We are living through exciting times, as, for the first time since the eighties, small business owners are able to choose from a huge number of bookkeeping software offerings.
This is, of course, a result of the recent explosion of the online software delivery model (sometimes called “software as a service", or "Saas”). I have read in various places that there are estimated to be at least 50 online bookkeeping packages for today’s small business owner to choose from.
There are profound implications for accountancy practices and those practitioners who worked through the challenges presented by the introduction of the PC will recognise the same factors at work.
It’s practically impossible and financially non-viable for the typical independent firm to train and retain accountancy staff capable of supporting and working with 50 different flavours of software. Then there is the problem of managing all of the different subscriptions, licences and logins.
So, choices have to be made. But which (software) horses do you want to place your bets on? Which will come through the inevitable shake-up, of weeding out and consolidation, on top? Are we yet in a position to guess which offerings will be around for the long-term?
A more fundamental question must be whether we are seeing the beginnings of a shift towards online bookkeeping software, away from on-premise products.
Some practices, believing that the online model provides a better way of working with clients, have decided to become “online only” firms – some becoming Xero or KashFlow or FreeAgent only. Is this a risky strategy or a smart move to differentiate themselves in the marketplace?
Finally, consider the profile of our next generation of clients.
These are individuals brought up in the Internet age, used to instant, always on services like Facebook and capable of sourcing whatever they need via Google. I believe that these new clients are going to find bookkeeping software that suits them, and then find an accountant to work with.
The days of the client meekly agreeing to use Sage, because it suits their new accountant are almost gone.
Can your firm afford to sit on the fence, waiting to see which horses emerge from the pack before placing its bets? To do so might be safer, but those who took the (right) plunge at the off will reap the rewards of their risk-taking.