In this overview we are comparing analytics & planning options for cloud based accounting applications (QuickBooks, Xero, Myob) that are currently the main players in the Small Medium Business (SMB) space in Asia Pacific. These solutions fall generally into two areas:

  • “off the shelf” web applications and
  • flexible application platforms

“Off the shelf” Web Apps

For requirements where users are looking for exactly what the web application offers, they can be a good choice. Particularly, when only better reporting and simple planning with the accounting data are the key objectives and the required process matches the one offered in the app.

As soon as data volumes get higher or other sources e.g. from CRM systems, marketing data (e.g. Google Analytics) and other web applications need to be integrated this approach comes to its limits, as customization of typically closed off applications -without an API or an externally accessible data storage approach- is more often than not impossible.

Data Model Orientated Approach

In case more comprehensive analytics and planning are required the other option is an “open data model” orientated approach. Here data is loaded from ERP, accounting and other systems in a separate “data warehouse” that is optimized for analytics. This is typically done in a star schema where transaction tables (e.g. GL transactions, invoices, etc.) are combined with shared dimensions (e.g. calendar, products, customers, accounts, etc.) that are used alongside the transaction tables.

This enables users to define the meta data once, for example how time periods or accounts should be organized and mapped and the resulting definitions and hierarchies can then be used with all transaction tables. This has been the standard methodology in the enterprise space for larger organizations for the last 30 years. Historically this “data warehouse approach” used to be a fairly cost intensive exercise that required budgets unavailable in the average SMB.

Generic Data Discovery & Planning

Recent developments in cloud technologies, as well as self-service orientated, commodity data discovery tools (particularly Power BI) have changed the game dramatically and made a professional analytics & planning infrastructure affordable for smaller organisations. The main benefits of an open (i.e. editable by users not in a proprietary format in a closed web app) data model architecture are:

  • Much improved performance and scalability as enterprise ready platforms (e.g. Microsoft Azure) are used, with optimal data storage for analysis and simulation
  • No limitations on the volume queried due to API call limits per day
  • Data structures can be edited as required
  • No limitation on adding new data sources
  • Flexible client options (e.g. data discovery tools like Power BI, Tableau, Qlik or Excel) not limited to one web application
  • Planning & Workflows exactly configurable to requirements

Admittedly, this approach is not for everyone: Users will have to have know how in the required tools (Power BI, Excel, data modelling) or require external expertise to set things up that divert from the standard or involve integration of other data sources. As a rule of thumb the investment in building knowledge or consulting is unlikely to be justified in companies with less than $5m annual revenue.

In the following table we have outlined the main players in analytics and planning add-on solutions for cloud based accounting and their architecture. As an Acterys Partner we are admittedly not entirely unbiased and our expertise with this solution is way more comprehensive than the other solutions covered. Should any of the information below need additions or be factually incorrect please let us know and we will adapt.

Reporting & Planning Add-ons For Cloud Based Accounting

CategoryFeatureActerysData DearFathomFutrliSpotlight
PlatformLive Excel Integration (Read Write)
PlatformData Discovery Support (Read Write)
PlatformPower BI
PlatformAny SQL Client
ReportingReporting Options:
ReportingPower BI Sample Best Practice Financial TemplatesExcel (client only)Proprietary webProprietary webProprietary web
ReportingLive (read/write) Integration with Excel
ReportingAny client tool that can access SQL
ReportingVisualisation options200+ via Power BIExcelLimitedLimitedLimited
ReportingOption to add custom visualisations
ReportingPdf Report distribution
PlanningTop Down Bottom Up Data Entry
PlanningCopying of Scenarios
PlanningConfigurable 3 Way Financial Logic (Profit & Loss, Balance Sheet, Cash Flow)
PlanningAudit Trail
ConsolidationManagement Consolidation
ConsolidationInter Company Elimination
ConsolidationFX Conversion
ConsolidationMinority Interests
ModellingCreate Own Multidimensional Models
ModellingEditing of model dimensions e.g. mappings
Calculation LanguageDax, SQL, ExcelExcel (client only)ProprietaryProprietaryProprietary
Advanced Analytics/AI
Advanced Analytics/AIFull support for major AI engines (Azure ML, Power BI AI features, Python, r)
BenchmarkingIntercompany Benchmarking
BenchmarkingIndustry Benchmarking e.g. SEC, NASDAQ
(via Finviews option)
CollaborationCommentingFlexible filter drivenReport drivenReport driven
CollaborationIntegration with MS Teams
WorkflowSupport for MS Flow
BackendData StorageOpenly Accessible Enterprise Scale Standard Database (Azure SQL/SQL Server)Excel (client only)ProprietaryProprietary
BackendOwn Tenant/On Premise
BackendData Centre Location Choice
BackendAPI to integrate in own applications
Data Integration
Data IntegrationOne Click Accounting System Connectors for
Data IntegrationXero
Data IntegrationQuickBooks
Data IntegrationABC Financials
Data IntegrationIntegration of other ERP (SAP, Oracle, Workday, Sage, etc.) via custom Connector
Data IntegrationPower Query Support
Data IntegrationWorks with 200+ Connectors via Power BI (Google Analytics, Salesforce, Facebook, etc. etc.)
Special Features
Special FeaturesManual Journal Automation
SecurityAccessCell based read & writePer companyPer account
SecuritySupport of Security StandardsActive Directory, Windows Authentication, Microsoft AccountsProprietaryProprietaryProprietary
Pricing Starts at pricing per company per month (USD)$29 (Package of 10)
$49 (single company)
$20 (4 companies)$29$49$25

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