Acumatica’s Strategy to Woo On-Premise Accounting and ERP Customers to its Cloud

Acumatica estimates that tens of thousands of SMBs are still using on-premise accounting and ERP—and that now is the perfect time to woo them to its cloud-based ERP platform. At Acumatica’s Analyst Day event last week, CEO Jon Roskill made the case that adoption of cloud ERP has lagged in comparison to other areas because businesses have been hesitant to trust cloud vendors with core transactional systems. Looking ahead, however, he estimates that the cloud switch is flipping in the SMB market to favor cloud-based ERP implementations.

SMB Group forecasts a similar trajectory (Figure 1), for a couple of key reasons.

Figure 1: SMB Cloud Deployment TrajectorySlide1

First, SMB use of and satisfaction with cloud solutions in other areas is sparking adoption and consideration of cloud ERP. Second, more SMBs are realizing that their legacy solutions won’t give them the headroom they need to grow their businesses. Finally, many SMBs lack the resources and/or desire to manage a new system in-house.

But why should these SMBs choose to use Acumatica’s ERP solution? Buyers have many choices for cloud ERP deployment, including software-as-a-service (SaaS) public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid cloud model, and many vendors offer ERP solutions tailored to SMB needs and budgets. Furthermore, vendors with deep pockets have snapped up SMB cloud ERP pioneers: Oracle acquired NetSuite last fall for $9.3 billion, and Sage Group purchased Intacct for $850 million in July.

Given this situation, how does Acumatica—which has about $30 million in funding, 3,000 customers and roughly 200 people—plan to bring new cloud customers into its fold? At the event, Roskill and team discussed Acumatica’s plan to get its fair share of the growing cloud ERP market.

Target SMBs with 50-1,000 employees that are fed up with legacy on-premise systems.

While Acumatica targets very small businesses—aka QuickBooks users—it’s main focus is on companies with 50-1000 employees who are frustrated with legacy systems and rising maintenance fees. The company estimates that almost 200,000 SMBs are running legacy Sage or Microsoft Dynamics solutions, providing it with a pretty large target. Competitively, Acumatica sees the Oracle acquisition as pulling NetSuite upstream into larger accounts. I also believes that it will take Sage and Intacct some time to align marketing, sales and channel resources to the market.

Push ahead with it’s open platform connected cloud play.

Acumatica’s open APIs and platform enables partners to create and integrate solutions that connect Acumatica to other clouds to help streamline customer workflows (Figure 2). Partners can embed their apps directly into the Acumatica app, or create a loosely coupled integration. Acumatica has enhanced its REST APIs, and announced the availability of Open API 2.0 specification (formerly known as Swagger Specification) for Acumatica Contract Based APIs to speed integration and data exchange with other applications. The vendor now has over 100 ISV partners, announcing two new ones at the event: Adobe Sign for eSignature, and Smartsheet for project management and visual scheduling. It tracks and manages all third-party solutions in its ISV Solution Repository, to ensure compatibility. Acumatica also shares code on GitHub, and engages with developers on its LinkedIn and other portals.

Figure 2: Acumatica Connected Cloud Platform

Deepen its industry focus.

Following on the heels of announcing new edition for Commerce and Field Service in January, Acumatica aannounced a new Manufacturing edition at the event. It’s also making a name for itself in the medical marijuana industry (it’s the top solution for Canada’s medical marijuana firms), which has in turn, opened the door for its first pharmaceutical customer.

Grow market share with partners.

All of Acumatica’s sales are through partners. VARs account for 95% of Acumatica’s North American business, and about 55% of its overall revenues. OEMs account for about 45% of total sales, predominantly overseas.

Of note on the VAR side:

  • Acumatica has added 45 new partners in the past year, bringing it’s total up to over 250 partners worldwide, with a goal of 80 more in the coming year.
  • It’s VAR program has no fees, but Acumatica is picky: it does reference checks on potential partners, and looks for VARs with a vertical focus that want to grow.
  • Inside telesales focuses on qualifying leads, with a goal to move them to a 1 in 3 chance to close before handing them over to partners.
  • Acumatica also co-deploys with partners to help them get up to speed, and conducts quarterly review sessions to ensure everyone is aligned.
  • In addition to product training, Acumatica provides VARs with financial education on annuity and subscription model, as well as sales, presales and marketing enablement programs.

