IT licence slated as a ‘dead duck’

An ambitious government scheme to improve IT advice for small. companies announced yesterday has been dismissed as bureaucratic and irrelevant by management accountants and software groups.

Criticism of the Adviser Skills Initiative, an accreditation project, represents an embarrassing snub to the government’s much-vaunted technology strategy.

Supported by groups such as Microsoft, CIMA and the English ICA, it aims to build an industry-wide qualification for IT consultancy in the lucrative SME market.

It will be open to all business consultants, including accountants, and a national rollout is planned for early next year.

Business advisers will have to show IT knowledge and experience in areas including enterprise software, e-commerce, and the internet.

But one management accountant, who has seen a draft version of the pilot scheme, said it involved too much paperwork and would alienate experienced accountants.

‘If it goes out like this it will be a dead duck and I won’t back it,’ he said. ‘The key question is whether software you’ve installed is still working. I’m not going to go back to a client and get them to fill out a form.’

The source also warned that government Business Links networks, which advise small businesses, could snatch IT consultancy work from accountants through the scheme.

Dennis Keeling, chief executive of software trade association BASDA, said the government had tried and failed to get similar voluntary accreditation schemes off the ground for business and IT consultancy.

‘If you have a private consultant operating are you going to withdraw their licence? I can’t see how they will make this one stick,’ he said.

Paul Abbott, an agency manager at the Institute of Management which runs the accreditation scheme, hit back. ‘We’re not into a bureaucratic paperchase. We’re hoping to use the internet so you can get the accreditation without filling in one form.’

The introduction of the scheme follows a raft of Budget tax measures aimed at improving IT skills in small firms.

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