Maternity, paternity, RTI, auto-enrolment… the list of administrative challenges that have been thrown at payroll systems in recent years is endless. But have suppliers been keeping up?
As part of our Software Excellence Awards, AccountingWEB is currently polling business software users across a range of categories to find out what they think about the tools they use. We have already collected more than 2,000 responses in what is the biggest survey of its kind in the UK.
At the moment, there are lots of ratings for small business software such as Xero, QuickBooks and Sage 50. Microsoft Dynamics leads the enterprise contingent ahead of SAP, Oracle and UK-based suppliers such as Access, Exchequer, Pegasus and Advanced Open Accounts. Coming from different directions, Sage 50 and the cloud-based Aqilla system are putting up a good show among larger company accounting software users.
But payroll tools and several other key business programs are struggling to keep up. Part of the reason is because practitioners outnumber business accountants by 2:1 in our sample.
To offset the influence of practising accountants, we need more accountants in business to tell us about their payroll, expenses management, budgeting/planning and core accounting applications.
Based on a scan of the early results, this article sets out what we have discovered about the market so far.
Payroll systems have probably been through more change than any other application type in recent years, which is reflected in somewhat depressed satisfaction ratings for the sector. The companies that have set the pace among our survey respondents are smaller, specialist applications such as BrightPay and Moneysoft that are popular in practice.
But how have the mid-market developers responded? IRIS Earnie, one of the bigger names in payroll, is relatively unrepresented, while Sage 50 and Xero Payroll are neck and neck in the race for third place. That’s by sample share only; we won’t be revealing the actual satisfaction scores until the Software Excellence Awards are presented in October.
Automated expenses management is a relatively new application area. It has grown visibly since we conducted a similar survey in 2013, but lags behind more mainstream accounting tools in our ratings. The looming quarterly income/expense reporting regime will put a change to that.
Certify enjoys the biggest share of the vote at the moment, followed by Receipt Bank, webexpenses and Expensify. Concur, now part of SAP, is back in the pack with the users who still rely on Excel.
There looks to be more work needed in this market, as the Excel users are so pleased with their systems, they rate them more highly than users of many of the commercial applications. That situation is unlikely to persist when Making Tax Digital finally arrives, so help us find out which tools are up to the task.
Forecasting, planning and analysis
This is another minority interest sector that would benefit from a wider sample. A new generation of cloud-based planning systems has emerged in the past four years. Small groupings have emerged to put the case for Spotlight Reporting, Float and Futrli in this category, but we have heard very little about more established players such as Crystal Reports, SAP Business Objects and Microsoft ProClarity - all of which are currently outnumbered by Excel users.
At the moment, users of specialist analysis and reporting tools represent less than 5% of our sample. Does that reflect the reality in your business? Are finance managers still too tied down in day-to-day matters to dig more deeply into their numbers - or do spreadsheets still dominate this activity?
Let us know by taking part in the Software Excellence Awards survey. It only takes a couple of minutes per application. The survey closes on 31 July and participants can join a prize draw to win £500 in Amazon vouchers.
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Contributions from the AccountingWEB.co.uk editorial team.