Accountancy Age Awards – They’ve got IT.

Previous winners of the Accounting Software Package Awards have been entitled to feel particularly proud of their achievements. This year’s winners – again there are three separate awards for Off-the-Shelf, Mid-Range and Enterprise Packages – should do so too.

That winning feeling last year went to TAS Software in the Off-the-Shelf category for its Natwest Book-keeper offering. The Book-keeper programme is aimed at assisting small firms to keep control of their day to day bookkeeping and finances, and along the way also won support from the International Association of Bookkeepers.

Exchequer won the Mid-Range Award for its Exchequer Enterprise software.

In its first year, Enterprise was installed at over 400 companies including Heinz, Netscape and the University of London. It has since gone from strength to strength.

Meanwhile QSP scooped the award in the Enterprise section with its much lauded QSP Financials software. The Financials 4.5E – a specialised debt and credit management applications tool – updated from the 4.5, managed to fend off particularly tough competition.

This year entrants will have to demonstrate a balance of technical innovation, reliability and customer care; functionality; design quality; ease of use and value for money. Information regarding sales growth, market share and new market development will also need to be compelling to persuade the judges.

Entries must include five reference sites with contact details. This information will be followed up by Accountancy Age and the results presented to the judges.

This year’s awards will be particularly interesting as there have been a raft of developments since the beginning of the year.

In the Enterprise category the traditional and leading players remain essentially the same as they have been for the last two to three years. There has not been a trend towards takeovers or merger, however there has been a general slowdown of software development in the market. US companies are at the vanguard of developments. But the market is wide open for UK companies to take a foothold, with buyers crying out for innovative products. The sector has traditionally suffered because companies that have established themselves, have tended to move into the mid-range or even enterprise sectors where the profit margins are generally greater. Web-based accounting systems seem set to be the next big thing, following on from the success of web-based taxation. The mid-range market has seen the biggest shake-up of traditional players this year. The likes of Tetra have been snapped up by Sage, while Pegasus and System Union have been acquired by Freecom. A whirlwind of acquisition activity is expected to continue throughout the year – a direct result of sales which have tended to dip following resolution of Y2K issues and some companies have found the conditions difficult to cope with this year.

With the spate of merger and acquisition activity among traditional companies, some have tended to move into maintenance mode and away from developing software, while others have continued at full speed.

Coupled with the fact that a raft of new companies have unveiled exciting new products onto the market for the first time, with others expected soon, this sector is set to continue simmering for the foreseeable future.

The enterprise market has been dominated by the takeover of accounting software giant Baan, while other companies have struggled to balance the books.

In response to the slowdown in sales certain companies have experienced, an interesting development is expected to take place.

Probably for the first time ever, software companies are looking to go backwards. It is expected that many leading enterprise companies will concentrate on shifting their software away from enterprise software back towards producing best of breed software. This move back to best of breed has also come about due to the advent of XML which allows different appliances to be joined together.

For the customer it means they will be able to build up their systems once more with software specifically suitable for them, as integration between software will increase.

All three winners will have demonstrated a high degree of technical innovation, reliability and customer care. Also functionality, design quality, ease of use and value for money will also have been proved.

Only the very best will win through.

For more details on how to enter visit

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