I got a message from Kashflow CEO Duane Jackson today to tell me about Orbit, a new product that Kashflow has created for accountants. Obviously growing up as a business now, Kashflow produced a press release that was sufficiently ambiguous and full of buzzwords that I was left scratching my head as to what Orbit actually was (don’t worry Duane – confusion is a sign of good PR). So I flicked him a message asking – whether Orbit is a practice management offering, or simply a place where accountants can access and work on their customers financial data?
There’s an important distinction here – there’s a huge number of tasks that accountants need to perform for true practice management – invoicing clients, tax preparation, document management and the like. These tools tend to be desktop-centric, in part because of accountants conservatism but also because there’s a fair amount of data entry going on. In a traditional practice, accountants import or (horror!) manually enter client information into the practice management solution and work their magic form there.
A customer data management tool is a much lighter, and different beast. This is simply a portal to all the different clients a practice might deal with – here they are able to make journal entries, run some accountant specific reports and from there export them to their practice management solution for final preparation.
Jackson’s reply was that Orbit is a little bit of both of those things – part practice management and part portal to the clients. So what does it actually do?
From the portal perspective, orbit provides a practice-centric dashboard for an overview of their clients, it allows the practice to set up specific charts of accounts for different verticals that it can then use for clients and it allows for transaction looking.
From the practice management side, firms can set up annual reminders of important client dates, run consolidated and comparative reports across different clients and provide a secure document repository.
So – is Kashflow onto a winner or is this a product that sits in a no-mans land? The key here, and the reason I’m not super excited about the offering, is that, while Orbit is tightly integrated with the Kashflow product, it has no upstream integration with a practice management system. As I’ve mentioned previously – accountants are conservative, they’re unlikely to move what they’ve always considered to be a practice management function into a web application that has no integration with the system they’re currently using. Especially not when Orbit adds £999/year to their costs.
If Kashflow is serious about moving into his pace, an approach that sees a tight integration and the ability to blur the lines between client facing and practice management software will be needed – until then, Orbit is out on it’s own distinct Orbit…