Zero tangible updates (again) for 2017 releases of Reckon Accounts and Point of Sale products

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Hi folks
Once again, there appears to be very little, if any, functional updates to the 2017 releases of the Reckon Accounts (non-hosted) Business Range. My particular focus is specifically on two products, being the Reckon Accounts Premier product and also the "companion" Point of Sale Professional solution, however I am confident this will be the case for all non-hosted solutions.
It has been this way for some years now. The codebase for these products remain largely unchanged from the time Reckon acquired the current codebase (as it was at the time) from Quicken; some 6 years ago now. My background is in IT (28 years) and specifically software/business solutions development, including enterprise financial and ERP solutions (such as SAP). I have made a point over the past few years in particular of comparing the releases - binaries, libraries and Database elements & can state with a very high level of confidence that *nothing* is changing - NO development of these products is occurring. Further, I have been informed that this is Reckon's strategy moving forward for products that service the non-hosted space. ....for long time players I'm sure that I'm telling you something you've already worked out for yourselves.
Knowing all of this, I went ahead and renewed my annual subscriptions for both products again for 2017. Why you ask? Well, accounting solutions are particularly "sticky".. We're all too busy running our businesses (and in my case and I'm sure many others, working in or for other businesses) and changing platforms, while not technically difficult, is most definitely time-consuming. Also frankly, I have been keeping one eye on the Hosted solutions and while they have obviously received more TLC (read: "some" TLC) from Reckon, they continue to fall behind the competition; there appears to be *some* functional incentive to move to the hosted platform, but when one considers issues specific to the Hosted solution (speed, reliability among others..) the case isn't compelling; indeed, I think for the first time, *no* Reckon solution, Hosted or otherwise, made the list of at least one reputable review of top 2017 AU accounting solutions:
http://au.pcmag.com/software/11843/guide/the-best-small-business-accounting-software-of-2017
Interestingly, I also note that the annual subs for both of my products of interest have increased significantly from 2016. These subscription increases *do not* represent investment in the form of development of the non-hosted products. These subs are almost certainly being diverted to funding the direct and indirect costs of the "Hosted" platform; perhaps some development but I suspect mostly, the hosting costs themselves.
Is this a "bitch" post? Well in part, possibly, but in fairness to Reckon, I actually knew this would be the case so call me "muggins"! There are of course always choices. I not so much opted to remain with these products for another year, but more "couldn't find the time" to select and migrate to a suitable and more supported and loved platform before my subs were due;  my bad on that front.

More importantly, this is an informational post - an announcement if you will, for those users / business operators out these that perhaps haven't yet worked out what I know.
In terms of my comments on development, or lack thereof, of these products, don't take my word for it. I am more than happy to provide you with a (very short) list of year-on-year "changes" to the distributions over the past few years on request.

Brent.
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Brent McIntosh

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Posted 1 year ago

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John Graetz

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Thank you for your revelations Brent.  John L G
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Red n Black Ninja, Accredited Partner

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Thank you, Brent. The last significant change was the move to QBi and the SQL Dbase. Apart from "compliance updates - and bug fixes caused by Reckon's (lack of) investment incapable programmers (?) when adding the tax module, Units of Measure, Payroll and DeskTop GUI.  -Zilch in way of feature enhancements to inventory for eg. or better payroll Leave reporting. They totally ignored the Third party app- developer network .. by just being lousy in communication, charging exorbitant fees compared to others and offering little in value to excite developers or incentivize collaborative partnerships.  Their actions have never matched their hyperbole.  I totally agree with your sentiments regarding Reckon and the treatment of long term "sticky" customers. 
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Jason Hollis, Head of Product

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Just addressing this comment first before the broader one. I will include features from this post in the broader response. 

