Strategic thinking

Are customers who buy ERP systems able to shorten their
implementation timetables?

Dave Hanley: Organisations expect their returns quicker than
they used to. They are looking for a payback far quicker, so the onus is not
only on the reseller, the implementer and the software provider, but also the
organisation implementing the work. There is more focus. I used to have muscles
from carrying the responses to invitations to tenders. Now, rather than the 100
pages, it’s a much shorter approach.

Are customers now more demanding of software companies?

Mark Holland: There has been a change since the millennium.
Businesses are into their second, third or fourth generation systems and have
got experience of where things have gone wrong and how they would like it to go
better next time round.

Is it easier for customers these days to pre-test systems?

Dave Hanley: Yes, I think that the advent of the internet
has made pre-testing a great deal easier. Because what we are able to do as a
business now – and I know other software vendors do this as well – is to host
these applications quite quickly. I know from my own experience that
organisations want to pilot something for a few weeks in a conference room, for
example. Then you can provide that application over the internet with all the
security and all those other things already in place.

We’ve seen huge legislative and regulatory change in recent years. To
what extent should financial software users take account of this when

Mark Holland: I think users should be concerned. As they are
looking to replace systems, or indeed to upgrade, they should consider the
impact of emerging legislation. To be honest, that is as important as the
question of whether a system will fulfil existing functionality requirements.
There is a very real risk that if they implement a new system and it doesn’t ful
fil government e-filing in some way, shape or form, they will then have to
implement a second workaround solution purely to satisfy that particular
requirement. It’s a significant factor they need to be aware of.

Will we see increased spending on upgrades even if regulatory reform

Dennis Keeling: If you look at what happened with
Sarbanes-Oxley, people didn’t know what to do at first so they called in their
accountants. And the accountants had a boom year of all boom years because they
had to trample all over everything and document everything. Yes that’s fine but
it’s not a case of doing that once. They have to do it every year. So the US
companies are sitting back and saying, ‘Hang on a minute, this is costing us a
fortune.’ Whereas when you are auditing a financial system, as long as it’s been
audited once, you don’t have to audit it again unless it’s changed. Now,
companies are pushing back and saying, ‘No, we didn’t spend any money on IT
because we’ve spent a lot of time on our auditors. We can’t afford the huge
salaries these guys are charging. We need an IT solution, so let’s put our
thinking caps on.’ The IT spend will follow.

Dave Hanley: What we are finding is that organisations are
having issues around reconciliation of that data and are employing resources to
analyse externally. We are addressing that and we see organisations buying into
the need to have the automation and reconciliation. Even just thinking about
auditing a large spreadsheet fills me with dread to be perfectly honest. So
clearly what we’re looking to do and what we are seeing is the old story of
shall we take a strategic approach to regulation or shall we take a tactical
approach and just get it done?

How seriously should accountants be treating security

Dave Hanley: Security is a big agenda with our customers
without a doubt from a number of angles – how you are protecting your systems
from external attack but also your internal security policy as well. How you
provide security across the organisation is important. How you secure data,
whether it’s data that sits on databases or data that’s transmitted from maybe a
branch office to maybe a central office – how you protect that on its way is

This week’s experts

Mark Holland is a partner at Baker Tilly and a member of the
ICAEW IT faculty

Dave Hanley is the industry leader for financial services at
software applications vendor Oracle

Dennis Keeling is the chief executive of Basda, a trade
association for the software development industry

Chaired by Damian Wild, group editor in chief of
Accountancy Age and Financial Director

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