Software Excellence Awards: The shortlist

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If proof were needed, the 2017 Software Excellence Survey has confirmed that the age of cloud accounting is here, with 87% of the small business bookkeeping responses going to online systems.

Always the busiest of the Software Excellence categories, small business accounting and bookkeeping tools registered more than 3,000 of the 7,000 ratings submitted in what is the UK’s largest business software survey.

The biggest surge in this category was registered by New Zealand-based Xero, which quadrupled its share of responses since the equivalent survey was conducted in 2013. FreeAgent and QuickBooks Online both doubled their shares of the poll. Clear Books gained enough votes (3.9%) to make the final award shortlist, but its comparative share was down from 6% in 2013.

Sage 50 Accounts was alone among the desktop accounting programs able to stay in the race with the cloud insurgency, but its share of the polling was down to 10% from 17% in 2013.

As an open survey to which vendors can invite their users to take part, the Software Excellence Awards are more an indication of customer engagement with the brand than actual market shares, but the underlying trend going back to the first appearance of online accounting tools [in AccountingWEB user surveys - see comment below] in 2006 is instructive:

Software Excellence cloud adoption rate 2006-17

Accounting cloud adoption trends 2006-17

Elsewhere, the expanded 2017 Software Excellence Awards shortlists provide plenty of opportunities for cloud software developers to stake their claims. Cloud tools predominate in the Expenses, Innovation, Forecasting Planning & Analysis and Cloud App categories, while Payroll and Practice Management are split between online and on premise tools.

One of the trends we have seen so far in 2017 has been the reluctance of major practice and tax developers such as IRIS to commit fully to online tax and practice applications. They are hearing from practitioner customers that they don’t prepare accounts and file tax returns from their mobile phones and prefer to use faster, more flexible desktop systems.

That stance is confirmed by the candidates in the SEA17 tax and accounts production categories, where, apart from Taxfiler’s presence on the tax shortlist, the established desktop developers still hold sway.

For the first time, the awards will celebrate the most highly rated suite of tax and practice tools, which sees cloud newcomer Capium taking on the likes of BTCSoftware, IRIS, TaxCalc and Wolters Kluwer (CCH).

The main driver behind the Software Excellence Awards is customer satisfaction rather than user numbers, but as we head towards the awards ceremony on 19 October during Practice Excellence Week, AccountingWEB will be analysing all of the results in great detail to see what our members have told us about their accounting software habits.

We’d like to thank everyone who took part in the survey. The information you provided will be packaged into articles illuminating the trends and contenders in each software market and fed back to developers to help them respond better to customer needs.

Until then, here are the companies that have made it through to the final of accountancy’s most prestigious software awards; prestigious because they are based on your individual ratings:

SME accounting/bookkeeping

  • Clear Books
  • FreeAgent
  • QuickBooks Online
  • Sage 50 Accounts
  • Xero

Enterprise

  • Exact
  • Pegasus
  • SAP

Payroll

  • BrightPay
  • FreeAgent Payroll
  • Moneysoft
  • Sage 50 Payroll
  • Xero Payroll

Expenses

  • Expensify
  • FreeAgent
  • Receipt Bank
  • webexpenses

Tax

  • BTCSoftware
  • Wolters Kluwer (CCH)
  • Sage
  • TaxCalc
  • Taxfiler
  • IRIS

Practice Management

  • AccountancyManager
  • BTCSoftware
  • Receipt Bank Practice Platform
  • Senta
  • TaxCalc

Accounts Production

  • BTCSoftware
  • IRIS
  • VT Transactions
  • TaxCalc
  • Wolters Kluwer (CCH)

Practice Suite

  • BTCSoftware
  • Capium
  • IRIS
  • TaxCalc 
  • Wolters Kluwer (CCH)

Cloud app

  • Chaser
  • GoCardless
  • iZettle
  • Stripe

Forecasting, Planning & Analysis

  • Float
  • Fathom
  • Futrli
  • Microsoft Excel/Power BI
  • Spotlight Reporting

Innovation of the year

  • Capitalise.com
  • FreeAgent
  • GoCardless
  • Receipt Bank
  • Sage Pegg

MTD Product of the Year

  • 1Tap (Receipt Bank)
  • BTC Hub
  • Gbooks
  • Thomson Reuters Onvio

Software Excellence Pioneer of the Year

  • Roan Lavery, Chief Product Officer, FreeAgent
  • Mark Purdue, Tax Product Manager, Thomson Reuters

About Accounting WEB

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Contributions from the AccountingWEB.co.uk editorial team.

