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Former Sage man takes over at Exchequer

19th Nov 2013
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If you ever needed proof that accounting software was a small world, look no further than the arrival of Greg Ford as the new managing director at Exchequer at the beginning of this month.

For most of the past two years, Ford has been managing director at V1, the document management wing of Advanced Computer Software Group that has been converted to a multi-purpose business process and learning support organisation under his guidance.

Before that, Ford was managing director at both Sage’s accountants’ and mid-market divisons - the latter for more than a decade - so the return to mainstream accounting has been something of a homecoming.

“When Advanced acquired CSH and Exchequer, I told [Advanced CEO] Vin [Murria] I was passionate about the accounting business and could make a difference and fortunately that opportunity arose for me,” Ford told AccountingWEB.

Exchequer is an “incredibly healthy” business with a strong, horizontal customer base with big user communities in distribution, manufacturing, not-for-profit and education sectors, he explained.

“Exchequer was always well regarded for innovation and agility in the marketplace - for example with the Exchequer 365 mobile platform,” Ford said. “My plan is to get back to the grass roots, to get closer to customers and identify emerging trends in a more agile fashion.  We’re supported by the Advanced Group, but are small enough to respond to people’s needs.”

Already Ford has gone out on “discovery tours” to meet more than 250 existing Exchequer customers. While many of them remain very loyal to the company, they also shared where they’d like to see improvement.

“People’s expectations these days are much, much higher. They don’t just want software installed, they want in place, on time, to plan and delivering benefits they invested in.”

This emphasis on customer care and feedback is a clear imprint from his days at Sage, where Ford earned his spurs fighting customer service firestorms and apologising for coding mishaps such as the recurring bank entry bug in Sage 50 Accounts 2010.

“I’m proud of my association with Sage,” said Ford of his former employer-turned-market rival. “But here we have the opportunity to be much more engaged with the customer. The larger you are, the more treacle you have to work through to deliver a great experience. Being smaller, but supported by a larger organisation means we can be more creative and more engaged.”

Ford does have some remedial work to do at Exchequer. He is right that as an independent developer Exchequer used to be one of the hidden gems on the UK accounting software scene, but market consolidation has not been kind to the company.

Exchequer was acquired by IRIS in 2005 as part of a major financial expansion plan led by CEO Martin Leuw. For a period our Software Satisfaction Survey results showed an improvement in product satisfaction ratings among Exchequer users, reaching a peak of 4.45 (out of 5) in 2009, but declining since nearly 20% then to 3.59.

When presented with these figures, Ford commented that with Advanced’s backing, “We can improve by delivering a stronger customer experience around the solutions that we offer. We’re very, very strong on product - but people need to see the whole solution delivered as the client expects and needs.”


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