Pastel MyBusiness Online Review
When I heard word that Softline Pastel launched an online accounting package, I was pretty sceptical. Reason being, the pastel accounting packages (the lower end packages), just looked ugly. If you aren’t a chartered accountant, and work with pastel all day and are used to the interfaces, you would hate it, and I did.
So I had a look at the demo company, and I was pleasantly surprised at how clean and fresh the layout was. So I signed up for the beta, but I quickly saw that it was still pretty lacking in functionality and it wasn’t a year after my first look that I actually started using the system in production.
I signed up for a year’s subscription and at the time that I signed up it cost me roughly R800 for the whole year, which I thought was pretty cheap seeing that it is cheaper than buying Pastel Xpress off the shelf and paying the yearly support fees.
Pre-Mybusiness Online, I was using Pastel Xpress, and migrating from the offline to online version (If you want to compare it like that), was a matter of exporting my customers, suppliers and products, and importing it on the online platform. I do believe if softline wants to push this product, they should write a tool or two to make migrations a little easier.
Navigation is pretty easy to work around, and once you know what all the tabs in their navigation do, it is pretty easy to get from function to function.
The rest is pretty straight forward, it’s an accounting application, and it does what you would expect from an accounting application.
Let’s run through some of the features I value most:
Let’s get this straight. I absolutely hate… hate doing books. I want to spend my time making money, not reporting it. The recurring invoices feature I think is the feature I value most in this application.
Setting up a recurring invoice is pretty easy, click on create new recurring invoice, specify the customer, setup the schedule when the invoice needs to run, and set your line items. You can also set if the invoice needs to be created automatically, whereupon the invoice will be automatically created, and emailed automatically to your client should you select the option, or you can set it up to create as a draft, where you can then first “review” the created invoice, before it get’s actioned against your client’s account.
This is a pretty powerful feature, and I don’t think it’s full potential is quite used here.
- Only one recipient and one cc recipient can be used to email the invoice
- It’s limited to Invoices, no recurring Quotes or Orders.
Import Bank Statements
I give three cheers to softline for coming up with this. None of their offline products come close to the way they handle bank statements in the online package, which makes this brilliant.
To import bank statements, it’s pretty much a case of exporting from your online banking, and uploading the file. Once you click on import, a grid list box is shown with all the transactions in the file.
The methodology they used here is great, because no matter how many times I have tried to import duplicates, it simply doesn’t import transactions which are already in the system. Another big plus, is that you can map transactions. For eg: For each one of my clients, I give a unique code they need to use when they pay us. Customer ABC shoes will for eg have a reference of “ABC001″ which I provide to them. so every time that ABC shows pays us, the reference on our bank statements read “EFT PAYMENT ABC001″. This I map on the import bank statements screen once to which customer it needs to map, and once it is done, every time I import a bank statement, it compares my mappings, and shows the transaction line in grey, which means its ready to reconcile.
After the first 3 months of using the system, I have mapped most of my clients, so reconciling bank statements is now a case of just checking unmapped transactions, and the whole bank recon process takes me less than 15 minutes now.
All we really need now, is automatic bank statement imports… someone at pastel setup a direct line to the banks already?
In order for the mappings to work correctly, your customers need to use the same payment reference every time they pay, which is how it should be. Normally you need to provide this “Account Number” to your customer, and there is currently no way that the system gives you something like a unique reference for each customer. The way they handle customers now is by description only (for eg, ABC Shoes), which I prefer, but at least give me some sort of unique database ID, or incremental number for each customer, something like a customer account number which is automated by the system.
I overcame this limitation by creating a custom customer field name called “Customer Number” and when I create a new customer, I populate the custom field with an incremental number that I generate manually. This number then shows on the customer’s invoices and statements which they use as their EFT payment reference. Not ideal.. but it does the job.
Customer Statement Runs
Also a great feature. Select from which to which customer you want to run statements for, click submit, and it emails your customers’ statements to them.
It would be nice if you could schedule this monthly / weekly to run automatically.
This is the first time that I have seen a rich text / html based report designer for any pastel product. You simply download the report designer application, and once you login, you can design report templates to your heart’s content.
Once you have created your template, you simply save it, then logon to the web system, and select the template you want to use for that specific document type. Hands down a great feature.
The reports are all HTML based. Which is good. For our invoice templates, we did some hefty designing in order to make it look great, we in some parts have little lines overlapping (sometimes you do have to let certain elements overlap, in order for your design to work) which looks great on our PDF exports, but viewing a report in HTML online simply just looks horrid, thus we always export to PDF.
Overall System Shortcomings:
There are a couple of things that this system could really do with:
- No API
- Limited Email Capabilities
The functionality to use email for documentation etc is there, but it’s very limited. I would like to be able to go into my customer’s account, and setup extra contacts and specify if I want documents to be sent to this contact automatically when I create a document for the customer, for eg: also send the invoice I just created to this contact, include this contact in the list of recipients for statements, etc.
Pastel’s attempt at an online accounting system is so far so good. It’s cheap, and as long as they actively keep on developing on the platform, and release updates often, I foresee this as a winner. It does have it’s shortcomings, but pastel does have a suggestion box (firstname.lastname@example.org) and they are actively monitoring it. I think the idea of an API will be a deal breaker or maker, as these days you do need some kind of integration mechanism for any system out there.
I would recommend this product to anyone that has just started up a company, or someone that wants the online capabilities of an accounting system.