Meanwhile, Acumatica’s six OEM partners (Figure 3) are broadening its geographical coverage, providing localization in 15 countries and languages. Combined, Acumatica’s six OEM partners have an installed base of two million customers on legacy or entry-level accounting solutions—providing Acumatica with plenty of headroom. Acumatica likes this model so much that it plans to add a few more strategically place OEMs to fill in coverage in other regions.

Figure 3: Acumatica OEM Partners

A unique ERP pricing model.

Acumatica’s pricing model (link to https://www.acumatica.com/cloud-erp-software/product-editions/) is unlike those of its competitors. Instead of pricing based on the number of users, Acumatica pricing is consumption-based so customers can add resources and not limit user access. In a nutshell, Acumatica’s pricing is based on the features and resources that customers use, with small, medium, large and extra large options.

Focused technology investments.

Acumatica announced Acumatica 2017 R2, featuring a redesigned, more flexible user interface to improve productivity, along with product enhancements across Acumatica’s customer relationship, finance, accounting, distribution and field services solutions.

Figure 4: Acumatica Platform and Applications

Looking ahead, Acumatica plans to:

  • Continue to simplify implementation, configuration, and provide low code/no code customization options.
  • Improve more in run time intelligence and health monitoring to ensure optimal performance for users and to help protect them from errors.
  • Strengthen its unified front-end architecture, browsers and rendering systems.
  • Invest in machine learning, AI, voice recognition, IoT and other new technologies to help customers make better use of their data to spot anomalies, identify trends and automate mundane tasks. Acumatica will take advantage of key core technologies from vendors such as Microsoft, IBM, Amazon and others, and focus its efforts on practical scenarios such as route optimization for field service, and invoice categorization and processing.

Summary and Perspective

Acumatica is in the right place, at the right time. While many SMBs have dragged their feet when it comes to modernizing financials and ERP systems, they increasingly risk having their businesses dragged down if they continue to rely on outdated, inflexible systems that simply can’t keep pace with the rising expectations of customers, partners and suppliers.

The Acumatica brand still may be flying below the radar in comparison to some of its competitors, but the vendor’s messaging is clearly articulated and ready for marketing to ramp up awareness. In addition, Acumatica’s industry editions, vertical partner focus, and success in both old (manufacturing) and new (medical marijuana) verticals should not only help it grow its footholds in these markets, but also to identify new vertical opportunities. Acumatica can probably also get a lot more mileage out of its distinctive and potentially disruptive pricing model than it has to date.

However, Acumatica is competing against players with a lot more money and muscle. In addition to raising its brand profile, the vendor also needs to apply it’s more limited resources to make the right technology investments for the future. So far, Acumatica has done a good job of keeping pace with and sometimes exceeding the capabilities of other players. But, so many emerging technologies are poised to dramatically alter the way companies run their businesses. Acumatica’s ability to place its bets wisely may be the most important variable in determining its long-term growth potential.

Intuit: Big Plans for Helping Small Business Work Smarter

Even though I have tracked Intuit for at least 15 years, I didn’t know that Intuit has about 100 patents pending before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office related to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and more than 30 machine learning systems in production—until I attended Intuit’s Innovation Gallery Walk in New York last week. Intuit uses the Gallery walk to showcase new solutions that it has recently brought to market, as well as those that are still in development.

At this year’s event, Intuit unveiled some of the ways it is using artificial intelligence, machine learning and other new technologies to “power prosperity for small businesses and consumers.” With 26 product innovations demoed at the event, Intuit has clearly been busy! While I didn’t have time to see all of these demos, I did learn about some of the ways in which Intuit is putting these technologies to work to help make it easier for small business to manage their businesses more efficiently, intelligently and profitably.

Getting More Insight, More Easily with Natural Language

For most small business owners, time is the most precious commodity. Intuit has created an open, natural language application programming interface (API) to develop conversational user interfaces for its solutions. For instance:

  • Intuit is testing a new chatbot, which let users query their phones in a Siri-like fashion to get answers from and execute tasks in their QuickBooks account. For example, a user might ask, “What clients owe me money?” and then take tell the system to send reminders to clients to pay overdue invoices.
  • Intuit’s Smart Mirror experiment turns your mirror into a virtual assistant by blending the power of natural language queries with the Internet of Things (IoT). While you’re shaving or putting your makeup on, you can ask the mirror to tell you what’s going on with the weather or the stock market, or ask it to pull information about your business from your QuickBooks Online account. The mirror is a potential proxy for an almost unlimited array of objects, and Intuit’s goal to provide QuickBooks users with information when, where and how its most convenient—whether your mirror when you’re getting ready for work in the morning, your car en route to a client’s site, or your Amazon Echo when you’re making dinner in the kitchen.

