IT braces for a year of change

New business software from Microsoft, further uptake in online tax filing

and increasingly mobile workforces are among the biggest IT trends in
accountancy for 2006, according to industry experts.

With a seven-year gap since the last round of massive spending on IT by the
business community, and accountants looking to supplement their revenues by
providing value-added IT services to clients, a host of new technology trends
are predicted for the next year.

Jerry Rihll, MD of tax software provider Digita, highlighted two Microsoft
software launches, Small Business Accounting and version 12 of Office, as his
most anticipated technology events of 2006.

‘The launch of Office 12 later in the year will introduce big changes,
redefining its interface and a new toolbar, which is more like a “ribbon”,’ said

He thought the autumn launch of Small Business Accounting would provide a
vital valued added-revenue stream to accountants struggling with the lowering of
the audit threshold.

Dennis Keeling, chief executive of software application developers’ lobby
group BASDA, said that accounting professionals should brace themselves for
further consolidation, ‘faster than ever before’, among their business software
providers. He also predicted the further take-up of electronic filing among
self-assessment taxpayers and for VAT payments.

Rob Lambden, MD of internet-based Sage provider Online 50, said that document
management technology would be a key investment for business facing up to the
challenge of increasing compliance-related issues, and many accounting software
providers would enhance their offerings to accounting practices.

‘Although there is still scope for firms to become more efficient with
technology, I think the differentiator in 2006 will be [accounting] firms who
are using technology to drive revenues,’ said Lambden.

John Berney, a chartered accountant and director of interim management firm
CIO Plus, highlighted the growing use of 3G mobile cards and connections to
enable staff to have permanent connectivity with their office.

The ICAEW is also set to extend its IT accreditation scheme to handle
corporation tax products, with Smith & Williamson currently putting together
the accreditation’s questionnaire.

Iris has just launched a new benchmarking tool that will enable practices to
provide clients with more analysis and advice on their businesses’ performance
by comparing it with others in their sector.

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