The 3rd-party developer network had a complete re-vamp 18 months ago so please allow me set the record straight. Changes included:

  • Free developer partner membership
  • Free listing on the Reckon API marketplace
  • Free access to Reckon Desktop, Hosted and Reckon One products
  • New API online help website
  • New support ticketing system
  • 500% increase in API support staff
  • New API partner relationship manager (position previously did not exist)
  • Developer partners invited to 2016 and 2017 accredited partner events (this was also the case in previous years)

Approx 2 years ago we contacted 550+ existing developer partners to advise of the above, and invited them to renew their relationship with us (many already had good relationships but some had completed their integrations and quietly gone about there own business). 

We also allowed existing 'advertising partners' first option to be listed on the new marketplace. The marketplace is now in v2 with v3 due later in the year. 

Since then:

  • Completion of 85% of Reckon One endpoints (covering most requested functionality by developers)
  • Reckon One pagination
  • Reckon Hosted v2.1 API release and launch (30% increase in Hosted dev partners since that launch in March 2017).
  • Launch into Zapier eco-system for Reckon One (June 2017)

Therefore I would strongly deny that at this point we are ignoring the developer network and not communicating with them. The notion that our developer fees are exorbitant is also incorrect as noted above. 

Regards, 

Jason
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adrian snaidero

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Jason

Can you point to any functionality changes / improvements ( not bug fixes /tax scale updates) in the basic application software - specifically Premier/Enterprise?


   
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Jason Hollis, Head of Product

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Hi Brent,

Since becoming Head of Product Strategy a few months ago the management team, product owners and I have been working on several key initiatives that touch on your comments. Some of these initiatives have begun, some are being planned, and indeed some have been released (eg. Reckon Portal). That said, some are also 2-3+ year projects (I'll expand on that a bit later). 

Features are a great place to start. Desktop and Hosted (and POS) are feature rich applications for their market position. We know this because 99% of the feature requests we get are around improving on those features, and a big chuck of requests aren't features at all, but requests for integrations to 3rd party applications. 

Regarding 3rd parties, the post below hopefully answers the changes we have made in that space. Indeed we have gone from 550+ developers to 750 developer partners in that time. We are making progress, however a lot depends on partner scheduling and capacity. We have more to do.

The hosted API (v2.1) has only been in the market a few months also, so we expect to see quite a few new integrations come online soon that add to the user experience (eBillity and AutoEntry to name just two). CData.com also came on board last year offering several connection options for Reckon desktop, including an Excel spreadsheet add-in and ODBC connectors. Zapier is the final piece of the puzzle. We are working very hard with developer partners to give our users additional functionality that we can't match as 'best of breed' functionality internally. 

For feature improvements we are tackling this by looking at the newer technologies we are developing in, and what can we bring to other products using that same technology. This will include, but not be limited to, additional payment processing options, BPay, direct debit integration, and one we are working on right now, a new bank data feed / rules / matching mechanism. Other priorities include the NZ AIM initiative and Single Touch Payroll here in AU. Both of which spread across several of Reckon's products. 

POS requests over recent years have been for cloud accounting integration and mobility. That is why we have purchased code for a cloud POS solution. This will be where we invest in the short-term.

One other initiative I wanted to share was connectedness. We have 25 or so products at Reckon and we need to harness that breadth. For example, Reckon One mobile timesheets is $3 / mth unlimited users - we should have that connected to Desktop and Hosted. Reckon One has a modern bank rules and matching engine. Let's offer that to other products that use bank data. 

To tie all of this together we need a hub.... and that's the Reckon Portal. 

The Reckon Portal is a huge undertaking by us, and was rolled out to Reckon One users first in May. Eventually all Reckon products will have a single point of entry (for online) and additional mechanisms for offline to manage subscriptions, but also pull in data (from several products or sources) for reporting a newer, fresher, more comprehensive dashboard experience, data analytics and benchmarking. The portal is the latest code technologies running on the latest noSQL databases with AWS underpinning the load management. We are confident as this service evolves it will add tremendous value to the existing userbase in ways not imagined 5 years ago. 