    Figure 1: Intuit’s Chatbot and Smart Mirror Experiment

 

Helping Self-Employed Workers Save Time and Money with AI and Machine Learning 

Intuit estimates that the percentage of self-employed—aka “gig” workers—will grow from about 36% of the workforce today to 43% in 2020. Self-employed workers often use the same accounts and credit cards for business and personal expenses. Managing and untangling this information can be difficult and time-consuming, and lots of information often falls through the cracks at tax time. In some cases, it all falls through the cracks: Intuit found that 30% of its QuickBooks Self-Employed users claimed no business deductions in 2015—and as a result, likely paid more taxes than they owed.

To help gig workers get organized, keep more of the money they earn, and gain more visibility into their businesses, Intuit is infusing AI and machine learning into QuickBooks Self-Employed. For example:

  • Expense Finder helps uses to identify more taxable deductions. QuickBooks Self-Employed securely connects to a client’s bank account, automatically finds and imports business transactions from the past year, and sorts them into Schedule C categories, to reveal potentially deductible expenses.
  • Automatic mileage tracking tracks mileage every time you drive your car, whether the QuickBooks Self-Employed app is open or not. At your convenience, you simply swipe to the left or right to tag mileage for each trip as a business or personal expense.
  • You can snap photos of receipts, and the app automatically reads all the relevant info from the receipt into the system so you don’t have to spend time typing it in.

Figure 2: Growth of the Gig Economy and QuickBooks Self-Employed Mileage Tracker

 

Inuit is also creating a new offering that combines QuickBooks Self-Employed and TurboTax, called TurboTax Self-Employed. This solution will make it easier for self-employed workers to separate business and personal expenses and file taxes more accurately.

Reducing Friction With Partner Integrations

Over the past few years, Intuit has built out its partner platform to help extend the power of QuickBooks Online through third-party solutions. The platform has provided third-party developers with tools to build data integration with QuickBooks directly into their solutions, and Intuit’s app store has over 450 applications. Intuit continues to push ahead on this front, with new capabilities, such as:

  • A deeper collaboration with G Suite by Google Cloud, which gives QuickBooks users the streamline workflows. With the new integration, users can for instance, send invoices directly from Gmail to their clients.
  • Partner apps that are embedded in QuickBooks Online. T-Sheets and Bill.com have revamped their user interfaces with the QuickBooks Online look and feel, and embedded them in the QuickBooks online application to give users a fast, easy on-ramp to add new services. Via machine learning, QuickBooks Online flags when certain thresholds are met—such a number of employees or transaction volume—when a time sheet or bill paying solution would make sense. Users are offered a 30-day free trial, and if they decide to continue, pay the monthly charge from their QuickBooks account.

Intuit has also streamlined its online financing program. The vendor has simplified and shortened the application process to 5 minutes by using more of the data loan applicants already have in their QuickBooks Online system. With eight lender partners in the platform, Intuit is also providing loan applicants with easy to understand, comparative information on lending offers so they choose the offer that works best for their businesses.

Figure 3: Intuit Financing Application

 

Summary and Perspective

As Intuit CEO Brand Smith noted in his remarks at the event, Intuit’s mission is to “power prosperity around the world for consumers, small businesses and the self-employed through its ecosystem of innovative financial management solutions.” Founded in 1983, this now 34-old company has been able to thrive not by resting on its laurels, but by embracing change to stay ahead of the curve.

As evidenced at the Gallery Walk, Intuit is continuing this trajectory, investing to innovate with AI, machine learning, IoT and other technologies that will help its customers—and Intuit itself—with new and better ways to flourish well into the future.

Acumatica: Mapping ERP to SMB Customers

acumaticaI had the opportunity to talk with Jon Roskill, Acumatica CEO, at the company’s September 7 analyst event. We talked about Acumatica’s solution, customers, and the newly released Acumatica 6.0. Here’s a summary and video excerpts from our conversation. 

Laurie: Hi Jon, thanks for speaking with me today. Before we get into what’s new with Acumatica 6.0, can you start by giving us some background as Acumatica?

