Anyone who works with businesses is fully aware of how important accounting is for the success of a company. Yet many business owners have a negative attitude towards accounting. A high percentage of entrepreneurs see accounting as a necessary evil and often a hindrance to starting a new company.
How is that possible? Wasn’t accounting invented to help companies manage their business?
The IT industry has brought us computers and the ability to create software to automate bookkeeping. While there is no doubt that accounting software has been a great help, when we look at the usage of it, something is wrong. More than half of the businesses in the UK keep track of their finances by using a combination of spreadsheets and word processors rather than using accounting software. In an age where computing power is ubiquitous and virtually never too far from our pocket, we should be able to do better than this.
In 2013, international accounting software provider e-conomic was considering what its next generation accounting software should look like. And decided to take a different approach. What would happen if we created a piece of accounting software for people who had no knowledge of accounting? And what if we made the basic functions free for people to use? We hoped that it would make accounting approachable by virtually anybody.
That’s how the Debitoor invoicing and accounting software was born.
Introducing simple accounting to the world
Today, more than 33,000 people in the UK and almost 300,000 people worldwide have signed up for Debitoor and have given us the privilege of approaching accounting in a different way. Debitoor is used in more than 30 countries, from the UK to South Africa, from Colombia to Australia and New Zealand.
Debitoor is an accounting package for very small businesses. It allows them to manage their customers, create quotes and invoices. It allows them to register their purchases, deal with bank and payments and helps them report their VAT directly to HMRC at the click of a button. Debitoor helps those small companies manage their assets and keep track of what’s on their balance sheet in a very simple manner. Finally, Debitoor helps business owners collaborate with their accountants by allowing them to share their data with them.
Debitoor’s mission is to make accounting cool to work with. Two years after we started, the typical reaction we get from accountants is: “Wow, convincing my clients to use this is going to be super easy!”. We have captured the essence of Debitoor in this video.
Letting users shape accounting software
But what have we done to make this possible? The most important ingredient has been a clear focus. Our mission has always been to make accounting easy for small business owners who know very little about accounting.
Here are some of the key principles we followed to build the Debitoor invoicing and accounting software:
– Approachable: We have removed any obstacles to getting started. There is no setup needed, we do not ask questions, users can start on the free package, the program is ready to go.
– Natural: We have eliminated all technical lingo. You will not find the words “debit” and “credit” in Debitoor. The workflows in the program follow the natural flows of a user with no accounting knowledge and the program uses the typical words he’d use.
– Forgiving: People make mistakes; and accounting systems typically make it quite complicated to correct mistakes. In Debitoor, actions can be undone and mistakes can easily be corrected.
– Instructive: We assume people do not know much about accounting, so we have structured the entire program to let users learn along the way. This is not just functionality but it encompasses the entire packaging of the product.
– User-driven: In an open forum, users can give their feedback and suggest new features, vote for their own or others’ suggestions and influence the further development of the software. This transparency is super important for us to develop a truly user-driven program.
– Collaborative: Most of our users share their data with their accountants in order to get help with taxes, reporting and ensuring quality.
We also had the privilege of building the product with the technology which was available in 2013. This has huge benefits for our users because it allows us to provide them with a service which is reliable, improving at a fast pace and very secure. Having a modern architecture also ensures that Debitoor is very easy to connect to other popular cloud services.
Debitoor’s user base is very diverse as its appeal is quite broad. Many of our users are freelancers, artists, consultants, designers or other creative people, but we have also small artisans and shop keepers or owners of clinics and small distributors. They all have missions and purposes in their lives and we try to help them with their accounting.
Changing how an industry works
As with any change in technology, this brings great opportunities to the industry it affects. The introduction of new technology, however, takes a bit of time to mature. When television started to gain mass adoption in the 1950s, broadcasters used it as it was radio. The first shows had older men with glasses reading papers in front of a microphone. This was how it used to be with radio programs.
The availability of cloud software has created a set of providers who simply made traditional accounting software available on the internet. This, we believe, will change and we will see more and more software which is transformational in nature. That is what we are trying to do with Debitoor.
We are only at the beginning of this journey. The roadmap for Debitoor will focus on three main aspects:
1. Continue to add simple flows to support what today are very difficult accounting scenarios
2. Introduce more and more automation and intelligence to enable our users to do more with less knowledge
3. Strengthen the collaboration between users and their accountants by facilitating the sharing of data between them.
What will this mean for accountants and the accounting industry? This is what our users are telling us: They love doing their invoices and keeping track of their costs in Debitoor. It gives the nice feeling of being in control, it keeps them organized and allows them to focus on their business going forward.
At the same time, they also tell us that they need help from their accountants. They need help with taxes, they need help with reporting to authorities and a lot of them need a quality check from the experts. In addition, most of them need legal and financial advice on ad hoc issues they encounter in their life as entrepreneurs.
The biggest change for accountants is to be prepared to embrace the possibilities that technology gives us. Things like cloud storage and online applications will substitute manual processes, paper and data disks. Everything is now available via a web browser on your computer or on your phone.
In order to be successful, accountants will have focus on services that draw on their knowledge and experience and they will need to be prepared to serve their customers as they move towards those new technologies.
Increased access will not be limited to technology but also to services. This will also mean increased competition. The best thing an accountant can do is embrace change and be ahead of the curve, start small but start early. The customers are already going there.