The stands are down, the exhibition closed and everyone on their way back home from Accountex 2016. For me, the annual Accounting expo that is Accountex is an interesting barometer on the state of the industry.
With many of the familiar faces out in force: Steve Pipe officially launched his new book, concluding 18 months of research; Ian Fletcher and Gordon Gilchrist from The 2020 Group; and Gary Turner’s insightful Key Note on the power of the connected economy to a packed out auditorium.
So what did we learn about the state of the industry this time around:
Online Accounting Software as a category is maturing. Again, the main exhibitors were either cloud accounting providers or practice software vendors. Even the bastion of desktop accounting software seemed keener to promote their fledgling online offerings. No longer are the likes of Xero the new wave, but clearly accepted as the future of the industry - with conversations around ‘how can we do more with Xero’ rather than ‘why should I?’ Indeed, during Accountex, Xero announced that they now have 133k customers as at 31 March 2016, making them by most analysts calculations the number one accounting software for businesses in the UK (ie. not just the number one cloud product).
This maturing of online accounting has a knock on effect with the providers of practice software. The noticeable change with the established practice/compliance software houses (CCH, Iris, TaxCalc and Digita) is the degree to which each of them are looking forward and clear on what they need to do to stay relevant, namely increase the connectivity of their products (eg. APIs, custom integrations, etc) and develop cloud versions of their products. Both Digita and CCH announced Xero integrations at Accountex, meaning that for the first time, an accounting practice can have an end-to-end seamless process from client-side to compliance. It’s early days, but very exciting. TaxCalc launch their ‘Cloud Connect’ product on Monday - and you get the sense that the others will follow them to the cloud soon.
Finally, we saw more discussions around pricing, packaging service offerings - what I mean is real business conversations. Conversations around enabling business clients with software solutions and advisory offerings. Conversations around automation and machine learning. That just was not happening to anywhere near the same degree 12 or 24 months ago.
All up, this feels pretty exciting; not just for accountants, but great for business owners of the UK and the support that could be coming their way from the great accountants and accountancy practices we have.