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On this blog we will cover stories from all around the Exact ecosystem.

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Is it something we have to do, or does it just make our life easier?

Written by Timo van Noppen on . Posted in Exact Online

Last week I received a mail from someone within Exact (not related to product development) about legislation changes coming up within the next few years that will have an impact on our internal and external processes. In that mail, the person made the comment: Is it something we have to do or does it just make our life easier?

I thought it was a very striking comment that made me think about the actual users of our products. No-one uses our products for the fun of it alone. They use them to support their businesses.

Within that, we know that some aspects of doing business are unavoidable. Any business must do tax declarations, deposit annual statements, keep a lengthy history of all sales invoices, etc. Is that fun? No! Does it support the business and generate revenue? No! Still, it has to be done.

What we at Exact can do is make it as easy as possible for a user to handle these mandatory but non-business supportive activities. We want to leave the user more time to focus on what really matters: their business.

Luckily, this trend is already on its way. Getting bank statements into the administration automatically, compiling and sending out tax declarations with a few clicks and automatically saving all sales invoices already make the lives of our users easier.

A lot more can be done and as a company focused on supporting businesses with our software we are constantly looking for ways to make life easier for the users; both for their core business activities, and the less exciting but equally important support tasks. Two articles on this blog highlight that well: Purchasing extra services through Exact Online is cheaper! and Exact Online for your iPhone. Further examples can be found by going through the rest of the blog’s article bank.

To answer the question from that colleague: yes, it must be done, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t also be part of making our lives easier!

Photo courtesy of Jason Gulledge

What do you think makes a quality product?

Written by Timo van Noppen on . Posted in Exact Online

Exact is continually striving to deliver the highest quality products possible. All our development teams place a great deal of focus on ensuring that our new releases provide our customers and users with the level of quality they’ve come to expect from us.

To be able to know exactly what is expected from us, it’s essential to have a close relationship with our customers and product users. Unfortunately, maintaining close, personal relationships with the number of people using Exact Online (Exact Online has more than 15,000 subscriptions source) is nearly impossible. That said, our teams in support, marketing, sales and customer service do keep a close eye what is going on at our customers and across the market. People from within the development team also have contact with customers on a regular basis. All these sources of input enable us to enhance and improve Exact Online in line with people’s needs, while maintaining the quality that they demand.

In the last few months the Exact Online development team has put even more focus on quality for the product itself. We passionately believe that it’s the customer and the user that determine the level of quality we achieve, and that a number of factors determine the quality they experience. I won’t go into them all here, but a few are outlined below:

  • Functionality: Exact Online should provide the functionality that is needed to support the customer’s business needs;
  • Usability: Exact Online should be able to be used in a way that people can relate to. This will help achieve proper and efficient use of the product;
  • Security: Exact Online should be a secure environment. Customers and users should feel and experience that Exact Online is secure and does not give any access to data that should not available.

There are more factors that we think are important, but I’ll hold back on those here for a reason. I would like to know from you, the reader, what quality means to you! When you think of Exact Online (or a similar web-based application) what do you think is important in achieving a positive overall impression? This is not so much about your ideas for new features or functions, but more about what you as a (future) customer and/or user of Exact Online would need in order to experience it as a high quality product…

Some suggestions:

  • Quality to me is that the calculations in Exact Online are always correct;
  • Quality to me is that the performance of Exact Online is always adequate;
  • Quality to me is that new legislation is available at the start date of that legislation;
  • Etc.

In the next few months I will post articles explaining more about the factors that we think are important, incorporating your feedback in the process. Please let me know your thoughts as a comment to this post or send me a mail. Thank you!

Who sets the bar on quality?

Written by Timo van Noppen on . Posted in Exact Online

In my previous blogpost I asked the question: “What do you think makes a quality product?”

I didn’t receive quite as much feedback as I would have liked, but the quality of the responses I did get was great.

In general terms, the message from that feedback was clear – quality depends very much on your point of view. A customer, for example, will look very differently at the quality of a product than the manufacturer will. A customer will assume a certain base level of quality in the product he is looking at and will probably not investigate too deeply whether or not that inferred level is actually there. However, any signal that the expected level might not be there will quickly place doubts in the customer’s mind, significantly reducing the likelihood of a purchase. Signals might come from reviews of the product, forums, friends, etc. and are largely uncontrollable by the manufacturer.

