Survey: Practice software at the crossroadsby
After the year we’ve had, nobody is keen to make many predictions about the future of accountancy. But that’s not stopping AccountingWEB from testing out a few theories about where practice software is heading – and you can provide the evidence to put us on the right path.
Since the beginning of the year AccountingWEB has been watching the monthly shifts in traffic through our Any Answers pages to see which issues were dominating discussions among accountants.
The coronavirus came along like an earthquake in March to shake almost every other topic off the chart, but once we looked below the surface some interesting behaviours emerged:
- Tentative trends such as working from home and online meetings with clients became business as usual overnight
- The arguments against using cloud bookkeeping, tax and practice applications started to sound a bit silly when everyone was working remotely
- Practice management issues such as client and staff comms, billing and HR exploded into life as the UK went into lockdown, but then fell away as they got to grips with even more pressing concerns such as trying to help client businesses stay alive by preparing loan and furlough grant applications.
One of the theories we advanced over the summer was that the crisis overwhelmed the traditional spring software review season for practitioners and that the industry effectively lost out on one of its key revenue-generating periods.
Several suppliers have confirmed our suspicions, but not Practice Ignition UK and European general manager Emma Crawford-Falekaono. “Quite the reverse,” she informed us in a recent AccountingWEB Live interview.
“We saw a lot of uptake from practices that needed to make adjustments for working from home. Remote working exposed some of the flaws in their processes and they needed better visibility on where their proposals were and billing to ensure that their revenue was still coming through.”
Cloud practice and tax tools
Compared to last year, votes for TaxCalc and BTCSoftware have held in the tax software category, with just under 50% of the current vote, but Practice Ignition’s testimony about the growth of cloud practice management is supported by current voting, in which more than two-thirds of ratings in that category have been posted for smaller, independent cloud providers including PI, Capium, AccountancyManager, Senta and Uku.
Between them Sage, BTCSoftware and TaxCalc can currently muster 23% of the ratings.
Fewer users have shown up to rate the more established tax and practice suite providers such as IRIS, Sage, Wolters Kluwer (CCH) and Thomson Reuters.
The current pattern of voting in these categories add a new twist to the long-running tussle between “best of breed” separate apps and these larger, integrated practice suites. Last year saw the suite population jump significantly, partly on the back of integrated cloud offerings from Capium and Taxfiler, but also we suspect driven by practices looking for the easiest way to update their internal systems to cope with the new MTD for VAT workload.
We will need to dig into ratings from individual firms to clarify exactly what’s happening, but the resurgence in 2020 of specialist practice management tools may have reversed that trend.
Have those major suite players genuinely slipped down the league table within the AccountingWEB popular, or have their customers been too busy with other issues to rate the applications?
This is where we need your help. If you can spare just a few minutes to participate in this online software sampling exercise, we will use the figures to hand out our usual software awards as well as publish the findings in our Software Reviews section.