The IT Faculty of the ICAEW is headed up by Paul Booth who spoke exclusively to Accountancy Age about the results and what they mean for the accounting software industry.
Booth said that it was ‘the continuing gap between what people are expecting to do and the reality’ of the situation that really jumped out of the survey results.
He said this was especially true when it came to practices setting up web sites. A mere 39% of UK accountancy firms have their own web site, which is not much of an improvement over last year. And although respondents expect this to rise to 56% over the next year, the ICAEW does not have much faith in this being achieved.
‘There are other issues around the use of email and web technology,’ says Booth. ‘People believe they are going to develop more in those areas, but when the year has elapsed only a fraction will have done.’
He says that in many cases this is down to a reality check. ‘We were still in the phase where people were thinking that e-anything is what they needed to get into but are now realising that they have to achieve financial business benefit first,’ he says. ‘They need a bit more convincing following the dot com crash.’
When asked about the disappointingly low percentage of firms with a web site, Booth says that it definitely needs to increase and that ‘some practices will lose out through not having that channel of marketing’.
But he also says the figure might appear a lot lower than it really is because the survey takes into account all practices no matter what size.
Many older, sole practitioners will not need a web site because they already have all the clients they need and want.
Despite this he says that for companies looking to grow, not having a web site is ‘getting like not having an entry in the Yellow Pages’.
Despite some of the disappointing results from the survey, Booth refused to be downbeat. He did not agree that accountants were slow to adopt new technology, and believes they have to be up to speed in all areas of business.
‘It’s intelligent investment rather than mindlessly following the latest fad,’ he says. ‘It’s weighing up the costs and benefits and seeing that you get a return.’
But there is no debating that some of the results are worrying. Only one in three practices have a policy on external email use, despite the legal issues that surround it. And only 28% of respondents believe internet access is very important to the smooth running of the practice. This could be partly down to the fact that almost two-thirds of accountancy firms still use modems for internet access.
The full IT Usage in Accountancy Practices 2002 survey costs £120 and is available by contacting the ICAEW IT Faculty on 020 7920 8481 or by emailing email@example.com. It is available to Members of the IT Faculty of the ICAEW at a price of £45.
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