Sage vs Xero and Unleashed — a guide for accountants

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As a business advisor, clients look to you for information on which software will help them grow their business.

For product businesses, two types of software stand out: accounting and inventory. These hold the answer to securing business growth, eliminating the wasted time and lack of clarity that come when managing business operations on spreadsheets.

Does your client have a perpetual Sage licence?

I’ve focused mostly on Sage’s cloud offerings here — because those are the products they are actively selling. If your client is an existing Sage user, though, then chances are they’ll have a perpetual licence for an offline version of the software.

If that is the case, then I’d recommend getting them onto cloud software immediately, as it:

  • Is more flexible
  • Is accessible from anywhere
  • Integrates with other apps and eCommerce channels via an API
  • Makes it much easier for you to hop onto client accounts

Perhaps most importantly, though, with cloud software your client will always be using the latest version of their apps. With a perpetual Sage licence, your client will have to pay to upgrade to the latest version of the software after their initial free period (usually one year).

There are two main options if your client wants to upgrade from their perpetual licence: move to Sage Cloud or best-of-breed apps such as Xero and Unleashed. Carry on reading for a comparison of the two.

Two types of system

Like ERP systems, Sage is an all-in-one solution, which means it aims to cover many aspects of a business in one piece of software. That can include accounting and inventory (depending on which Sage package your client chooses), as well as a few other areas.

Sage vs Xero + Unleashed

Xero and Unleashed, meanwhile, are best-of-breed solutions. They focus on offering depth in a single area instead of operating as a jack of all trades. Your client can integrate a few apps to create an ecosystem tailored to their needs.

You might be wary of recommending several apps instead of one solution. But in truth, the managed integrations that come as standard with these apps make them easier to set up, learn and use. Plus, an all-in-one isn’t the off-the-shelf package that it might sound like. Your client may well end up struggling with a lack of features, integrations or functionality.

If you have a client who wants more information on all-in-one vs best-of-breed, take a look at our cloud software guide.

How does Sage’s price stack up against Xero and Unleashed?

Cost is usually the first thing a client wants to know about when comparing new software options. But unfortunately, Sage’s lack of fixed prices makes comparing prices tricky.

According to the Sage website, 200cloud Standard costs £252 per month. But when you try to track down an actual price for your client, it probably won’t be £252.

50cloud is available for less. But for product clients, it probably won’t have the required inventory management functionality (we’ll cover this in more detail later).

A Xero subscription starts at £24 per month, while Unleashed starts at £149 per month. That means your client can get a fully-featured accounting and inventory package for less than £180.

However, prices don’t begin and end with subscriptions. Most inventory systems require setup fees to cover to cost of getting the software up and running correctly. Sage doesn’t advertise an implementation price on its site, but cloud experts estimate that it’s roughly £8000-£10,000 to get Sage 200cloud with inventory management set up.

Unleashed’s onboarding service, including a dedicated consultant to help get you up and running, costs £417.

Comparing Sage and Unleashed’s inventory features

Sage offers several packages, with differing levels of inventory capability. Here’s how they stack up against Unleashed’s Medium package:

Sage Xero feature comparison

50cloud Professional’s features may be enough for some smaller product businesses — but sooner or later, your client will probably need to manage multiple warehouses or track landed costs.

Integrations

Best-of-breed solutions usually come with a wide selection of managed integrations. With an all-in-one, syncing up systems is a bit harder.

For example, Xero lists over 200 apps on its marketplace. Sage has 15 for 200cloud and 18 for 50cloud.

Sage vs Xero App Marketplace

The lack of integrations available with an all-in-one isn’t necessarily problematic — after all, they work in isolation by their nature. It does, however, bring up a few things to consider:

  • Commerce channels. Is your client planning on selling via, say, Shopify, Amazon or Vend? Sage’s lack of managed commerce integrations can make managing sales difficult
  • Permissions. With a specific app to cover each business function, setting up permissions is straightforward — for example, by giving warehouse staff access to Unleashed but not Xero
  • Customisation. Add-ons are great for removing manual tasks or enhancing functionality. This enables your client to tailor their systems to their processes
  • Lack of features. Many Sage users still end up supplementing their system with best-of-breed apps — such as Salesforce for CRM — but with no managed integrations, their apps can’t talk to each other

Access

Your recommendations will be based on your client’s needs first and foremost. But I’d also evaluate whether software makes your life easier or helps you deliver transformational advice.

I’ve heard some horror stories from accountants about getting access to their clients’ Sage accounts. Sage Drive often creates more problems than it solves, which means relying on a manual transfer via USB or Dropbox. Xero and Unleashed both make it easier for you to hop on to client accounts — with no need to create a separate set of data. Unleashed, for example, gives accountants free access to client accounts.

More about the author:

John Horton - Unleashed Software
John Horton

John Horton is the EMEA partner lead for Unleashed Software where he focuses on helping advisors support their manufacturing and wholesale clients move to the cloud. With over 15 years experience in cloud technology with big names like Intuit, Microsoft and Sage he's no stranger to accounting and supporting businesses build efficient scalable systems.

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