Why read a survey when the suppliers can tell you what it says? Following recent controversies, Simon Hurst takes a step back to assess the results of this year’s ICAEW IT Faculty IT in practice survey.
Would you be interested in knowing that less than two thirds of existing users would recommend the practice management package you are about to invest in?
Or that the number of firms suffering a business critical failure using a particular personal tax product had increased from 0 to 13%?
For many years now the ICAEW’s IT Faculty has been conducting surveys of the use of IT within accountancy practices. The 2011 survey is free to members of the Faculty and, although the price to non-members is £145, a year’s membership of the faculty only costs £105.
The survey covers a range of areas with some fascinating insights into the transition to iXBRL, the emergence of Cloud working and changes in home and mobile working included in the 2011 survey.
Not surprisingly, however, the software suppliers’ performance ratings tend to attract the most publicity and controversy. The survey answers questions that anyone considering the purchase of new software, or just reviewing their existing systems, should be asking about:
- Business critical failure rate
- Likelihood to recommend to others
- Plans to replace in next 12 months.
Suppliers whose products have done well in the survey are always keen to publicise those results, and this year has been no exception with the IRIS summary provoking a heated debate in Any Answers. As well as disagreement over how to portray the results fairly, this debate also touched on the niche product versus integrated suite issue. In fact, the Technical & Development Manager of the IT Faculty, Paul Booth, investigated this issue in an article on the Faculty’s IT Counts site: Niche accounting practice products push ahead . Paul’s article examined the way in which niche products outperform integrated suite components in the survey. This was a finding echoed by John Stokdyk in a comment to the IRIS summary debate. John suggested that this results from greater focus. The niche suppliers are able to focus on an individual product and the users have generally focussed on just that product in choosing to buy it, thus making it more likely that it will be a good fit for their requirements. In contrast, a product in an integrated suite might have been chosen because it was only an adequate fit, but the benefits of integration outweighed deficiencies in each individual product.
So, read the suppliers’ edited highlights if you like, but will IRIS tell you which accounts production packages actually received the highest recommendation levels?
About Simon Hurst
Simon Hurst is the founder of technology training consultancy The Knowledge Base and is a past chairman of the ICAEW's IT Faculty.