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Software, Part 2

8th Mar 2010
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I'm still pondering the question of software.  Some would call it procrastinating, but I prefer to think of it as a well thought out decision making process.  Time is against me now, as I want to avoid paying for my current software, and also for any new software I go for.

I had my renewal come through from TaxCalc - and it made me think that the cost this year would "possibly" be better spent on putting that money towards an integrated package.  But which one?

On Friday I went to the Accountancy Age/IRIS breakfast briefing at Bristol.  It was an excellent use of time, especially in that I was able to talk to a couple of established sole practitioners - who both praised IRIS and the time saved from using it.  The bacon sandwiches were also very good, not that it would affect my decision!  I was able to ask many of the questions that are bothering me about taking the plunge.  The IRIS presentation also made it pretty clear that they are dominant in the market, which would also be a consideration when I want to use sub-contractors or take on staff in the future.

I also spoke to Iris (that wasn't her name, it was Fiona) who promised to call me - and indeed they have done, plus I have an online demo booked for tomorrow to see what the software can offer.  Why do these decisions have to be so difficult, am I the only person out there who takes so long to think these things through?

I wish I could try them all, and then pick the one I like the best - but it's not quite like that.  I did try downloading Keytime (based on reading a fellow Class of 2009 update), but the online demo wouldn't work, and neither did the full download - after waiting 25 minutes.  I know I shouldn't go on first impressions, but I wasn't at all impressed, plus I filled in my details and no-one has phoned me to follow up on my enquiry.  Is it that they don't need the business, or are IRIS just very good at the Sales pitch?

Is there anyone out there who DOESN'T like IRIS who could balance up the scorecard?  At the moment they're winning the race, but I just can't bear to hand over all that money!



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Replies (6)

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By Anonymous
11th Mar 2010 12:01

IRIS = Expensive

Go for Tax Calc and VT. IRIS is expensive, it gets even more expensive as the number of clients increase. I have never used an integrated packages.  I am very happy with Tax Calc (recent price increase is a real let down) and VT.

Good blog.

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By Anonymous
11th Mar 2010 12:53


I used IRIS in my previous partnership and in fact made the original decision to implement it over 5 years ago.

I have since set up my own practice and didn't think twice about implementing integrated practice software, despite the costs - that's a no brainer in terms of time-saving & error-minimisation!  However, I had a good look round at other software providers in June 2009 and didn't eventually put in IRIS.

I would agree that IRIS is the market leader and there are some advantages there but I felt they had got a bit complacent about this position and had stopped investing in their products, whilst they got a bigger and bigger company taking over lots of other software houses.  Their customer service for existing customers was poor, it was hard to get hold of your account manager to raise issues and when you did raise issues, they just said they'd add it to the list for consideration when the product was next updated but never told you when the next product update was due!  I felt they got less good as they got bigger and bigger!  I think they have recently invested and upgraded their products so hopefully they now run properly on Windows SQL which they didn't before.

I also was not particularly impressed with Keytime as I thought it lagged a long way behind IRIS in terms of integration & also product sophistication.

I also looked at CCH but that seemed to be full of bugs even during my software demo!  And again this was a big company and customer service was poor even for potential customers!!

I finally decided to put in Digita as its products were so heavily endorsed by both ICAEW and HMRC.  The integration in the products does lag a little way behind IRIS but it is almost there and is being developed all the time (and I have seen upgrades & improvements coming in regularly since I became their customer in July 2009!).  I have also got to know several of the support guys by name as they do take personal ownership of the problems.  So whilst there have been some inevitable problems, they have dealt with them well. Plus Digita are always interested in your feedback and you do actually see results of them putting your suggestions into place!  I am a tiny player in Digita's customer base but they do spend time even with me!

Hopefully this will help balance things up a little for you!

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By eyreliz
11th Mar 2010 13:58

Digita demo next week...

Thanks so much for the advice.  The easy route would be to renew my TaxCalc licence, and look at my accounts production - but I am also thinking long term.

Digita phoned me within 10 minutes of me finishing the Iris demo (coincidence I'm sure) and so I've arranged to have an online demo next week.  I did get Keytime to work - it was the settings on my internet being too aggressive - but from the pricing I've seen it isn't that much cheaper than Iris if I want all the modules.

Please keep the advice coming, it is very much appreciated.


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By morgani
17th Mar 2010 20:59

Second Digita

 I also had used Iris for a number of years during employment.  I also went for a typical setup using VT accounts and PTP for tax.  I then moved onto the full PTP setup for a while but just wasn't happy.

I too found Digita last June.  Have found the same as the earlier poster.  Not quite there with Iris but very close.  Support is fantastic although not used it much and although again I'm only small I was dealt with as though I mattered.  I too considered Keytime but also found it a little lacking and not quite what I expected.


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Pillow May Ltd
By pillowmay
22nd Mar 2010 19:56

Even more impressed with Digita

I was the original anonymous replier about Digita.  I attended their conference last week and I have to say I'm now even more impressed with Digita.

They really do listen to their customers and the improvements that they have put in over the past year are incredible.  Plus the improvements that they expect to add this year will make huge differences again to their products.

One really notable example is the addition to their personal tax suite called "tax exchange" which should allow clients to fill in an electronic information request form which can then be fed directly into the personal tax product without manual input.  I can see that saving quite a bit of time with my clients, who are already used to completing an electronic online information request form on my website.

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By Anonymous
25th Mar 2010 11:22

Don't dismiss Sage out of hand

... no I don't work for them.

Our small practice has been Sage based for years but without any product integration.

Without investigating the potential of our Sage software fully, we recently had Iris in to quote for a replacement solution and we were very impressed by the build and features. We were FAR less impresed by the price, however, which was frankly horriffic, even with a hard-fought-for discount on their eye-watering initial fees.

Since then we have has Sage in to more-fully explain the potential of their products (which admittedly we already have) and we have been hugely surprised by what it can do and how it can all fit together, based around Sage Practice Solution 1.51. Admittedly their suite is not completely seamless (e.g. I really don't like the clunky CT module) and they don't pretend that it can completely rival Iris on all levels, but they are working very hard to get there and to say that their solution is more economically viable than Iris would be an understatement !

As we have been learning and experimenting with the new features I would also add that ther support team are completely fantastic.



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