“We have determined that existing free templates within Office used with Excel [are] a better option for small businesses, and the Microsoft Dynamics ERP products were appropriate for mid-range organisations,” Microsoft states in a FAQ on the company site. This may be true. But some SMEs are furious about the decision.
Will Neale, CEO at mobile video firm d2see, says: “A couple of years ago they launched Microsoft Office Accounting (or Small Business Accounting as it was then) – under a ‘freemium’ model, with a basic version available for free and a paid version available with additional features. We went for the latter. At the same time they also launched a payroll module – available as a web service, at an additional monthly cost. We went for that too. It’s awesome: cheap and simple."
Then, disaster struck.
The entrepreneur explains: "Last week Microsoft – out of the blue – announced that they were ditching MOA. The implications of this are: no further product enhancements – enhancements are particularly important to keep up with legislation; continued support, provided by Mamut, but if certain features are required (eg. EC Sales Lists – required as part of VAT returns for many businesses) then businesses will no longer be able to use MOA and will need to switch software."
But the biggest issue for Neale is the termination of the payroll software. He says: "Payroll – and here’s the real joke – will be switched off mid-December. This means that all businesses using MOA Payroll have six weeks to find another provider and migrate all their payroll across to a new provider, otherwise employees will not get paid from December. SIX WEEKS! They didn’t even have the courtesy to wait until the end of the tax year (4 April – when lots of payroll returns are due) or provide a little more warning.
"Financial software is absolutely core to a business – we totally depend on it," he continues. "Finances are complex – migrating across to another software solution is very time consuming. Staff have to be retrained. Payroll is also, of course, absolutely core to a business."
Neale sees the move as indicative of Microsoft’s flagrant disregard for small businesses.
"Microsoft makes a big deal of telling us, small businesses, that we are a hugely important sector," he says. "It’s all talk. They have no respect for small businesses. It’s an absolute disgrace. Businesses paid for this software. Many small businesses do not have full-time accountants, and can’t spend the busy run up to Christmas migrating software to new providers. Microsoft doesn’t care about small businesses – we can’t risk using Microsoft software any longer in areas that are critical to our business. Who knows what they’ll ditch next, at a few weeks’ notice, leaving us high and dry."
Paul Stobart is CEO of business software firm Sage. His company is eager to pick up estraged Microsoft customers and Stobart is offering a 25 per cent discount on Sage products to anyone migrating from Microsoft Office Accounting. He says: “In this marketplace, the key to success is trusted, durable relationships. This is not a question of SaaS versus desktop. This is about supplying and providing customers with the tools they need to add value to their business; quality products, ongoing support and expert consultancy. This takes far more than cash; but market understanding, trust and a deep level of insight that will ultimately facilitate a great experience for customers.”
Duane Jackson, founder of Saas accounting provider Kashflow, has an alternative offer for SMEs. "We’re offering to help stranded Microsoft Accounting customers to migrate their data into KashFlow free of charge," he says. "MS Accounting is now being looked after by Mamut. Mamut are the same company that took over the support for MYOB when it was discontinued and now MYOB customers are finding out their software is going to be de-activated and they’re being forced to upgrade to a Mamut product and pay for the pleasure too. Understandably many MS Accounting users are concerned the same could happen to them.
"We’re offering a free 60-day trial so MS Accounting customers can see how easy to use KashFlow is," is the offer from the Kashflow entrepreneur. "Find out why we’ve been voted by UK business owners as the best accounting application for three years in a row."
Are you an MS Accounting customer” What are you planning to do about the discontinuation” Have your say below.