AccountingWEB editor John Stokdyk hit the Accountex exhibition hall on day one looking for vendors who could deliver a complete suite of tax and practice tools in the cloud, but found that it continues to be an elusive beast.
Accountex was set up to be the big showdown for the practice side of the industry as IRIS and Sage have jockeyed for the past year to complete work on their integrated cloud practice suites. But software development is a frustrating business that rarely proceeds as expected.
All IRIS needs to complete its OpenIRIS cloud suite is an accounts production tool, but it was nowhere to be seen at Accountex. IRIS product director commented, “We’re not talking about that this week. At Accountex our focus is on the benefits of integration you can get from our desktop Accountancy Suite.”
After joining the race late, Sage looks like it could be nosing ahead. Sage global vice president Jennifer Warawa told AccountingWEB that its online corporation tax application should be ready for launch by August to complete the Sage Impact portfolio of basic tax, compliance and practice management tools. Sage may have complicated things for itself by developing a separate cloud family, Sage Live, which will cater for accountancy firms with more ambitious cloud plans.
The other two big suite players, Thomson Reuters and Wolters Kluwer, have also joined the race. Thomson was parading its new Onvio platform, launched last week, while the launch of CCH’s new cloud play was held back until day two at the event by the company’s annual results announcement the day before. In both cases, all the compliance workflow and client management activities will continue to be run on the companies’ existing desktop systems.
TaxCalc, too, has signalled its hybrid strategy with the release of Cloud Connect, an online storage that seamlessly links to its desktop programs.
That leaves the field open for newcomer Capium to widen its footprint as the only provider of a functioning cloud practice suite. After attracting some flak for the quality of its user interface, Capium has not stood still. The main user navigation page has a clean, Windows 10 look and feel, and new document scanning and management modules have been added to the suite.
AccountingWEB member and technology enthusiast Glennzy confessed that Accountex was a bit of a disappointment this year. The number of visitors looks to be up, but there isn’t the same buzz around new product announcement, he told us. But he gave Capium the thumbs up after visiting the company’s stand. “I was really impressed - they’ve made very good progress in the past year,” he said.
If there’s a note of anti-climax to this report, it’s worth bearing in mind that the cloud practice race is a journalistic trick to add a bit of excitement to a slow, laborious process. In the real world, UK accounting software developers and customers are both affected by what might be termed change fatigue.
The theatres for technical sessions on the new UK GAAP and HMRC presentations on making tax digital were packed. The profession and its suppliers are dealing with so many regulatory changes at the moment that they may not have the time or capacity to devote to keeping up with the latest software trends.
AccountingWEB’s Head of Insight has been with the site since 1999 and likes to spend his time studying accountants’ technology habits. When not nerding out, you can find him exploring obscure indie music and searching for the perfect organic sourdough loaf from his base in Brighton, UK.