

    Clear Books is a rapidly growing company with customer numbers increasing more than 20% per month. It is quickly establishing itself as a leader in the growing SaaS online accounting software market in the UK. Managing Director, Tim Fouracre, said, “Our cash flows continue to reflect impressive growth month on month, but this additional financing will help us accelerate our expansion plans. One of our key objectives is to add depth to our development team to ensure we continue to develop the very best application. Our aim is to make both maintaining company accounts and doing the bookkeeping as easy as possible for small businesses. We are already making great progress on this front with our online VAT filing direct to HMRC and our new payroll module”.

    As I said, with no mention of the amount raised this is little more than a marketing release – that said it’s interesting to see ClearBooks so obviously throw some punches Xero’s way. Interesting also given the recent prediction of QuickBooks’ return to the UK

    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

    Read more

  • Differentiating in a Commoditized World: On Syncplicity and Expanz


    At the Cloud Connect event in San Jose, Allister Croll gave an excellent presentation, actually as an aside, Croll ran close to half of the Cloud Connect sessions and really did a sterling job of managing the conference. Anyway…

    Read more

  • Appirio Guest Post


    Over on the Appirio blog they’re running a series getting cloud perspectives from a bunch of different industry players. Appirio approached me with a bunch of questions to answer, I thought I’d repost those questions (and my answers) here.…

    Read more

  • Who Said Accountants Were Backwards?


    Interesting to see this video that Findlay & Co, a New Zealand chartered accountancy firm, came up with:

    It’s all part of a campaign to promote their new “iCrunch” website , essentially an online tool to get a quotation for compliance work with the ability to pay in advance. Their quote engine consists of a simple form to fill in:


    Of course anything this simple needs to be priced with enough breadth to cover all bases – I ran one of my businesses through iCrunch and the quote at the end was significantly more than what I’ve paid previously. However for many businesses, the certainty of knowing what their compliance will cost from the outset is worth a lot – there’s many organizations that will appreciate the help that a service like iCrunch can bring. Hat tip to the Xero blog for pointing this out.

    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

    Read more

  • SaaS Sales – Don’t Discount Traditional Channels


    We’ve heard for years that SaaS applications will disintermediate traditional marketing channels with it’s direct to consumer and viral uptake – many were envisaging a future without traditional media usage. The truth however seems to be somewhat different – the number of SaaS vendors I’ve spoken to recently who are embarking on “traditional” approaches is legion.

    Many are embracing channel partnerships with “old-school” services companies – witness NetSuite’s (see disclosure) new SP100 reseller model (I analyzed the move here). Witness also Intacct (see disclosure) partnering with the AICPA to sell/market/endorse their product through US CPAs.

    I recently spoke with CEO of Acumatica (more on them here) Ezekiel Steiner about their channel strategy specifically, but more generally channel strategies for ERP vendors.

    Accumatica is 100% committed to a channel strategy and sees a significant conflict with vendors who embrace both a channel and a direct sales approach. In fact Steiner went so far as to call the NetSuite moves a “gimmick” given previous comments they’ve made about the validity (or otherwise) of a channel model. Steiner believes that, for mid-market ERP products at least, a channel strategy is the only way to make money. This belief is gained from experience seeing just how much implementation help customers want – price points on mid-market ERP products are such that a direct sales and support channel isn’t viable for a vendor to establish and maintain.

    My analysis isn’t quite as stark as that of Steiner – while I’d concur that the channel is important for existing customers looking to transition to new products, there is a large number of greenfield opportunities such as businesses growing out of a lower level accounting product, and they are still likely to be amenable to the direct approach.

    I would say that a clear delineation is required between reseller prospects and direct sales prospects – resellers are feeling very fragile right now and any dual-channel approach is going to be approached with caution – it’s vitally important for vendors going down this route to have a clear demarcation in place so resellers can feel secure in the partnership.

