Can it really be ten years since I attended the first Digita conference?
Well, actually it's more like ten and a half years since this year saw a move from March to September, but it was certainly the tenth conference - and the first with new MD Andrew Flanagan at the helm.
For those interested in software purchase or training there were plenty of opportunities to talk with Digita staff. Existing customers were able to meet both formally and informally to discuss their wants and needs and request additional features in specific software packages. The company has a particularly good record of listening to customers and implementing their suggestions into software updates within a relatively sort time, something which has been helped by their new "agile" software development process which enables them to turn ideas into fully tested features in a much shorter time than was the case when software updates were only released once a year.
But the conference was far more than a selling opportunity - and that's without dwelling on the lively gala dinner with guest speaker Nick Hewer from The Apprentice, followed by the charity music quiz, which has now become a popular annual event at Digita conferences. We were educated (and entertained) by speakers such as Francesca Lagerberg and Rebecca Bennyworth with current hot tax topics, educated - if not quite so entertained - by HMRC staff who briefed us on RTI, and educated and generally bamboozled by Excel guru Simon Hurst (sorry, Simon, I still can't do pivot tables!).
A high point of the conference was Friday's "Ask the Panel" session featuring Digita's Software Design Director Paul Duffield, Rebecca Bennyworth, Simon Hurst and practitioner Jonathan Russell from Rees Russell. A lively debate ensued on various topics, perhaps predictably dominated by the tax avoidance/evasion/morality arguments.
I came away with a list of Excel tips to implement in the office - personalising the quick access menu and moving it below the Ribbon has already revolutionised my Microsoft Office experience, so thanks for that one, Simon! I also have Francesca Lagerberg's prediction that the clawback of Child Benefit from January 2013 is "the train wreck we always said it would be" still ringing in my ears, although after the RTI briefing I have the distinct impression that the light at the end of the tunnel is actually TWO oncoming trains - the Child Benefit fiasco, quickly followed by RTI.
If you're in practice and not up to speed on both these issues, get onto the tax pages of AccountingWEB and get your whole team up to speed on them - NOW! The Child Benefit changes are going to carve out a whole lot of time from the busiest time of the year for tax staff, so better to get in now and brief your clients - if indeed you have any way of identifying clients currently receiving Child Benefit. There could be more work to do before the end of the year than you thought. Thanks Digita!