July 29, 2019 Acterys

How Acterys Compares to SMB Accounting Add-on Web Apps

Acterys is currently the only solution that supports large scale enterprise as well as small medium business analytics and planning requirements. The nearly infinitely extensible architecture based on a standard SQL Server environment perfectly caters for either in the most cost effective way.

Up until recently a professional analytics environment around a central data warehouse was based on 5 figure plus budgets. With Acterys’ revolutionary data warehouse automation features this is now available for SMB budgets.

In this overview we are comparing a full data warehouse approach to off the shelf Web Apps in the analytics & planning space cloud based accounting applications (QuickBooks, Xero, Myob).

“Off the shelf” Web Apps

For requirements where users are looking for exactly what the web application offers, they can be a good choice. Particularly, when only better reporting and simple planning with the accounting data are the key objectives and the required process matches the one offered in the app. What typically lacks in that context is flexibility and options for customization. A more or less closed web app can never match the flexibility that tools like Power BI or Excel offer.

Scalability and Large Number of Entities

Web apps are by nature typically limited when it comes to scale. As soon as there are multiple companies involved, data volumes get higher (we have customers with 1.7m(!) journals per month) or data from other sources e.g. from CRM systems, marketing data (e.g. Google Analytics) and other web applications need to be integrated, the app approach comes to its limits, as customization of typically closed off applications -without an API or an externally accessible data storage approach- is more often than not impossible.

Security

Apps typically don’t offer control over your data. You have to live with whatever storage type and location they offer. Acterys is using the market leading Azure cloud platform with the option for customers to completely “own their data”. They own the tenant, can exactly decide where data is hosted e.g. in a data center in their country and are secured by likely the most advanced security mechanisms like multi factor authentication (MFA), IP white listing (only users with specifically allowed IP addresses can access data), etc.

Data Model Orientated Approach

An “open data model” orientated approach typically addresses the challenges. Here data is loaded from ERP, accounting and other systems in a separate “data warehouse” that is optimized for analytics. This is typically done in a star schema where transaction tables (e.g. GL transactions, invoices, etc.) are combined with shared dimensions (e.g. calendar, products, customers, accounts, etc.).

This enables users to define the meta data once, for example how time periods or accounts should be organized and mapped and the resulting definitions and hierarchies can then be used with all transaction tables. The benefit of this approach is, that the user is not at the mercy of a vendor. A relational database e.g. SQL Server can be used with nearly any client tool (Excel, Power BI, Qlik, etc., etc.) and also offers the opportunity to integrate the data into custom apps (e.g. with PowerApps and MS Flow)

Analysis Power

The open data model approach empower users to use the analytics solution of their choice and not be at the mercy of a particular vendor. The Acterys Power BI integration for example enables users to profit from -the at the moment most powerful analytics solution in the world- that is part of the unparalleled Microsoft ecosystem. This means you have everything from interactive dashboards, natural language query, advanced machine learning at your finger tips. Not to mention the seamless integraton into Office productivity solution and new no-code workflows and app development options like MS Flow and PowerApps.

What Are The Benefits?

In summary, the benefits of an open (i.e. editable by users not in a proprietary format in a closed web app) data model architecture are:

  • Much improved performance and scalability as enterprise ready platforms (e.g. Microsoft Azure) are used, with optimal data storage for analysis and simulation
  • Unparalleled security options
  • No limitations on the volume queried due to API call limits per day
  • Data structures can be edited as required
  • No limitation on adding new data sources
  • Flexible client options (e.g. data discovery tools like Power BI, Tableau, Qlik or Excel) not limited to one web application
  • Planning & Workflows exactly configurable to requirements

Admittedly, this approach is not for everyone: Users will have to have know how in the required tools (Power BI, Excel, data modelling) or require external expertise to set things up that divert from the standard or involve integration of other data sources.

In the following table we have outlined the main players in SMB analytics and planning add-on solutions for cloud based accounting and their architecture.  We are admittedly not unbiased, should any of the information below need additions or be factually incorrect please let us know and we will adapt.

How Spotlight, Futrli, Fathom and Datadear compare to Acterys

CategoryFeatureActerysDataDearFathomFutrliSpotlight
Platform
PlatformWeb
PlatformLive Excel Integration (Read Write)
PlatformMobile
PlatformData Discovery Support (Read Write)
PlatformPower BI
PlatformTableau
PlatformQlik
PlatformAny SQL Client
Reporting
ReportingReporting Options:
ReportingPower BI Sample Best Practice Financial TemplatesExcel (client only)Proprietary webProprietary webProprietary web
ReportingLive (read/write) Integration with Excel
ReportingAny client tool that can access SQL
ReportingVisualisation options200+ via Power BIExcelLimitedLimitedLimited
ReportingOption to add custom visualisations
ReportingPdf Report distribution
Planning
PlanningTop Down Bottom Up Data Entry
PlanningCopying of Scenarios
PlanningConfigurable 3 Way Financial Logic (Profit & Loss, Balance Sheet, Cash Flow)
PlanningAudit Trail
Consolidation
ConsolidationManagement Consolidation
ConsolidationInter Company Elimination
ConsolidationFX Conversion
ConsolidationMinority Interests
Modelling
ModellingCreate Own Multidimensional Models
ModellingEditing of model dimensions e.g. mappings
Calculation LanguageDax, SQL, ExcelExcel (client only)ProprietaryProprietaryProprietary
Advanced Analytics/AI
Advanced Analytics/AIFull support for major AI engines (Azure ML, Power BI AI features, Python, r)
Benchmarking
BenchmarkingIntercompany Benchmarking
BenchmarkingIndustry Benchmarking e.g. SEC, NASDAQ
(via Finviews option)
Collaboration
CollaborationCommentingFlexible filter drivenReport drivenReport driven
CollaborationIntegration with MS Teams
Workflow
WorkflowSupport for MS Flow
Backend
BackendData StorageOpenly Accessible Enterprise Scale Standard Database (Azure SQL/SQL Server)Excel (client only)ProprietaryProprietary
BackendOwn Tenant/On Premise
BackendData Centre Location Choice
BackendAPI to integrate in own applications
Data Integration
Data IntegrationOne Click Accounting System Connectors for
Data IntegrationXero
Data IntegrationQuickBooks
Data IntegrationABC Financials
Data IntegrationIntegration of other ERP (SAP, Oracle, Workday, Sage, etc.) via custom Connector
Data IntegrationPower Query Support
Data IntegrationWorks with 200+ Connectors via Power BI (Google Analytics, Salesforce, Facebook, etc. etc.)
Special Features
Special FeaturesManual Journal Automation
Security
SecurityAccessCell based read & writePer companyPer account
SecuritySupport of Security StandardsActive Directory, Windows Authentication, Microsoft AccountsProprietaryProprietaryProprietary
Pricing Starts at pricing per company per month (USD)$29 (Package of 10)
$49 (single company)
$20 (4 companies)$29$49$25
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