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IRIS buys software rival Keytime

6th May 2015
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IRIS Software Group announced its acquisition of Keytime today for an undisclosed sum.

Following on from previous purchases of PTP, Drummohr and KashFlow, the Keytime deal represents another step in IRIS’s  territorial expansion.

IRIS Group CEO Phil Robinson said, “Keytime’s practice software is a superb fit within our portfolio of solutions that provide market-leading solutions to UK accountants of all sizes.

“Together we are passionate about providing technology to support legislative changes, and continually inventing better ways to connect accountants, businesses and their employees.  We look forward to welcoming the Keytime team to the group.”

Founded in 1989, Keytime was an independent software supplier of integrated practice software to more than 1,700 UK practices.

James Cryne, Keytime managing director said, “We have known and respected IRIS for many years, so joining forces with the business is a logical step in the next stage of our business growth.  Not only can we utilise IRIS’s extensive resources but it provides an opportunity for Keytime to add value to the group and its customers.”

By joining IRIS, Keytime is following the example of other independent UK developers including KashFlow, PTP, Drummohr and Intex.

The results of these deals have not always been happy. Just as happens when accountancy firms merge, clients are never happy with change. AccountingWEB members have occasionally come to the site to moan about IRIS customer service in Any Answers, IRIS and PTP users discussion groups.

Long-term trends from AccountingWEB Software Satisfaction surveys confirm that IRIS has often struggled to sustain the satisfaction levels customers enjoyed when their programs were supplied by the acquired company.

For example, where Keytime enjoyed a 64% recommendation rating in our 2013 Software Satisfaction survey, the IRIS suite was back at 20%.

Looking at their tax applications, the Keytime was rated 4.53 out of 5 by users, compared to 4.13 for PTP (which had a 53% recommendation rate). The IRIS tax application scored 4.01 in 2013, with a 23% recommendation rating.

While PTP appears to have stabilised at that point, Drummohr, a multiple Software Satisfaction Award winner before IRIS acquired it in 2008, achieved a score of 3.79 out of 5 in 2013.

IRIS is no stranger to the growth-by-acquisition strategy. Keytime will add some extra weight to its user numbers and reach within the profession (a statistic the company regularly repeats). And it will have factored in the impact on user satisfaction as part of its calculations.

But it might be worth IRIS executives casting an eye in the direction of Sage, which pioneered this strategy in the 1990s. After Sage scooped up a bunch of smaller developers (Hartley, Taxsoft, CSM, Apex). Now, Sage is trying to migrate users of many disparate systems to a narrower set of software choices. IRIS indicated it has no such plan at the moment, but the time will surely come when it is faced with a similar strategic decision.

Further reading: Keytime 'business as usual' says founder


Replies (11)

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Time for change
By Time for change
06th May 2015 21:06

As I've said elsewhere on this forum
for me, it's a sad day.
Keytime and all it's staff, were quite unique, in the accountancy software environment. You felt that they; cared and actually knew their customer base.
I can't see that I'll stay with the new regime when my renewal falls due next year.
RIP Keytime - possibly too good to be true.

Thanks (3)
Replying to Bobbo:
By andrew.spink
08th May 2015 10:50


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By girlofwight
06th May 2015 21:17

Very sad. My experience of IRIS has never been good.

First they took over freeway payroll, which we loved, and bogged it up with e-filing

Then Drumohr, again which we know and love. In fairness they've more or less left the software alone, but the support and admin is appalling. After three years I still await an apology from IRIS chief exec for charging my credit card with another firms renewal.

And now Compac... Which Keytime de-stabilised badly in the first instance when iBxrl came in, in fairness stablised now, but IRISs mucky fingers must be the kiss of death.

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By sash100
07th May 2015 00:58

Not happy

Frankly not happy with this news at all though I can see why Keytime would be a  good acquisition for IRIS.  I have been with Keytime for a couple of years now and its been perfect as cannot fault them.  Now a much bigger company taking over I jam just concerned it will be become as expensive as IRIS.  I imagine other smaller companies will get swallowed by the larger ones leaving less competition and higher prices.

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07th May 2015 08:28

Glad we moved to Digita...

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By andrew55
07th May 2015 09:35


As a loyal user and supporter of Keytime I feel totally betrayed. Not least because I've just been tricked into signing a three year arrangement with, as I see it, the withholding of a key piece of information.

For all those I have recommended to use Keytime I unreservedly apologise. For anyone contemplating using it - don't. FLEE!

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
07th May 2015 09:57


No fan of keytime, but its never a good day when an independent supplier is swallowed up.

Disappointing news.

"Sage is trying to migrate users of many disparate systems to a narrower set of software choices."

Well of course it is, this is all about buying market share, and reducing competition. User experiences are not relevant.

On the plus side its getting easier and easier for new software firms to start up to compete with the monoliths, albeit only for single applications and not integrated ones. 

Thanks (1)
By morgani
07th May 2015 14:42


This seems like more repitition of the above but is most liekly the general consensus of Keytime users.

We have done the PTP change by Iris and left.

We really felt appreciated and acknoweldged by Keytime.  A really good product with really good support.  I certainly feel it won't be long until the Iris standards (or lack of) creep in.

Time to start looking for new software this year as it will most likely all fall apart and we can jump ship at renewal.

Maybe one day Iris will realise that these people not using their software isn't because they have not heard of them it's because they don't want anything to do with the higher prices for what appears a lack of customer service.  Keytime didn't win (or keep) my business based on price.  It was the combination of price with good customer service.

Such a shame.

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By taxgenie
08th May 2015 13:06

Iris to take over the world..................

This cannot be good news for us small practitioners - prices can only go up. I did look at Keytime but found it expensive for the size of my business. I went to BTC Software and would highly recommend them for support and the software

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By cmacrae
08th May 2015 14:04

Business as Usual

Hi guys,

I appreciate you have concerns after hearing the news. I can only reassure you that it’s business as usual for everyone here at Keytime.

I’m writing this sat in the same seat, in the same office, with the same team sat around me and James is at his desk still overseeing things.

We've worked hard to build up a reputation for our products and customer service and in time hope to prove that this is still the case.

You can read further comment from James Cryne on the Keytime website, hopefully reassuring you that the Keytime brand lives on and that our main priority is you, the Keytime customers.



Marketing @ Keytime

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By Briar
08th May 2015 15:51

I'm happy

I used Objective Tax for many years (when SA came in) but it was then taken over by Keytime. I I used them for a few years but was never happy at the number of times I had to use their helpline (they seemed to be developing their product as they went along!). When ixbrl came in for Corporation Tax, I found that Absolute was cheaper and better so moved to them. 

I also used Payemaster until Iris cocked it all up so, on the recommendation of Aweb users, moved to Moneysoft.

So, I am very happy to have kept away from another Iris takeover.

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