Jon: Sure, Acumatica develops and sells business applications to mid-market companies. Typically, companies that are about a $10 million revenue number, going up to…we have customers now that are in the billions. The company was formed in 2008, by a set of folks who were really ERP veterans from the ’90s, by some of the founders of Solomon saw the cloud transition happening. They said, “Wow, this cloud platform is real, and we should build an ERP product for the mid-market for that platform.” And that’s how Acumatica started.

How Is Acumatica Different Than Other ERP Vendors?

Laurie:   As you know, there are a number of companies competing for business in that space. What differentiates Acumatica from the pack?

Jon: A few things. One is we had the advantage of coming to market a bit later than many. We were founded in 2008, the year the iPhone shipped, and the year HTML5 was ratified as an internet standard. So we’re built on modern cloud technologies. But, 2008, that’s not yesterday either. It takes about five years to build a very robust platform. So, we have the right combination of new technology, and we have thousands of customers using it. It’s proven and tested. The second thing is our licensing policy’s very different from most ERP vendors, who are trying to milk as much money as they can on a user model basis.

Laurie:  With per user, per month pricing?

Jon: Exactly. Our philosophy is that ERP is the system of record for the company, and that it’s very important that people in the company who should get access to that information should be able to get that access when it’s needed–without this having to drive a decision of when the business should have to pay for another license or not. So, we basically slot customers into small, medium, or large configurations. From then they get unlimited access, both for employees but also sometimes more importantly is their partners.

Laurie:  What about their customers?

John: Yes. We service a lot of businesses that are in ecommerce distribution, wholesale warehouse-type operations, and they have customers or partners interfacing through some sort of portal, and you don’t want to have to pay a license for those customers, who may place an order once a month. And the third differentiator is mobile. Our mobile solution is really unique in that it’s extremely rich, available on iOS and Android, and we truly differentiate versus any of our competitors.

Laurie: In what respect?

Jon: It’s included. What most of the competitors do is they give you a fixed application. They’ll give you an expense app, or a time reporting app. What Acumatica does, we’ll give you a set of applications out of the box, but because we deliver through a channel–this is another thing we should talk about some point, is our partner channel–because we deliver through a channel, our partners can add value and customize so that time and reporting application is unique to your company, and not a generic.

Laurie: What kind of uptake are you seeing on the mobile capabilities in your customer base? .

Jon: Very strong. Especially lately this year, pretty much everybody is doing something with mobile. Some vendors will tell you that because they have a browser-based solution, that means they’re mobile, but it really isn’t. If you look at the typical accounting screen, it’s very complicated. So, you don’t want to take this really complicated screen and look at it on a little phone screen. You want to have simplified screens, tailored to the device, that work with your workflow.

At this point, all of our customers are using our expense app. So if you’re having dinner with a customer, you just snap picture of the receipt, and automatically file the expense report from your phone. So you don’t have a stack of them on your desk at the end of the month, which I certainly used to have.

Laurie: That brings up another question. ERP, enterprise resource management, and business application management–these labels can cover many different functions. What are the key functions that the Acumatica handles?

Mapping Functionality to Customer Stages

Jon: The starting point is financials. In fact, 20% of our customers are coming from QuickBooks. They’ve outgrown QuickBooks, and need to figure out something else. If they’re in QuickBooks Online, they’re already in the cloud, so it’s a very easy migration to an Acumatica solution. It’s typically driven by something such as having to process multi-currency transactions, because they’re getting paid in other currencies. Or they open another office as a different subsidiary. So, it starts with the financials, I call called that “tracking the business”. You go into Acumatica, and you can see what’s going on with the money.

The second phase is that customers may start using Acumatica for things like CRM and distribution. You’ve got your customers in your system, and you want to help drive renewals or service opportunities for your business. Acumatica distribution capabilities help you track inventory, shipments, and more. At this point you’re truly operating your business on top of Acumatica.

The third stage is when customers become very thoughtful about their business processes and workflows. You know, there are too many companies out there that I see where they make the business fit the software, and that’s just wrong. The software should fit the business. So, you want to think about how should your business operate, what processes do you really want to get good at. At this point, Acumatica has a workflow engine that lets you encode these processes into Acumatica.

Laurie: A company’s unique workflow?

Jon: Your unique processes, right. Our partners help our customer do that, so at that point you have a custom business solution with Acumatica, probably in the price range of $75,000 to $200,000.

Laurie: So what’s new with Acumatica 6.0? Are you announcing a new vertical focus?