The Reckon Portal is also a long-term strategic initiative that will span several years encompassing all of our products and will be accessible by all existing users. 

I hope that gives some insight Brent. I can go into more detail offline so I'd really encourage you to email community@reckon.com and Rav will put us in touch.


Regards, 
Jason Hollis
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Brent McIntosh

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Hi Jason

Thank you for the response & also the for insights you've provided in relation to Reckon's product development roadmap. To paraphrase your response in the broadest of terms Reckon hasn't been standing still in terms of product development.  I do appreciate that and of course never suggested this was the case.

That said, you haven't in your response addressed the core concerns raised in my post. I understand that while this was quite deliberate, I appreciate there was no cynical intent; of course in your role you are absolutely right to respond with an emphasis on the positives as you and Reckon see them. For many reasons, it is clearly in Reckon's interest to adopt a strategy that focuses on shifting the Customer base to your cloud-based services.

To be clear, I am very much a Cloud advocate (I'd stop short of using the term "evangelist" - I believe an effective and independent consultant has an obligation to be more open minded than the "cloud or be damned" position of many "evangelists"!), but importantly, *where it makes sense to do so*.  And of course it doesn't always make sense to do so for many reasons; reliability and availability, performance, security and critically, especially for the financial services industry, data sovereignty issues, are all very real considerations and often present real barriers to "full" Cloud migration.

I could bang on at length on this topic and talk about why some services are better candidates for cloud migration than others, the pros and cons of different cloud models etc. but (1) This would be a very lengthy post. (2) I assume I would be speaking to the already-informed and (3) It is really after all tangential to my post!

The subject of my original post was of course the lack of development of your desktop products. It is an inconvenient truth for accounting software vendors that desktop / self-contained solutions will remain important and indeed for many small businesses, the solution of preference for some years yet.

The (apparent) strategy to encourage your existing customer base to migrate to a hosted platform by simultaneously limiting your product development to the hosted products only,  combined with large and entirely unjustified year on year subscription increases for the "unloved" desktop products is in my opinion a risky one and may have unintended consequences. "Stickiness" will only carry you so far.

Reckon appears to be failing to consider that any resistance in migrating to the hosted platform(s) may include rationale that extends beyond "behavioural" reasons (i.e. resistance to change, "fear" of the Cloud..). This may reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the unique circumstances of Small Business; which I presume remains a key market for Reckon(?)

Jason, I'll leave it at that, but more than happy to speak more extensively offline.

Brent.
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Jason Hollis, Head of Product

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Hi Brent. The development will be tools around desktop and hosted (it's the same product essentially) not to actually move clients into the cloud. Apologies if I somehow gave that impression. We want to give desktop users more tools and a better experience, and that does't need to be necessarily done within the application itself. 
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Steve Cook

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I am in the "Cloud Resistance" Camp. Main reason is poor internet services in regional areas.
Newsflash to Reckon:
Not all Reckon customers live in the big cities.
Regional areas are still waiting for NBN. And may be waiting for some time....
Without decent internet service, the cloud is simply not an option.
So many Reckon regional customers must stay on the desktop. The desktop product should still be supported at reasonable cost.
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John Graetz

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Steve, in support of you, I would also add that the poor internet service is not just limited to the country.  When I go to Kilsyth South, an outer eastern suburb of Melbourne to do work there, I cannot run Hosted using the internet, the connection is so poor.  Instead, I have to run Hosted using personal hotspot off my iPhone.
John L G
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Brent McIntosh

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Hi Jason

Thanks. I do understand that Accounts Hosted is (essentially!) a hosted version of the Desktop version. I also acknowledge that many of the initiatives you detailed in your earlier post , specifically in relation to development of the hosted API, will indirectly add - or actually more correctly, "make available",  functionality not currently available in the core RA product, yes, both Hosted and Desktop versions.  Of course this is all for the good.

Again though I assume that most if not all of this additional functionality will be provided by third parties and of course will necessarily be network-dependant to some extent. The issues & challenges particular to small business and in particularly small business outside of major centres, applies.

