IT expansion falls for second year.

The fallout from the dotcom crashes is in danger of making accounting firms complacent in their attitudes towards implementing new technology.

According to the third Accountancy Age/Sage IT skills survey, the number of firms saying they will embrace IT and computerisation in the future has fallen for the second year running.

Meanwhile, the number of practices that strongly believed IT and computerisation will provide new and lucrative revenue streams also fell – by 50%.

At the same time, accountants’ perceptions of whether they are expected by their clients to offer IT and computerisation has also fallen, as has the belief they will be left behind if they do not embrace these facets.

The survey also highlighted the tendency of larger firms to believe more strongly in keeping abreast of technological advances.

A likely explanation of the softening of attitudes to technology is the end of the dotcom revolution and the lingering fallout from Y2K when firms were confronted with IT issues daily.

But Adrian Grace, general manager of Sage’s professional accountants division, warned: ‘Dotcom fallout is evidenced by a softening of general attitudes held by the industry but smaller practices should not become too complacent. Smaller practices should be aware large practices perceive a stronger demand for delivery of online client services. But the majority in the industry see future online applications.’

But encouragingly, the survey found internet access increased, with the percentage of accountants with access to the web increasing from 69% to 84%.

Sage believes accountants are keeping up with other business communities in the up-take of e-based software. This belief was supported after it was found 45% surveyed said they had a website, with 35% of those that didn’t said they were planning to build one.

Communication continues to be the main use for the net, with 86% of those questioned citing email as a reason – up 10% on last year. There was also an increase in accountants who visit sites to obtain industry information, rising from 46% to 61%.

– Full details of the survey will be published in next week’s Accountancy Age.

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