    SaaS sales strategy, and in particular channel approaches, is an intensely interesting topic (well, to me anyway) – I’m keen to hear other vendor’s thoughts about this – flick me an email at ben@diversity.net.nz

    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

    Read more

  • Webinar – 10 Questions to Ask About Cloud Computing


    This week I’ve been invited to take part in a webinar with Dan Druker from Intacct, co-presenting a webinar looking at the important questions that prospective end users of cloud computing need to ask their vendors. It’s a webinar that leads on from a whitepaper we published (see disclosure) recently, and which has been having great uptake in the marketplace.

    It’s a paper that (from my perspective anyway) is important – it’s all to easy to think the rest of the world “gets” this stuff – the truth is somewhat different – cloud is still nascent and customers need help identifying the issues and, more importantly, developing their due diligence approach. It’s a truth that is borne out time and time again – I’m perpetually surprised by just how lacking we, as technology aficionados, are in the realization that we need to articulate this stuff at a level that the everyday person (or accountant even 😉 ) can understand.

    Anyway, it’s an event that earns CPA credits so I’m expecting there’ll be a bunch of numbers-focused questions coming up during the session. From the webinar mailer:

    Tens of thousands of companies like yours are saving money and improving productivity by adopting cloud computing — with an ROI of 75 to 500% per year vs. running legacy software applications. Are you ready?
    If you’re not sure about cloud computing, attend the webinar “Ten Questions to Ask About Cloud Computing” on Thursday, April 22nd and learn how the cloud can transform your financial systems and save tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Ben Kepes, Principal at Diversity Analysis will go through the key questions you should ask about:

    -Business requirements— Which of my business systems are best suited to move to cloud computing and where can I find the highest ROI?

    -Availability— What should I look for if I want to access information from my business at anytime, from anywhere I have an Internet connection?

    -Reliability and Security— Is cloud computing more or less reliable and secure than running my own software in-house?

    -Data Ownership— What happens if I discontinue my subscription to a cloud-based system?

    -Customization— How can I be sure that cloud-based applications can be customized to meet the exact needs of my business?

    Get an independent view of why tens of thousands of finance departments are flocking to cloud computing and learn the key questions to ask from the experts at Diversity Analysis. Register for the webinar now and when you attend you will also receive the companion white paper “Ten Questions to Ask Your Cloud Vendor.”

    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

    Read more

  • It’s All About the Suite – NetSuite Enters the Box


    Today Box.net is at the NetSuite SuiteCloud conference (see disclosure re my attendance at SuiteCloud here) opening the box (bad pun intended) on their integration with NetSuite. It’s an integration that Box have built using NetSuite’s SuiteCloud development platform, and it allows NetSuite customers to access, manage, share, and collaborate on all their content online, within the NetSuite applications.

    Recently Brian Sommer posted a really interesting discussion on who will win the SaaS wars – Best of Breeds or Integrated Suite. He took the perspective that the Suites will win due to their inherent ability to work together out of the box. It’s a similar discussion to that which I’ve talked about previously regarding The Small Business Web versus the approach taken by Intuit’s partner Platform (but see disclosure) – basically the thinking goes that integrations are hard, no matter how well they’re facilitated – out of the box apps that work together and feel like a seamless suite are the route best taken. It’s a perspective I agree with – while it’s easy to have a purist’s discussion about potential with well APId applications, I always look at the reality on the ground for businesses – and suite are incredibly attractive at that end of the technical spectrum.

    Anyway, in terms of this particular integration, NetSuite customer using Box can:

    • Make relevant content – such as sales collateral, demo videos, invoices, contracts, and purchase orders – visible and accessible when viewing a customer record
    • Keep employees across departments in sync with what files have been shared with which customers by assigning Box folders to specific customer records. Users can also upload files directly into Box when viewing a customer record in NetSuite
    • Incorporate collaboration and workflow into NetSuite with the ability to create shared folders outside of a customer record and invite colleagues, partners, and contractors to review, update, and add their own files
    • Leverage Box’s integrated third-party services within NetSuite, including the ability to email or fax files, e-sign contracts, and edit documents online


    Box.net for NetSuite will be available on www.suiteapp.com before the end of the month as part of the Box Enterprise edition. Yet another value proposition that sees the suite providers justify their somewhat myopic perspective….

    CloudAve is exclusively sponsored by

    Read more