What’s New In Acumatica 6.0

Jon: Our customers fall into some major verticals. Professional services, manufacturing, ecommerce, and retail solutions, and distribution or wholesale distribution are the top ones for us. We announced in February that we had acquired M5 Solutions, a service management company, and we’re integrating that with Acumatica–and it’s been selling like crazy. Q2 was awesome, awesome results for the company, partially driven by how much that new service module that we’ve been attaching.

Laurie: In addition to the fact that companies like to have things their way, what else have you heard from customers that influences product development?

Jon: Our CRM product is a good example of that. Often customers buy ERP from one vendor and CRM from another. Then you need to bring the two together and synchronize them, and you wind up with two separate customer formats. The fact that Acumatica sells both an ERP and a CRM is an advantage for half of our customers, 50% use our CRM, and they love it. There’s one version of the truth all the time, and that’s a place where…

Laurie: And what’s new in Acumatica 6.0 in terms of Office 365 integration?

Jon: In the 5.0 release, we introduced Office 365 integration, and integrated Office 365 contacts and tasks and calendar with Acumatica CRM. But we know that many users don’t spend their life in the accounting system, they actually live in things like Outlook as well. I certainly do. You probably do as well. So in 6.0, we’re launching a new Acumatica Outlook add-in. So, when you’re working inside Outlook, you’ll have the context of all of your Acumatica contacts there. So, if you’re looking at an email from Laurie McCabe and Laurie McCabe has an outstanding invoice for$200,000, it will pop up and show me that. Or if, for instance, a regular service update needs to be done, that will show up. So, it’s the sort of thing you would have in your system automatically. So, when you’re talking or emailing with someone, you see it in context.

Laurie: It sounds like Acumatica 6 has some great updates, and thanks for sharing some high-level background as well.

 

Charting a Course in the ERP Clouds

cloud question markFor many SMBs, limited IT resources and budgets are the norm. This makes keeping pace with technology requirements an uphill battle.

Over the past several years, cloud-based solutions have helped SMBs put technology solutions to work with less cost and complexity, and more flexibility, than traditional on-premise deployments. The technology underlying cloud ERP solutions provides SMBs with agility, efficiency and financial benefits. For instance, cloud solutions:

  • Capitalize on virtualization and load-balancing technology. Applications are more easily deployed, managed, and even scaled across multiple servers and database resources as demand and growth changes
  • Provide access to software, server, storage and other computing resources that you provision—and users access—over the Internet or a private network via browser, so you don’t need to deal with client upgrades.
  • Store data resources in the cloud instead of on individual devices, easing management and security concerns.
  • Typically take a layered security approach, which includes encryption, key management, strong access controls, and security intelligence to further increase data security.

This translates into big advantages for businesses. For instance, one of the biggest benefits cloud solutions provide is on the mobile front. Users can easily self-provision and use cloud applications from a web browser, through Apple and Android mobile devices, or Windows, Mac or Linux desktop platforms—without expensive, complex VPN and remote access software. This makes it easier for businesses to support BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) programs.

Slide1These kinds of benefits have convinced many SMBs to adopt cloud solutions in areas such as CRM and collaboration. As they realize benefits in these areas, they are increasingly likely to consider the cloud for core business functions, such as accounting, financials, and ERP. As indicated on Figure 1, only 14% of SMBs currently use cloud Accounting/ERP solution. However, among those planning to purchase or upgrade, 20% plan to select cloud Accounting/ERP. 14% are not sure, and likely to consider both options.

However, clouds come in different shapes and sizes, including public (software-as-a-service or SaaS) private clouds and hybrid clouds. Adding to the confusion, the lines between different cloud models are blurring. Finally, the list of vendors offering cloud financials and ERP solutions for SMBs is growing.

So how can you determine which cloud ERP approach is right for your business? .

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 9.19.54 AMSponsored by Acumatica, SMB Group’s free ebook, Clearing the SMB Clouds will help you understand the cloud variants that you’re most likely to encounter when evaluating ERP solutions and deployment alternatives, the tradeoffs between them, and critical security questions. The ebook provides guidance to help you determine which model will best match your company’s strategy, workloads, performance and security needs, and how to assess cloud ERP providers, partners, and solution capabilities.

The bottom line is that the business models, goals and requirements of SMBs are as diverse as the cloud ERP choices available–there is no “one size fits all” cloud ERP choice that’s right for all SMBs. While cloud ERP solutions offer SMBs the means to streamline operations, adapt, and grow in today’s fast-paced business environment, it’s important to do your homework to figure out which solution will be the best fit for your business.