Small business software is famous for constantly being in flux as it adapts to meet the needs of an ever changing competitive landscape. In fact, in many ways, small business software parallels the small business landscape itself—fiercely competitive with a high level of failure that leaves many small business software solutions on the scrap heap.
So how will small business software solutions adapt to meet the needs of today’s tech savvy business owners? Here’s a couple examples in the accounting software space that anecdotally points to a larger trend across multiple software verticals.
Small business owners are no longer impressed by the go anywhere, do anything reality that the web app brought to business life. SaaS needs to do more in 2018 than just be highly available and protect their customer data from loss. Automation is making major gains in the SaaS accounting software space. Whether it is automatic categorization of transactions through machine learning or scanning in receipts, business owners expect massive gains in productivity to show up in a big way in 2018.
Faster Web Apps
In 2018 it will be worse to have a really slow accounting web app than having no web app at all. With advanced products like Google Cloud seeking to tear away marketshare from Amazon Web Services (AWS), collaboration software startups can operate at scale from day one without the need for a devoted system administrator. This leaves more of the budget to be poured back into product development.
The competition that’s heating up between these two giants means cheaper access to beefier hardware as each competes to be the dominant 3rd party hosting provider. Whether it’s QuickBooks or another accounting software player out there, they all benefit from greater investment in 3rd party service providers like Amazon and Google.
Here’s a quick rundown of real world implications of running a web service on better servers:
- Faster browser load times
- Better access to data during peak usage times
- Better data security
- Less frequent and shorter downtime due to maintenance
Technology is advancing at an accelerating pace and it isn’t just Fortune 500 companies that are benefiting. Better technology means that new companies, like ZipBooks, can do more with fewer people in less time. The programming languages that developers use to create webapps are also getting better. The frameworks, or tools that support a form of coding shorthand are getting much better as well. This means the time from ideation to production is shorter than ever. In many cases these newer coding frameworks are open source and free.
While legacy accounting software companies like QuickBooks seek to right the ship from a downloaded software product to an online experience, other companies without the built up technical debt can pivot quickly to meet the feature requests of an increasingly savvy business owner.
Better, cheaper supporting services mean that the cost of development is multiple factors lower than when QuickBooks started developing accounting software in the 1980s. A small scrappy team can get something as complicated as accounting software of the ground in a matter of months when it used to take years to complete. What does that mean for small business owners in 2018? More features at more competitive prices. Even where prices rise to match the value of repricing software provided, it isn’t keeping pace when you consider the impact to worker productivity and inflation.
Full Service Offerings
When you are offering a full service product, the price point is going to be significantly higher than just the monthly subscription to your favorite SMB software solution. Full service is exactly what it sounds like. You can call the company and a real person will pick up on the other end. While SaaS can handle tens of thousands of accounts without a hiccup, adding a dedicated account manager to your account is going to significantly increase the cost.
Take virtual bookkeeping, for example. Bookkeeping software is going to run you into the tens of dollars per month where a US-based virtual bookkeeper is going to start in the low hundreds and go up from there depending on the number of transactions that you have every month and whether you need extras like payroll and tax preparation services.
Why are companies willing to pay so much for outsourced bookkeeping when software is cheaper and better than ever? Often it’s because the very software that they are using helps them gain greater insights into things like how much their time is worth and the unit of economics on their business if they can scale starting in 2018 instead of waiting until they have the kind of cash flow needed to support a full-time, in-house bookkeeper.
Image from https://lab.getapp.com/accounting-software-for-small-business/