Sage Software says it relied heavily on user feedback – including l its more than 400,000 registered customers in Canada – to develop the Simply Accounting 2007 product line.
During the planning stage of the latest small business accounting software, three key objectives were set, said Hugo Croft-Levesque, product manager for Sage Software.
“One objective was responding to customer feedback for product enhancements,” he said.
In Simply Accounting 2006, Sage introduced an in-product survey, which, Croft-Levesque said, produced 15,000 responses.
The two major pain points common among respondents, he added, then became the two other areas of focus for the 2007 edition.
“Better learning systems to enable users to get help or answers to questions quicker and secondly, ease-of-use throughout the software overall,” he said.
“Throughout the development cycle, we use our customers’ voice.” Croft-Levesque said this strategy enabled Sage to maintain 55 per cent of the retail market share with Simply Accounting.
Part of the new feedback process, said Croft-Levesque, is to implement customer suggestions on the initial code design, then show it to users again before making final changes to the product.
“We are very pleased with this release, it is solid and customers involved in the beta program are also happy,” with the end product, he said.
Sage’s SMB accounting software line up includes Simply Accounting Entrepreneur, Simply Accounting Basic, Simply Accounting Pro, Simply Accounting Premium with Support and Payroll Services and Simply Accounting – Accountants Edition.
Some of the more than 50 enhancements and new features around usability and workflow include a learning centre, which provides centralized access to help resources as well as four new 10-minute tutorials for quick start-up.
A new report centre has also been introduced to enable quicker navigation through reports and the ability to display report descriptions and sample views.
In the Pro edition, Croft-Levesque said, users can now produce packing slips along with invoices and “be able to send each one to a different printer.”
Also noteworthy is an integration improvement with Microsoft Office, said Croft-Levesque.
Custom Microsoft Word or Excel documents can be opened in Simply Accounting and reports created within Simply Accounting can be opened directly in Microsoft Excel.
Channel of accountants
Although Sage sells over 90 per cent of its Simply Accounting software through the retail channel, Croft-Levesque said the company also relies on its “recommender channel” network of about 6,000 Canadian accountants.
“When we ask customers why they bought Simply Accounting, 45 per cent say accountant recommendation,” he said. “That education channel is a big influence but for us retail is also important because it gives us a public report card of our market share.”
For now Croft-Levesque said Sage is not looking to build a base of value-added resellers, but “we’re always doing contingency and what if scenarios, so we’re not that close-minded.”