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MYOB users didn't want no steenking cloud

Let them eat hybrids, says Australian accounting software vendor

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Australian accounting software vendor MYOB* has released the newest version of its much-used small business bean-counting app.

Sage fancied MYOB last year, but was beaten to an acquisition by Mitt Romney's old outfit, Bain Capital.

The new release, AccountRight Live, lets users run their accounts on a PC or in the cloud. Or both at once, depending on their preferences.

This hybrid arrangement was not, however, a cunning innovation designed to catapult the company and its customers into a bold and cloudy future.

Instead, CEO Tim Reed told the press event at which the software was launched that the idea came from the fact that MYOB users hated the idea of a pure-play cloud app.

“We did surveys and focus groups with customers and their voice was overwhelming,” Reed said. “They wanted one single thing: they did not want us to change anything. Period.”

“Nothing at all. Zero. Zip.”

That reaction, Reed said, meant “We were left torn. We we felt online accounting would bring benefits. Time and motion studies suggested very substantial time savings were possible.”

One imagines MYOB's owners, Bain Capital, were also a little torn, as while the company has in the past been able to see off the likes of Quicken in the Australian small business market, Salesforce.com, NetSuite and Kiwi contender Xero all claim to be racking up hundreds if not thousands of customers, some pinched from MYOB.

MYOB's response is some Azure-enabled coding and cloud cleverness that makes it possible for the data representing a business' books to sit beneath a familiar desktop application and a Web app. Users can enter or manipulate data in either, safe in the knowledge everything will synch up. Working with either the online or desktop version alone is also an option. Interfaces are consistent, to help users get over the "change nothing" hump.

This arrangement was predictably hailed by two Federal Ministers (Comms Minister Stephen Conroy and Small Business Minister Brendan O'Connor) as delivering the power of the cloud in such cunning ways that Australian small businesses will henceforth enjoy unparalleled productivity. Both happily subscribed to MYOB's vision of small business people filling a spot of dead time by dashing off a bit of fiscal paperwork in spare moments on internet-connected laptops, before getting down to more serious book-keeping at a quieter time.

Whether small business people want to work that way is anyone's guess. But seeing as MYOB has made plenty of good guesses in the past about this market, it seems foolish to discount its new strategy. ®

Bootnote

* Readers beyond Australia's shores may not know that MYOB is an acronym for Mind Your Own Business. The company prefers to be called 'Emm Why Oh Bee' and gets rather grumpy when referred to as 'My-ob.

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