Socks up software sellers

When will the software industry move on from relying on blandcial software. Isn’t it time the industry helped, rather than confused, business, asks Stephen Moriarty. reassurances and comforting labels in order to sell its products, and instead offer genuine customer care based on real knowledge?

With constant change a fact of life, both in the accountancy profession and in the software industry, surely the time has come for software houses to be much more than the box-pushers that many (not all) of them turn out to be.

It is clear that the latest reassuring label, applied to virtually all accountancy software after the ubiquitous millennium-compliant, is ‘euro-ready’. It is by no means clear, however, what that label really means and how using euro-ready software can help with the changeover to the new currency.

One of the difficulties with the euro is that, unlike year-2000 conversion – which must take place at a specific point in time and is a one-off event – the euro gives organisations a choice as to when and how they choose to deal with it. Some organisations will need stop-gap solutions during the three-year transition period (1 January 1999 to 31 December 2001).

Others will opt for the big-bang approach. Another option is that of parallel running. An added complication is the uncertainty regarding the UK’s position.

These issues cannot be addressed just by buying software labelled euro-ready.

Of course, the purchase of software is not exempt from the principle of caveat emptor. The responsibility remains with each organisation to understand the options and make its own decisions about what approach to take to the euro and any other issue. But the software industry, too, should move past the ‘sell and run’ attitude that unfortunately tends to prevail.

According to a survey recently carried out for the General Practitioner Board by Plymouth University, over 90% of accountants in small firms felt their lack of skill was a major factor in delaying IT development. Our own customers, receiving their first phone call from our customer support team, are both amazed and delighted that a software house cares enough to maintain contact and ensure all is going well after the sale has been made.

This must surely tell software houses that it is not enough to sell a system, perhaps offer a couple of days’ standard training, then move on.

The time has come for the software industry to move beyond paying lip-service to the idea of customer care and take a proactive approach to genuine customer support.

With the euro, as with other innovations, this is essential if software is to avoid becoming part of the problem and instead become a contribution to the solution.

Stephen Moriarty, CA (South Africa), is managing director of Catsoft, the St Albans-based asset management specialist

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