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23rd Aug 2017 10:03

Laughing at Sage not being involved in any of the big ones!

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to JCresswellTax
23rd Aug 2017 20:42

You don't class SME Accounting/bookkeeping, Payroll or Tax as big?

You do not have to be an advocate of an organisation but that statement is simply bizarre to say the least.

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By chatman
23rd Aug 2017 10:44

"They are hearing from practitioner customers that they don’t prepare accounts and file tax returns from their mobile phones and prefer to use faster, more flexible desktop systems."

To imply that the only two choices are (i) filing tax returns from a mobile phone and (ii) preferring desktop systems, is what is know as a false dichotomy. I do neither of the above and, with the exception of Moneysoft Payroll Manager, I prefer online systems.

The statement also contains an unjustified implication that desktop systems are faster and more flexible. It may be so that they are, but no justification is offered for the claim.

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to chatman
23rd Aug 2017 10:52

Yes, the "file tax returns from their mobile phones" quote is moronic. The implication is that it was said by Iris, an utterly stupid statement from a firm that has failed miserably in their attempt to get into the cloud market and is having to pull their product because it doesn't work.

Frankly, if they think that the point of cloud software is to file returns from a mobile phone then they are doomed to continued failure in the cloud market place.

And your comment on speed is spot on. I currently use a cloud tax system and it is by far the fastest system I have ever used. It responds instantly; no more staring a the hourglass cursor while my old desktop software churned out the sums.

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By chatman
23rd Aug 2017 10:43

Is the survey not flawed in that users of online software are more likely to respond to an online poll?

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23rd Aug 2017 11:29

I am a bit surprised My PAYE is not there for payroll. And for forecasting and Business Planning, I am surprised Liveplan is not there.

I have to agree I think the poll will not be accurate and someone is more likely to answer that if they work online.

The one thing that concerns me about the polls is that people pick preferences without actually trying out all the software, for example by being a one software accountancy practice. How do you know the others are not better if you close your mind to other software. I also hear at networking while some practices pick a software, not all the staff have the same view.

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23rd Aug 2017 11:48

I signed up with Liberty Accounts on 6th October 2004, so it is wrong to say that online accounting tools first appeared in 2006. Liberty launched in 2003 and you can see their development timeline on their homepage at

www.libertyaccounts.com

We are major users of Liberty Accounts and not affiliated to the company in any way, but I want the record to be straight, because several later entrants seem to be holding sway.

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to raybackler
23rd Aug 2017 14:28

Netledger (later renamed to Netsuite) launched in 1998, in fact before AccountingWeb even existed!

Gary Turner
Managing Director, Xero
@garyturner

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to garyturner
24th Aug 2017 10:57

Hi Gary,

I wasn't saying Liberty were first, only that the 2006 date was wrong.

Ray

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23rd Aug 2017 17:19

A brief note about the Software Excellence Awards survey and the underlying data.

a) Yes AccountingWEB is a website and since we began, we have attracted a higher proportion of digitally active accountants. So our 87% adoption figure is definitely likely to be ahead of the profession as a whole or the wider business world. The actual figure itself is not that significant - what we can point to with some reliability is the line on the chart showing the consistent, almost linear rate of adoption among our ongoing survey samples. And it seems to have been credible enough for Gary Turner to tweet about it earlier.

b) While you can argue about bias and sampling errors in our data, once you've collected feedback from 3,000 software users (as we did in the SME Accounts category), I think we have a big enough sample to draw some meaningful conclusions about what's happening in the marketplace, particularly if we can compare this year's figures to a similar survey four years ago. We are fully aware that many accountants use multiple systems and the questionnaire allowed for that - and we did see multiple ratings in this category from many of our respondents.

