Evangelists who bang on about the potential cost-savings of web-based accounting have got it wrong, argues Aqilla’s Hugh Scantlebury. What they should be talking about is the Cloud’s flexibility.
Cost has been argued as the major driver for businesses to move away from traditional on-premises software and consider web-based applications. However, when it comes to selecting accounting applications, this is not the case – cost is one of the selection criteria, but other considerations, such functionality, ease-of-integration, ease-of-use and resilience, are also critical components.
Web-based applications do offer cost savings over traditional applications, as they remove the need for upfront capital expenditure on software and the hardware to run it, as well as ongoing maintenance contracts and upgrade costs, not forgetting the in-house specialists required to manage the application. However, web-based systems offer further reaching benefits than reduced total cost of ownership.
Web-based applications offer businesses the opportunity to streamline their accounting, have access to wider range of functionality and offer greater flexibility to staff. This is because anything that can be done in the finance system in the office can now be done at home or on the road, or anywhere that there’s an internet connection – in some cases even using an internet-enabled mobile device. This is expected to be made even easier with mobile devices that have larger screens, such as the new ‘slate’ computers that are expected to come to market over the coming months.
This flexibility of being able to use them wherever there’s an internet connection, I believe is one of the most compelling reasons for the adoption of web-based applications. It means downtime through travel (even commuting) can be reduced, and the finance team can work with colleagues even when they’re away from the office – meaning that there’ll be no such thing as a snow day, which would have been useful for many companies during the snows that fell at the beginning of 2010.
For accountants in practice too, using web-based applications means that they can work more efficiently, collaborating with clients and working through data without even having to leave their office – even a daily 30-minute journey each way to a client’s site equates to around 30 lost working days over a year.
Research that Aqilla conducted in association at ICAEW IT faculty workshops in May and June bears this out: three quarters (76%) of respondents see the flexibility of web-based applications as a key benefit, with more than half impressed by the ability to share information more effectively across the whole business. Less than one third (30%) considered value for money as a reason to consider the web-based approach.
There are those people who are sceptical about using web-based applications, but the research also shows that 82% of UK finance professionals already use some sort of web-based applications in the workplace, with 41 per cent using online business banking and more than a third (34%) using HMRC’s online returns function .
That, to my mind, is a great starting point, and coupled with the forthcoming changes from HMRC, means that the take-up and use of web-based applications is set to grow dramatically throughout 2010.
About the author Hugh Scantlebury is a director of of the web-based financial software developer Aqilla. Scantlebury has worked within the accountancy software industry for more than 20 years and has observed its development from senior positions with Kewill Systems, Systems Union (Infor), Sage and Foundation Systems. He is also an active member of AccountingWEB's Cloud Computing for Accountants discussion group.
From roots firmly established in the IT revolution of the 1980s working for Kewill Systems plc and specialising in financial accounting solutions; Hugh Scantlebury went on in 1992 to join Systems Union, the developers of the hugely successful SunSystems (SunAccount) range of products used by over 18,000 organisations in 194 countries. As VP for...