At a recent network meeting - I heard two people independently complaining about using Sage in their business. This prompted me to write this post, in the hope that it might give other Sage users some hope!

Sometimes I feel like shouting loudly from the rooftops - "There are alternatives to Sage!". From our experience, when I ask businesses why they are using Sage, I get one of these answers:

  • "We always have done".
  • "We thought everyone else uses Sage".

And the one I hate the most:

  • "Our accountant told us to use it".

I should be clear here, I am talking about Sage 50 Accounts. This is what most small businesses will be using. There are bigger, better and more flexible versions of Sage, but these are out of the price range for most small businesses and are squarely aimed at the Enterprise sector.

If you employ an accountant to do your books on an annual basis, they probably suggested you use Sage. At risk of offending accountants here, this is generally to make their life easier, as all their clients can submit their accounts at the end of year, and everything is standardised. It also means your accountant only has to learn one accounts package! Also do bear in mind, a lot of accountants make a nice commission if they sell you a Sage licence, either direct through Sage or through another software company they have a relationship with. That said of course, there are lots of lovely accountants who are completely impartial and I do not wish to include them in this generalisation.  

If you have a full time accountant or book-keeper on site, then Sage may be working fine for you; your bookkeeper knows Sage and can produce the information you need as a business owner / manager. However if you don't have a bookkeeper on site all the time, you will proably want to get a better handle on your accounts than you do currently, and for a non-accountant, Sage presents more obstacles than it does solutions.

My main reasons for recommending businesses consider something other than Sage 50 are summarised here:

  • Pretty much without exception, all the alternatives are nicer to use than Sage.
  • Most are easier to use than Sage, particularly for a non-accountant.
  • Sage has not progressed much over time, and new features are a rarity.
  • If you are an owner-managed small business, it's far more important to use a system that makes your life easier, rather than making your accountant's job easier.*

My customers often ask me what I recommend, as we are completely independent and we can recommend a whole bunch of different systems depending on your needs. I will always say - thoroughly research and demo the options available to you. Never just get Sage because someone suggested you do!

As for Computercentric, well, we used Sage for 3 years because our accountant said to use it. I got so frustrated with Sage (a whole other blog post!) that I decided to look elsewhere. We now use Quickbooks Professional and have never looked back. We also have a new accountant who made the statement (*) above!

Bottom line - get what works best for you, and learn how to get the best from it.

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