Of course this is an even greater concern for any integrated apps that are transactional in nature and may require connected access to the business's RA database.

Jason, as you stated yourself, you are talking about developments *around* the Reckon Accounts product. I want to point you at just 2 aspects of Reckon Accounts, yes *within* the product, that have been unchanged for years and can actually be updated/improved without the need for significant development effort.

1.The Sybase Adaptive Server Anywhere database engine, a patently critical component of the product, remains at version 9.0.2. Version 9.0.2 of this product was release in 2003 - 14 years ago!

Unacceptably, this version was actually declared End Of Life by the vendor in 2010!

Folks, let that sink in for a minute, the most critical component of your shiny *newly installed* 2017 version of Reckon Accounts is running a well-obsolete and therefore (vendor)unsupported database engine!

Updating the database engine to a supported version (within the existing architecture) is not a significant development task *and* it would significantly increase the performance of the RA application. I can go into the reasons why in detail if you wish, but I should leave that for a separate post.

2. The 2nd point I'll raise is another simple issue from a development perspective; the installation & cleanup process for upgrades. This is positively "kludgy"  and reminiscent of a thankfully bygone era that used to be common-place with desktop software. That is, in the early noughties. Upgrades leave many "remnants" behind; specifically in the case of RA you will find old directory structures, binaries and Windows "service" entries; and some registry entries.  Those folks with some knowledge can and probably do clean up these remnants themselves manually, although I imagine many don't. Again, this has been an issue for years and is not difficult to fix, but yet it remains.

So there are just 2 issues that I believe you could and indeed, especially in the case of the ASA Database, absolutely *should* address. Neither is difficult nor would require a large development effort.

Regards
Brent.
 

  
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adrian snaidero

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Brent

Txs for the informative post.

It would be of immense interest to the user base to hear what response is forthcoming from Reckon- in particular point 1.  

I'm not sure if the failure to keep up to date with the database supported release (Sybase) contravenes the license agreement - anyone have a comment?   

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Brent McIntosh

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Thanks Adrian

Good question. I can't speak to the specific licence agreement off the top of my head, but I am aware of  similar (but not identical) scenarios where certain technology products have been tested against ACL, specifically in relation to the question as to whether an EOL product, sold while EOL,  is considered "fit for purpose for a reasonable amount of time" (a requirement for any product, including software, under ACL). Google is your friend if you're keen..

Hint: There's a reason technology vendors have separate End of Sale and End of Life schedules for their products.

I would also note that the issues I've listed above are representative of a larger list.

I opted to call out two at this time; one that really does need to be addressed (and that incidentally, I've also raised privately in the past). The other; well, while it has no impact on the utility of the product,  it is a very simple thing to fix indeed and the fact that it has not is I believe emblematic of the "unloved" comments I made in an earlier post..

Brent.
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Brent McIntosh

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Bump.
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adrian snaidero

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*Crickets* :)
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Brent McIntosh

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Hi Jason

Not sure why you elected to delete your earlier response but regardless, are you back on deck yet?

I really think you owe it to the user base to provide a response, broadly in relation to Reckon's position  regarding *internal* RA Desktop product development, but more specifically, the issues I've raised in this thread in relation to the ASA DB engine.

This issue after all belongs in the realm of required maintenance and not *development*.

I believe I know the answer based upon a number of telephone conversations I've had in the past with your predecessor, but of course it's possible that Reckon's position has since changed.  Regardless, given the issues associated with this patently critical component of the product, an "official" response is, I believe, not only warranted, but indeed required.

If you're confident in this particular aspect of your strategy then full disclosure is surely not an issue.

Regards
Brent.
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Rav, Community Manager

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Hi Brent,

Jason is away from the office at the moment. We're certainly aware of the concerns you've raised here and he'll get back to you ASAP when he's back on board.

Cheers
Rav

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