Close-run race for software prizes

The judges agreed that the entries had improved significantly over previous years, which made judging even more difficult than usual.

‘There were many good products entered,’ said John Oates, a partner in Baker Tilly’s IS advisory group, deputy chairman of the ICAEW’s IT faculty and Accountancy Age Technology Awards judge. ‘Selecting winners was a challenge, the standard of the submissions this year was good, certainly better than last year.’

Oates was joined on the judging panel by Dennis Howlett, a former accountant with more than 25 years’ experience in the financial software industry, and Dennis Keeling, chief executive of Basda.

The winners of the awards were Simply Books for the Small Business Package of the Year, Microsoft Business Solutions for Navision in the Mid-Range Software category award and OpenAccounts in the Enterprise Software market.

It was, however, extremely difficult to choose between the finalists, particularly in the medium-sized business sector. The other finalists – Access Accounting for Dimensions, Advanced Professional Solutions, Coda with Dream and Exchequer for Exchequer Enterprise – provided MBS with strong competition.

‘Judging the entries in the IT section of the Accountancy Age Awards continues to be challenging,’ added Oates.

Other finalists included Benchmark Software for Chancellor, Beprofessional and Sage Line 50, CedAr e5, Coda Financials, Open Business Exchange for OB10, VersionOne for DbArchive and PeopleSoft.

This year, the judges placed a high emphasis on customer support, as well as technical innovation and value for money. For this reason, customer reference sites were important as they gave the judges a way to contact customers.

‘When assessing supplier responses within our Baker Tilly information systems advisory group, we take account of a host of issues over and above price,’ said Oates. ‘Similarly, as judges we placed great emphasis on the customer feedback about the apparent success of each supplier to support the solutions either directly or through their resellers.’

Next year promises to be even more interesting as the business software market continues to mature. With the continued emphasis on corporate governance, and the looming spectre of IFRS, technology has a very important role to play during the next 12 months.

‘Next year we expect the market to be more competitive and assume the quality of entrants will improve again,’ said Howlett.

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