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Blockchain Island Summer 2019

Local interest in cloud computing is becoming more relevant and important.

More SMEs are embracing modern technology to automate their business processes, ultimately with the goal of operating at even higher rates of efficiency

Local interest in cloud computing is becoming more relevant and important as more SMEs embrace modern technology to automate their business processes, ultimately with the goal of operating at even higher rates of efficiency. High-level authorities including the Government of Malta, the Malta Communications Authority and MITA are promoting this message due to the tangible benefits and positive implications to the business community.

Cloud computing comes in different shapes. Most people do not realise how deep this technology has embedded itself within our life. Whether you are at home or at work, using a phone or a laptop, commonly used software such as Google’s mail, Gmail, or Facebook, the social media platform, are the simplest, yet strongest form of software over the cloud in the form of a service, in fact often referred to as Software as a Service, or SaaS for short. This concept has been widely used by service providers due to the benefits offered to both their companies and their end customers. Some of these cloud computing benefits include improved security, less capital investment, higher reliability and availability and improved security in a controlled environment. Perhaps the major positive change from older times is how cloud-based software has enabled users to seamlessly collaborate and share the same information using different devices and platforms, and for very low cost, hence extending reach and mobility.

Over the last few years, the same SaaS based concept has been applied to various industries and sectors, including the finance world.  In fact, accountants can carry out bookkeeping and accounting services directly from cloud applications – providing a smarter and central way to share data between the accountant and his clients (the SMEs) without the need to send data or files back and forth over email. This also eliminates the need for the end user, both in terms of the software and physical aspect, to maintain backups, paper documents and hardware.

The main online accounting software giants widely used across Europe are Xero and QuickBooks Online, with both software gaining significant traction in Malta as well. Whilst benefits are obvious and measurable, accountants and finance persons still need to access the raw financial data to tailor their reports as per each individual’s unique requirement and circumstance, to monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), or to create complex queries and models over the available data.  With Excel being the favourite data processing tool for the analysis and processing of data, a local Malta-based startup identified this gap as an opportunity to deliver a service which offers the convenience of operating from the spreadsheet in a robust manner, in turn saving time from the busy schedule of the accountant. The concept, well known with accountants, started off with the design of a prototype enabling accountants to download data from the online accounting software directly into Excel.  As the concept matured and developed further, accountants were then able to upload data in bulk directly from Excel, hence creating the first 2-way feed between Excel and the cloud accounting software packages.  

A few years later, DataDear has established itself as an important player in the fintech space, providing accountants with the ideal toolkit to help them transition to cloud accounting software. This is especially relevant for Malta where regional needs are typically not addressed by the larger software companies due to the limited market size.  These accounting platforms mainly focus their effort within the larger economic markets, and the needs of the Maltese companies tend to be given less priority.  Hence local SMEs who wish to move to cloud-based software face another challenge to address local statutory needs such as to compile and generate the VAT returns or the company management reports.  This is where the DataDear provides further value – by providing accountants and SMEs, who wish to integrate their accounting to Xero accounting or QuickBooks Online, with the unique possibility of doing more.  The local community gets the full benefits from the established cloud accounting giants whilst retaining the ability to carry out complex reports and queries directly from Excel, with the accountant carried out normal operations.  DataDear also allows users of these accounting platforms to push data and to edit data in bulk directly from the Excel workbook.

DataDear is an Excel add-in, developed and maintained by the Scope team in Malta, which sits directly into the Microsoft Excel toolbar.  The team provides new features and improvements monthly, ensuring that users across the globe get the full benefits of having this tool connected to their accounting platform. DataDear currently focuses on the most popular cloud-based accounting platforms –  Xero and QuickBooks Online which service 5 million businesses and companies worldwide.  Local companies should seek the services of Certified Advisor when implementing these tools as this will help them define the ideal financial structure for their business.

The University of Malta is also participating in this project with their focus currently aimed at improving the DataDear engine and the technology behind the hood.

Project DataDear financed by the Malta Council for Science and Technology through FUSION: The R&I Technology Development Programme 2017.


This article was published on the Blockchain Island Summer 2019 edition

Blockchain Island Summer 2019