Consider what happened to Toyota in early 2010. Due to problems with the gas pedal, they had to recall millions of cars for inspection and repair. In the months after, sales dropped significantly – the negative press clearly taking its toll on the company’s performance. The failure came as a real shock to people. After all, would you think to check the gas pedal to see if it gets stuck when you’re buying a new car? Every one of their customers assumed Toyota had taken care to produce a flawless piece of engineering.

From a manufacturers point of view it is most important to deliver products that at least meet that assumed base level of quality. If that level cannot be reached, you better stay out of business altogether – all the investments you put in will certainly amount to nothing. And the level people expect is only going to continue to go up. It is like the high jump at the Olympics. You start with the bar down low, and for as long as you clear the bar, it will continue to go up. The spectators will cheer for you enthusiastically for as long as you continue to jump over it without knocking it off. But the moment you fail, you’re out of the game.

For us at Exact it is therefore very important to know where our bar currently sits, as well as where it is set to rise in the future. That’s why we work hard on keeping close relationships with our customers and the market.

From the quality factors we’ve now defined for Exact Online, a number of them are only related to meeting the base level. Others are a combination of meeting the base level and exceeding it. In my next postings I’ll go into more detail about what these factors involve, highlighting the extra steps necessary for us to continue offering the highest quality products possible.

In the meantime, if you would like to add or contribute in anyway, I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Is your information secure in Exact Online?

Written by Timo van Noppen on . Posted in Exact Online

The internet is now as commonplace in most countries as other public services like gas, water and electricity. Recently, the highest court in France even ruled that internet access is a ´fundamental human right´. But this fundamental right also comes with great responsibility.

We’ve all read or heard about websites or web-based-applications that were found leaking information. Some were because of programming errors, others because of intruders that hacked their way in. The reasons are multiple but the result always the same – information that was not supposed to visible became so.

Owners of websites and web-based-applications have a huge responsibility. They have to ensure the information they are trusted with remains safe and cannot be retrieved by people that have no right to access it.

For a web-based-application like Exact Online, maintaining security for the information entered by our users is a fundamental aspect of what we do. Since the very beginning of the product, security has been engrained in the development team and in the product itself. We pay particular attention to it in the architecture and the base framework. This ensures that all developed functionality, which is always based on the framework, is secure in a consistent manner. Any new security risks discovered on the internet can then be easily countered. By making changes in the base framework, we directly affect and protect all functionality automatically.

It’s not only the application that needs to be secure though. The environment it runs on needs to be as well. Webservers, database servers, firewalls, etc. need to be set up to provide the maximum security possible. Exact Online runs on an environment hosted and managed by one of the leading hosting providers in the world: Rackspace. Close cooperation between Rackspace’s engineers and our own professionals allows us to effectively manage the environment and keep a close eye on security and any risks that might arise.

To further ensure Exact Online and its environment’s security, and that our customers can trust in the safety of their data, we have also hired an external company that, on a regular basis, performs audits on Exact Online and the environment. This company (Comsec Consulting) has been auditing Exact Online since 2006. As a testament to the high level of security we maintain, they have certified Exact with the e-Sure certificate. Every year we have to continue to meet strict criteria to be able to renew it.

So, to give an answer to this blog post’s title: Yes, your (and all our customers’) information is secure in Exact Online. You can rest assured that we are continuously looking at further ways to improve our security as well – keeping ourselves up-to-date with new developments across the field as they occur.

Freelancers: How can we help you?

Written by Timo van Noppen on . Posted in Exact Online

Being a freelancer offers you a lot of freedom. Freedom to choose only the contracts you like, to choose when to work and when to have time off, no boss to report to, etc. At the same time you also have to manage your acquisition, close contracts, invest in your network, keep track of your billable hours,  invoice clients and keep on top of your bookkeeping among many other activities.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get assistance with things that you have to do but don’t particularly enjoy and/or struggle to find the time for?

We’d like to know what we can do to help. On the 11th of May we are organizing a roundtable-session which we would like professional services freelancers to participate in. In this interactive session we want to discuss what’s on your mind and keeping you busy. Your input will be highly appreciated.

You can find more information via this link (Dutch): http://exact.nl/nl/nl/action/roundtable/

If you’re not a freelancer but know freelancers that might be interested, please forward this information to them.