[UPDATED 10/06/2020] MYOB recently introduced a new streamlined interface and other changes to Essentials, so we've revised our review to take these into account.
MYOB has been a dominant provider of Australian small business accounting software for decades. With the 2020 release of MYOB Essentials, you get the latest cloud-based tech in an accounting package that draws from the maker's long history of supporting SMEs. With functionality to cover micro and growing business, Essentials offers all of the key components required to remain compliant and competitive if you’re doing business in Australia. The platform rolled out a new look and feel in March of this year, which new subscribers will see immediately upon registering; existing users should expect to see the upgrade rolled out to their accounts before September.
As with many cloud services, pricing can get a bit complicated, with short term discounts distracting from what it’ll ultimately cost you on a monthly basis. All of the products in the MYOB Essentials series are currently available at a 50% discount for the first 3 months, so here we have looked at what to expect over the long term:
Accounting Starter is the entry point, offering a full array of functionality including bank feeds (limited to 25 transactions a month), five customer invoices & five supplier bill transactions, a mobile app and payroll for one employee. This comes in at AU$27 a month, and given the limitations on transactions, Starter will probably get restrictive rather quickly and is not really great value for money.
Transaction limits are removed at the next level up, called Essentials Accounting, which costs AU$48 per month. However, this tier still only covers payroll for one employee.
The top of the line option is Essentials Accounting + Payroll, which will set you back AU$60 per month but allows you to run payroll for an unlimited number of employees.
For a business that already has an accounting solution but wants to add payroll, there’s a four-employee version of Essentials Payroll covering just that function for AU$10 a month.
Every small business needs a strong understanding of its cash flow – ideally, you want to use a combination of bank feeds, auto-matching and rule based allocations to make the task of not only tracking your cash but accounting for your business transactions very easy. Essentials covers this base extremely well, highlighting the experience MYOB brings to this vital function. It's not quite perfect however, and while the new interface in the 2020 release of Essentials improves on the bank feed tech, dashboard cues don’t clearly show the status of your bank feeds. This can be a problem if your bank feeds fail to update.
Invoices are customisable, so you can give your customers a form that’s tailored to your business and style. The ‘In Tray’ feature is a great addition, providing a full online storage solution for your supplier invoices and documents. You can create transactions directly from an inbound email or via the MYOB Capture app, which scans the contents of the document and prefills detail like the invoice total, reference number. This streamlined process will not only cut the time you take doing the books, but stores everything in one place for easy recall.
Budget Management is a tool that will offer invaluable insights into future performance scenarios. Essentials standard report set covers a lot of bases, with a fair amount of customisation and output options. This latest update has implemented some welcome improvements in the reporting selections, which continue the clean lines of the interface into the reporting output.
With the backing of such a large service provider, it's perhaps no huge surprise that that MYOB is able to deliver Essentials consistently and reliably. With data hosting based on Microsoft Azure infrastructure in Australia, and a large on-call support team, you can have reasonable confidence that your important business information is always going to be safe and accessible.
There’s a mobile app interface for invoicing and quoting on the go, which may be handy, although doesn’t always make for ease-of-entry for detailed forms, given the physical limitations of smartphone screens. Your best experience will be via a browser on your PC or Mac.
Ease of use
Most business users have limited knowledge of accounting theory and the whole point of accounting software is that you don’t need to know what's going on in the background. MYOB Essentials does the fundamentals well, so you just need to understand your business transaction and then find the equivalent function in the software. The clean and clear interface is a key part of this and finding your way around the system is simple and the new Dashboard is an improvement on the previous version, delivering a concise summary of key business metrics. The lack of drilldown detail on the graphs is a little disappointing, but otherwise there is plenty to like here.
When it comes to payroll, it's important to have a little more expertise to avoid error. Essentials does a good job of laying out requirements, however without getting too far into it you are going to need to know what you are doing. And in Australia, Single Touch Payroll (STP) reporting is now a government requirement each time you pay your staff, so it’s vital that you get this function right. Essentials provides a clever STP error check prior to connecting with the ATO – which will definitely give some comfort if you are doing it for the first time.
Essentials has come a long way in recent years and is a polished contender in the cloud-based accounting arena. Small businesses need a tool that can streamline processes and save them time while delivering business intelligence with ease – Essentials measures up to this mark, with a solid feel and helpful, context-sensitive support throughout. Pricing is at the higher end compared to competitors in the market, considering the feature list. If you have no other allegiance to MYOB, you may want to consider others in the category. However, for a stable and solid Australian solution to your small business accounting needs, Essentials does deliver.