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Meet the 2019 software excellence award winners

The world of accountancy software is full of twists and turns during the age of Making Tax Digital, so be prepared for several surprises among this year’s Accounting Excellence Award winners.
13th Sep 2019
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With 12,744 responses across 11 categories, 2019 set new records for participation in AccountingWEB's annual software survey.

With the exception of the digital banks in our banking app category, there were few breakthrough products in 2019 as business software users and accountants focused more on MTD for VAT compliance than exploring new territories.

And after an unprecedented run of growth during the past decade, the adoption of cloud accounting plateaued in 2018-19. In recent years, many businesses and accountants embraced cloud accounting as a platform for MTD compliance and took online software into the mainstream.

But thanks to bridging software, businesses are not compelled to use cloud accounting software to meet MTD filing requirements. The presence of familiar names such as VT Software, Sage 50, Pegasus, Moneysoft and SimpleTax among this year’s nominees demonstrates that desktop software still has a place in the accounting marketplace.

Our thanks go to everyone who took the time to share their software observations with AccountingWEB this year. As well as determining the products celebrated in this year’s awards, the ratings collected will be compiled and fed into our Software Reviews pages for the different categories.

Enough introductory information: everyone wants to know which products prevailed in the different categories, and the winners were announced at the Accounting Excellence awards last night.

Details of the Accounting Excellence firm awards are available here. The winners of the software awards were:

Small Business Accounting Software of the Year

The SME accounts category is always the busiest and most hotly contested of our annual awards. With 3,566 separate ratings, this year was no exception.

It was an extremely tight race between the might of Xero – far and away the largest vendor by user numbers – the upholder of tradition in VT Transaction+ and the newcomer Capium.

Thanks to the positive response from practitioners to its all-in-one cloud bookkeeping/practice suite, Capium pipped its more established rivals to the big prize.

Winner: Capium

Finalists: FreeAgent, QuickBooks Online, Sage 50cloud Accounts, Sage Business Cloud Accounting, VT Transaction+, Xero, Zoho Books

Mid-market & Enterprise Accounting Software of the Year

In contrast to the small business category, the transition from on-premise to online systems is even more finely balanced among larger organisations, where Sage 50cloud, Sage 200cloud and Pegasus Opera 3 contested the mid-market/ERP award with the Oracle NetSuite and AccountsIQ cloud systems.

Sage Enterprise Cloud is beginning to make an impact in this category, but not quite enough to stop a repeat victory for last year’s winner, AccountsIQ.

Winner: AccountsIQ

Finalists: Oracle NetSuite, Pegasus Opera 3, Sage 200cloud, Sage Business Cloud Enterprise Management

Payroll Software of the Year

The payroll finalists were divided equally between desktop and cloud systems.

The majority of users still favour desktop systems from the likes of BrightPay and Moneysoft, but the hold of such independents is lessening as users gravitate towards payroll modules built into their bookkeeping systems.

When it came to user ratings, the cloud systems had the upper hand with The Payroll Site edging out Capium to win its fourth software award for payroll from AccountingWEB’s members. The sequence goes all the way back to 2011.

Winner: The Payroll Site

Finalists: BrightPay, Capium, IRIS Payroll, Moneysoft, Sage 50cloud Payroll, Sage Business Cloud Payroll, Xero Payroll

Data & Expense Management Software of the Year

The big accounting engines are exerting a stronger pull in expenses management too. Receipt Bank and AutoEntry previously had this field to themselves, with some incursions from the FreeAgent Mobile community among smaller users.

Xero Expenses and Zoho Expense signalled the arrival of “built-in” data capture tools among this year’s finalists, with the trend definitively confirmed by Xero winning the data and expenses management prize.

Winner: Xero Expenses

Finalists: AutoEntry, FreeAgent Mobile, Receipt Bank, Zoho Expense

Professional Tax Software of the Year

We’ve been waiting a few years for cloud systems to penetrate the specialist tax and practice software market and between them, Taxfiler and Capium accounted for 58% of all the votes in the tax category.

Competition remains intense in this category, with traditional finalists TaxCalc and BTCSoftware matched up against three younger cloud rivals. The voting was so tight that we couldn’t separate the top two, who share the tax award between each camp.

Joint Winners: GoSimpleTax, BTCSoftware

Finalists: Capium, TaxCalc, Taxfiler

Accounts Production Software of the Year

The proportion of accounts production users who rated cloud systems was lower than in the tax category this year.

Even though Capium and Taxfiler were both rated very highly, BTCSoftware turned the tide and recaptured the prize it had lost to Taxfiler last year. With Making Tax Digital stirring up the waters, competition to retain the loyalty of practitioners is intense.

Winner: BTCSoftware

Finalists: Capium, TaxCalc, Taxfiler, VT Final Accounts

Practice Management Software of the Year

The cloud movement spawned a number of excellent specialist practice management tools to compete with accountancy’s more established vendors.

All of last year’s finalists were back on the podium this year, along with Xero Practice Manager. But after a year of steady progress, Senta claimed the prize on behalf of the new wave cloud challengers.

Company secretarial specialist Inform Direct did not match the other offerings in this category for full practice management functionality or user numbers but deserves a special mention for its excellent customer satisfaction ratings.

Winner: Senta

Finalists: AccountancyManager, BTCSoftware, Capium, Inform Direct, Practice Ignition, TaxCalc, Xero Practice Manager

Practice Suite of the Year

“Go niche” is one of the prevailing lessons of the modern software industry, and the successes of smaller, specialist developers in these awards shows it is an effective strategy.

However, keeping larger numbers of more sophisticated accountancy firms happy across all their tax, accounts production and practice management functions is a tougher task, particularly when HMRC is completely transforming its filing requirements.

When it came to the final hurdle, only our old friends BTCSoftware, Capium and TaxCalc were left standing in this category - with BTCSoftware getting its nose in front to win the coveted 2019 suite award.

Winner: BTCSoftware

Finalists: Capium, TaxCalc

Forecasting, Planning & Analysis Software of the Year

All of this year’s finalists came from the cloud accounting ecosystem and their ratings numbers were up on last year.

The continuing interest in cashflow forecasting dominated proceedings again this year, with Float bouncing back to reclaim the award it won back in 2017.

Winner: Float

Finalists: Fathom, Fluidly, Futrli, Spotlight Reporting

Best Cloud App of the Year (Non-Accounting Product)

The proportion of survey participants using add-on apps was slightly down this year, reflecting MTD’s inhibiting effect on innovation.

Our five add-on finalists demonstrate that there are good opportunities for those who gain the lead in specialist sectors and are all back on the Accounting Excellence podium this year after increasing their presence among respondents to AccountingWEB’s annual software survey. 

The name on the award has a familiar ring to it too - with a third consecutive victory for debt collection specialist Chaser.

Winner: Chaser

Finalists: Capitalise, GoCardless, Satago, Stripe

Best Business Banking App

This was a new category designed to map out how fintech newcomers like Cashplus, Countingup and Tide were doing against the might of the high street banks. Pretty well, it looks like from our survey results, where the turnout massively favoured the newcomers.

We suspect there’s a customer engagement issue here and understand that big banks may not be aware of the potential channel among professional accountants. But all three of our finalists proved there is a growing appetite for new banking solutions. They all gained very high user ratings, but Countingup leads the way with the best average from the largest user population.

Winner: Countingup

Finalists: Cashplus, Tide