c) Don't assume the absence of a software product in these shortlists means that we don't have any data about particular products. They just didn't gain enough of a share of the vote (typically 3%) or high enough ratings to be considered. We've got a lot of data from all those respondents (for which thanks again) which we will be analysing in more detail in the coming weeks to present deeper insights into what's happening in each sector. Of course, the question of who has the most satisfied customers won't be answered until the awards night on 19 October, but we will share a lot of general findings before then.

d) Capium and Taxfiler aside, cloud tools haven't broken through into the practice market. Sorry if the thumbnail characterisation of desktop and mobile options didn't impress you. What we were trying to get across is that a lot of AccountingWEB members were telling us they are very happy with their desktop practice tools. Tax was one of the highest rated categories, as it often is.

e) Sorry Ray, we should have phrased it clearer when introducing the graphic that the graph represents the appearance of cloud tools in our user survey resutls. In 2006, for example, we only received 2 responses from cloud users, neither of whom were Liberty or NetSuite users. An important thing to bear in mind is that this survey reflects the habits of AccountingWEB members - so for a variety of reasons to do with the shape of our community, some products will be underrepresented. But we want to know what our community is using and thinking about it, not produce a perfect map of UK accounting software usage.

f) And a little correction for you, too, Gary. AccountingWEB was founded in 1997 and predates NetLedger. We'll be celebrating our 20th anniversary in October.

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By chatman
to John Stokdyk
23rd Aug 2017 17:28

John Stokdyk wrote:
Capium and Taxfiler aside, cloud tools haven't broken through into the practice market

I think you meant TaxCalc, John.

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to chatman
23rd Aug 2017 21:47

chatman wrote:

I think you meant TaxCalc, John.

No, don't be fooled by TaxCalc's marketing spin. Their "cloudconnect" offering is just their standard desktop software using their own cloud data servers to store a copy of your data. You can run a lot of software on your desktop and store the data in a cloud service like dropbox, but it is not really comparable to a true cloud product like Xero, QBO, Capium or Taxfiler etc.

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23rd Aug 2017 19:52

Tools like teamviewer expand a desktop product capability regardless into a more online/cloud type capability for internal purposes

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By chatman
23rd Aug 2017 20:11

Lesser Tax wrote:

Tools like teamviewer expand a desktop product capability regardless into a more online/cloud type capability for internal purposes

I don't think remote access software like Team Viewer does much to bridge the gap between desktop and online software. You still can't have two users using the software for different things at the same time, and you can't access clients' files when the computer on which the software is installed is not switched on or you do not have permission to access it (this might be what you meant by "internal purposes").

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24th Aug 2017 20:15

Looking through the list it would seem Digita has had a significant fall from grace as not made it into any of the main categories apart from the oddly named "MTD product of the year"

I am also quite surprised that Autoentry has not made the cut, I suspect they will appear next year as currently signing up a lot of users by all accounts.

Having tried hosted desktops, and full cloud accounting packages I must say I prefer the cloud connect product from Taxcalc and would recommend.

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24th Aug 2017 10:51

We use TaxCalc products and we think they are excellent. Further customer support from the team is superb. They have been times, where they spent a considerable amount of time helping us, where the work was clearly outside thier remit.

We also use TaxCalc's Cloud Connect, it is NOT a marketing spin. It is a great product that helps us.

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By chatman
24th Aug 2017 11:17

Hi FirstTab. Which products are you comparing TaxCalc with?

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to chatman
24th Aug 2017 13:35

Hello Chatman

The key one that I am comparing it with is Digita.

I have used VT final accs before, it is a great product but I was looking for integration. As you know VT is a stand alone product.

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By chatman
24th Aug 2017 17:59

FirstTab wrote:

The key one that I am comparing it with is Digita.

I have used VT final accs before, it is a great product but I was looking for integration. As you know VT is a stand alone product.

Anything's good if you compare it with Digita. VT integrates bookkeeping and final accounts. Does TaxCalc do that?

What is it particularly you like about TaxCalc, and is there anything you don't like?

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01st Sep 2017 16:47

Are there any updated reviews of Capium please?

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